Monday is the 100th anniversary of Gen. Booth's death. He grew up in a Methodist church and had read the Bible as a child. His family lost everything in a bad investment and his father became alcoholic. At age 13, Gen. Booth went to work in a pawn shop in England where families sold their valuables to feed their children. Gen. Booth was all too familiar with poverty. He moved to London as a young man and started preaching on the streets of East London, considered a slum at the time.
The streets there were a lot meaner than in Tulsa, with open prostitution, opium dens and starving, begging children. Now our social ills seem more hidden with human trafficking, meth labs and sadly, starving children still. So maybe things haven’t changed that much.
In London, a wealthy man heard Gen. Booth preach on the street and was so impressed that he agreed to finance his ministry. Gen. Booth’s goal was to save the souls of the people he ministered to, but he left the Methodist denomination because he couldn’t preach the way he wanted and the people he ministered to, often dirty and disheveled, didn’t want to go to Booth’s Methodist church. That precipitated the birth of The Salvation Army in 1865. Here are the words that Gen. Booth lived by. They continue as the purpose of The Salvation Army today.
“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, I’ll fight;
While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight--
I’ll fight to the very end.”
General William Booth, Founder of The Salvation Army, 1829-1912