Born to Serve

Cory BoothThey called her “General” at a time when few women were recognized as leaders. Evangelinc Cory Booth, seventh child of William and Cath-erine Booth, was born in England on Christmas Day, 1865.

That same year, (1865), her parents founded a ministry to bring salvation and God’s love to the poor, unwanted masses of England. Little did they know that what began as tent meetings in a London slum graveyard would one day become a worldwide ministry known as the Salvation Army.

By meeting both the spiritual and physical needs of society’s rejects, the Booths saw many people saved. They then trained these converts to reach out and serve others. William, the leader of the organization, was its first “General.” His wife, Cather-ine, also a passionate preacher, played an equally important role in their ministry. They raised up an army of believers who began marching to surrounding cities and proclaiming the gospel wherever people gathered. By departing from traditional methods, these street evangelists drew the disapproval of some church leaders, and violent confrontations with others. However, they refused to he deterred by angry pastors, tavern owners and gangs who often pelted them with insults, rocks and garbage. At age 83, William Booth gave his last public address. It summed up his zeal and passion to see the gospel preached: While women weep as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry as they do now, I’ll /fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl on the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God end. —May 9, 1912

Like Father, Like Daughter. Her parents’ example shaped little Evangeline’s most remarkable life. From a young age she played music and sang in her father’s meet- ings. At 15, she was preaching on street corners. By age 17, Evangeline was placed in a position of leadership. Leaving the comfort and safety of her home, she put on rags and immersed herself in the world of the flower girls at Piccadilly Circus. Evangeline brought hope, help and salvation to these forgotten poor and became known as the “white angel of the slums.” Hers was a life characterized by loving and giving a “cup of cold water” to those in need that would eventually extend across the ocean to America.

The Salvation Army was established in America in 1879 when a 17-year-old recruit named Eliza Shirley immigrated with her family. In 1880, other Salvationists followed. In spite of opposition that sparked violence, arrests and even deaths, the Army expanded into several states, with the Booths’ son Ballington soon leading the American division. During this time, Evangeine Booth emerged as a powerful leader and speaker giving dramatic presentations about the Army’s work Her father sent her to America in 1896 to temporarily take command after her brother’s departure. After her arrival in the United States, she expanded the work into Canada.

In 1904, Evangeline Booth became the National Commander of the Salvation Army in America. The organization flourished under her innovative leadership for 30 years. Evangeline’s method of organized fund-raising brought in millions of dollars which enabled great expansion. Among other things, she pioneered outreaches to prisoners and the unemployed, established hospitals for unwed mothers, homes for the elderly, and “Evangeline Residences” for working women. Although she never married, she adopted and raised four children. Simply stated, if Evangeline Booth saw a need, she endeavored to meet it.

In 1906, after the San Francisco earthquake and fire, disaster relief became a vital part of the Salvation Army’s focus. As America entered World War I, Evangeline Booth offered the Salvation Army’s services to President Woodrow Wilson. She created a War Board and programs to provide soldiers with items such as sweaters and socks. The SA was a forerunner of the USO, setting up canteens and hostels at many U.S. military camps. Miss Booth borrowed $25,000 to extend the work overseas. Dedicated workers provided troops with refreshments, church services, concerts and more. Muddy, homesick soldiers on the front lines of France delighted in receiving fresh doughnuts and coffee prepared by smiling Salvation Army “lassies.” Evangeline Booth was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for wartime work.

In 1934, she was elected General of the worldwide Salvation Army. In conjunction with this event she wrote the following hymn and said, “I wrote it at three o’clock in the morning, bowed under the immeasurable burden of the stupendous respon-sibilities of the call that had come to me on being elected General of the Internat-ional Salvation Army.”

                                    “The World for God”

                    The world for God! The world for God!

                    There is nothing else will meet the hunger of my soul.

                      I see forsaken children, I see the tears that fall

                     From women’s eyes once merry, now never laugh at all;

                     I see the sins and sorrows of those who sit in darkness;

                     I see in lands far distant, the hungry and oppressed.

                     But behold! On a hill, Calvary! Calvary!

The words of her song were the cry of her heart. She purposed to touch the world for God..... and did. Today, the Salvation Army once led by General Evangeline Booth serves in more than 100 countries throughout the world. Both were truly born to serve.

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