Our Children Saved Our Marriage

Teenage pregnancy sometimes results in a hasty marriage—which, later on, results in a divorce.

This is not that story. Okay, it almost was; but because of the Wentz children, this story has a very happy ending!

Meet the Wentz Family: Stephanie and Andrew, with children Chance (11), Cierra (10), Alyssa (8), and Austin (5). Now, these four children do not look like marriage counselors—but there is no doubt in Mom’s and Dad’s opinion, these kids saved a marriage that was definitely “on the rocks.”

“I used to come here (Casper, Wyoming Corps) with my grandma when I was a little girl,” Stephanie says. Her grandmother, Virginia Seith, is a longtime faithful soldier, and is directly responsible for bringing the Wentz children to church at the Army for the past five years—which means she is indirectly also responsible for winning Stephanie and Andrew back to the Lord.

“A.J. (Andrew’s nickname) and I met when we were teens,” Stephanie explains. “I became pregnant and gave birth to a boy, named Brandon, but he passed not long after he was born.”

Unfortunately, the baby’s death pulled Andrew and Stephanie apart.

“By the time of what would have been Brandon’s first birthday, A.J. and I got back together. I became pregnant later on, and we decided to get married,” she adds.

Everything seemed fine for a while. Two sisters and a brother joined chance, but by the time the marriage was in deep trouble.

“We had been separated and were in the process of getting a divorce,” Andrew says. “That’s when our children asked us to come to church with them here at the Army.”

For Andrew, worshipping at The Salvation Army would be totally different.

“I come from a Pentecostal background—in fact, my stepdad and step-grandfather are both pastors here in town,” he explains.

The children were insistent, and at first, Stephanie went to church with them—then on a couple of Sundays, Andrew went. But not both on the same Sunday, until some weeks later, when Stephanie and Andrew both came—much to the Wentz children’s delight!

“Once I saw what The Salvation Army is all about, something clicked for me, and I continued coming,” Andrew says. Starting to worship as a family clicked for both of them, apparently, because the couple decided to work things out—this time with the help of Christ in control of their lives.

Two other important factors were in place for the marriage to be saved: first, the corps officers (Captains Mark and Kathy Merritt) took a special interest in the young couple; and, second, the people in the corps were so welcoming and understanding toward the Wentz Family.

“I didn’t have a job at that time,” Stephanie goes on, “so the captains offered me a seasonal job during that Christmas kettle period. After the holidays, they wanted me to continue working as the janitor at the Hope Center and the corps building.”

Meanwhile, not only were Stephanie and Andrew reunited, but in addition to bringing their own children to the corps, they began bringing other kids as well.

“I started driving the (25-passenger) corps bus, and we had more kids coming so we started using a couple of vans as well,” Andrew says. “There was virtually no youth program before, but we now have a growing youth ministry here at the corps!”

In fact, the Army in Casper boasts the largest youth group in town. That’s because Stephanie, it turns out, is a natural at youth programming.

“I love working with youth,” Stephanie says, beaming. It wasn’t long before the Merritts offered Stephanie a job as the corps youth minister. They also got Andrew in the bargain—two for the price of one.

“I work as a freight delivery driver, but I volunteer a lot around here as the leader for Rangers (boys scouting program) and janitor, and of course, the bus driver,” he says.

In 2014, Stephanie and Andrew took the Soldiership Class course, and in November they were enrolled, with their children becoming Junior Soldiers.

“It was a real family deal,” Andrew says, chuckling.

Andrew and Stephanie are considering Salvation Army officership, but before they go off to the Crestmont training college at in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, they would love to see someone step in to replace them as leaders of the Casper Corps youth ministry.

“We want to make sure this is God’s plan for us—not just ours for ourselves,” Andrew says.

A lot of good came out of the prayers of four loving children, and a proud grandmother: a healed marriage; a reunited family; a burgeoning corps youth ministry; and, possible careers as Salvation Army officers.

“It all comes back to the kids!” Andrew admits.

By Major Frank Duracher

Katrina +10

You can find no better example of the flexibility and effectiveness of the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) than its response to Hurricane Katrina. It has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and nearly erased New Orleans from the face of the earth. Thanks in part to EDS, the devastated areas have rebounded considerably.

