By R. Gordon Moyles, Dr. –
“If history were taught in the form of stories,” Rudyard Kipling claimed, “it would never be forgotten.” That statement could very well serve as the masthead for this exciting new bi-annual publication of the Western Territory’s Frontier Press—”Telling Our Stories, Volume I.” For, as its editor, Major Kevin Jackson, so cogently argues, “Our history weaves a tapestry of thousands upon thousands of stories of individuals and groups of people who together have lived out the mission of The Salvation Army over 150 years.” And it is these stories which have “the power to transform the lives of others and the power to encourage, inspire and illuminate those who call The Salvation Army their own.”
The first volume of “Telling Our Stories” admirably fulfills that purpose, mainly because the four stories included not only recall events but, more importantly, focus on the people who initiated them and whose lives were changed by them. General Paul Rader in “Remembering Mission 2000,” Lt. Col. Check Yee in “For My Kinsmen’s Sake,” Commissioners Bill and Gwen Luttrell in “The Manhattan Project,” and Lt. Col. Stephen Smith in “The Training College at 801 Silver Avenue” all (perhaps intuitively) share the belief that the essence of history is biography. They know that The Salvation Army owes its success to the enterprise and dedication of its officers and measures that success mainly by the lives that have been changed by its mission.
The four stories, therefore, are largely people stories. We meet the Salvationists who contributed to the success of Rader’s Mission 2000 initiative. With Yee, we see the faces and hear of the voices of the men and women who brought the Army’s message to San Francisco’s Chinatown, who struggled to sustain it and who still claim it as their legacy. And, though the stories told by the Luttrells and Smith reveal ultimate disappointments—the Manhattan Project was eventually shut down and the Training College sold during the Depression—the legacy of both “lives on in the hearts and lives of hundreds of men and women” who either saw them into or benefited by their existence.
This volume is an excellent beginning, and will, if continued in the same vein, prove to be a valuable contribution to our understanding of Salvation Army history. For, one thing is certain, there are so many stories worth telling—and so many worth re-telling—that the end is nowhere in sight. As an encouragement to all Salvationists to support it, I would say, with Michael Crichton, “If you don’t know history…you are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”