“Each disaster is different; no two are alike,” says USA Southern Territorial Disaster Coordinator Jeff Jellets. “Each one creates its own special needs. The core of the Salvation Army’s disaster program consists of several basic services. Our disaster relief is also flexible. We adapt services to specific needs.” Jellets adds that emotional and spiritual care counselors have played a vital role in relief. And the addition of partner organizations like Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and HopeForce International has freed Salvation Army officers to take on duties as pastors to victims, as well as relief and recovery workers and volunteers.

New Orleans Area Command Captain David Worthy observes, “If the levees in New Orleans had not breached, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The only disaster site for Katrina would have been the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and that was bad enough!” When the surging waters breached the levees cradling the Crescent City, which sits below sea level, 80 percent of New Orleans was plunged underwater. It was a nightmare of two natural disasters in one: a Category 5 hurricane and a flood. “If Katrina had not wobbled southeast of New Orleans, taking it due north into Gulfport and Biloxi [Mississippi], New Orleans would have been totally destroyed,” Worthy theorizes.

In the 10 years following Katrina, The Salvation Army has played a monumental role. The Army assisted individuals and families with immediate needs and rebuilt thousands of homes during the long-term recovery phase. Beyond everyone’s control, however, are the unsightly areas where only some of the damaged homes have been renovated or rebuilt. This is particularly true of the neighborhood hit hardest, the Lower Ninth Ward, where one can see a beautiful home on one reclaimed lot and an abandoned, dilapidated one next door.

Chela Clark is a caseworker at area command in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina wreaked water and wind damage on her house, but living on the West Bank in Gretna saved her home from the destruction seen on national media. Chela is still amazed that the Army processed roughly 600 clients a day in the following months—providing transportation and distributing vouchers for immediate needs, supermarket gift cards, furniture and clothing. “One case among the thousands was one homeless veteran who lost his home even before Katrina,” she recalls. “We housed him in our shelter for some time until we were able to find permanent housing. For a long time after he got his new home, he came by at least once a week to visit…If there is one good thing that can come out of a disaster like this, it’s that a lot of people in New Orleans know that they can depend on The Salvation Army,” she says.

There are many stories from Katrina of heroics performed by Salvation Army officers, employees and volunteers, such as that of Majors Richard and Fay Brittle, New Orleans area commanders at the time.

As floodwaters rose to nearly the second floor of the four-story Center of Hope—a complex offering shelter and transitional housing for individuals and families—the Brittles and residents were confined to the top floor, praying for help to arrive. With no power and no ability to communicate with the outside world, Major Richard was forced to begin rationing the remaining food. Marooned for days, he and his wife refused to eat, and when help finally arrived he required an IV and was evacuated by stretcher onto a National Guard helicopter.

Within a few months, Major Richard contracted terminal cancer, likely caused by the toxic waters that flooded the building. He was promoted to Glory in 2006. Majors Richard and Fay Brittle are credited with saving nearly 300 lives during that ordeal.

The scene on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was also catastrophic, but that area recovered more quickly. Along Beach Boulevard (US Highway 90), prime waterfront real estate lies barren and unclaimed to this day. Some stately homes have been rebuilt; but what remains is mostly lush, green grass and the occasional bare foundation to give witness to the grandeur that existed there before August 2005. What caused the stark difference in reconstruction in Gulfport and Biloxi with that of New Orleans? The answer is simple: flood insurance.

Properties can now “be got for a song,” as longtime resident Bruce Brookshire claims. “The problem is that even if you built a house there, the annual flood insurance premiums can run as high as $50,000! Who could afford that?”

Oyster HouseBruce lives in a 19th-century house built entirely of crushed oyster shells and cement. It sits like a fortress on the corner of Howard Avenue and Lee Street, roughly the distance of three football fields from the ocean’s edge. Katrina had little effect on what locals call the Oyster House, but hundreds of homes to the east and west of Bruce’s were destroyed, as well as the Army’s Biloxi Corps building on Howard Avenue. “When the original owner built this house around 1900 there was a severe shortage of bricks. What they had a lot of though were oyster shells. So he came up with the idea of crushing the shells, mixing it with cement,” Bruce marvels.

John Lowe, another Biloxi resident, rode out the storm in his house above Back Bay. John was with the Biloxi Police Department at the time. He is now retired from the U.S. Air Force. His wife, Wanda, was an employee at the Biloxi Corps and works on the staff at the Kroc Center there today. After the hurricane, John and Wanda ventured out to survey the damage around town and found a war zone. They helped hand out cleanup kits and hygiene products at what used to be the Biloxi Corps. “The Army owned what used to be the Dukate Elementary School, right next to the Biloxi Corps. The City of Biloxi wanted that property back for a city community center, and offered old Yankie Stadium in a land swap. Turns out, the Army had its eye on the stadium in hopes of building the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center,” John says. “The negotiations went on for some time, but the papers were signed and the land swap became legal just three days before Katrina!”

The Lowes worked tirelessly for The Salvation Army in the years after Katrina. John says he is “proud of what we as an Army were able to do to help our people recover.” He recalls great leaders the Army sent to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Katrina’s wake: “Majors David and Cherry Craddock were in Gulfport, and Majors Donald and Helene Wildish were at the Biloxi Corps that year. During the recovery, headquarters sent Majors Rob and Janine Vincent, Majors Tarryl and Sharon Ray, Majors Alan and Belinda Hill, and now, Majors Gary and Beth Sturdivant. All of these are dedicated officers to whom much is owed by our community.”

Angela Grandberry is a staff member at the Kroc Center. She came aboard when it opened in 2012. She barely remembers Hurricane Camille, which struck the area in 1969, but she is certain Katrina was much worse by what she’s heard from her extended family. “My husband stayed at our house, and I took our children to our church for shelter,” Angela says of Katrina. “When the ocean started coming into our house, my husband ended up in our attic until the water went back down. At our church, we had to move up to the second floor, and we were terrified.”

“My children are resilient and appear to have no psychological damage from the trauma,” she says, adding, “but I’ll tell you one thing: if another storm like that comes along, I’m one of the first to evacuate!”

Major Gary Sturdivant, the current Mississippi Gulf Coast area commander, remembers, “Before August 2005, residents along the Gulf Coast referred to Camille as the worst hurricane to come through here. Now, they speak of Katrina. I reckon they will for a very long time.”

Biloxi Corps After KatrinaMany are unaware of a third area affected by Katrina. Majors Mark and Mary Satterlee opened the doors of the Army’s administrative office on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to find thousands of evacuees on their doorstep in need of food and basic supplies (see sidebar on page 24). An abandoned motel directly across the highway became the staging area for some 40 Salvation Army canteens to serve hot meals and supplies for the next few months.

Army employee Arnold McDuffie knew his city was in trouble when he ventured out the day after to survey the damage. Driving a white van with a huge Salvation Army red shield on it made Arnold a marked man. “They came at me from every direction!” he says. The saddest thing he witnessed during those weeks was a family who had walked all the way to Baton Rouge from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans: a distance of just under 100 miles. “I was driving a canteen back to Baton Rouge after a day out in the field, and there they were—this grandmother and several kids walking to Baton Rouge. My heart broke for them and I gave them a ride to our shelter.”

Back in New Orleans, the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) on Jefferson Highway was severely damaged by flooding. All of the residents had evacuated to other ARCs across the South, and with most of the city population gone for months and even years (as of today, only 80% have returned), there was no one to donate clothes and furniture for the men to process and sell.

Biloxi Corps Today“Majors Dan and Lynda Delaney were the ARC administrators when Katrina hit,” says Major Charles Stewart, who with his wife Major Donna Stewart oversees the restored ARC program today. “Sergeants Guy and Tasoula Nickum resurrected the ARC program a few years later when a semblance of a donor base returned to the area, and they did a phenomenal job; something, I think, few people could do!”

Karen Miranda has been the general supervisor at the New Orleans ARC since 2002. Karen remembers the day Katrina barreled toward the city: “The televisions in the store were all broadcasting weather bulletins and warnings,” she says. “Major Dan was at the Southern Bible Conference [in North Carolina], and Major Lynda was in charge here. She closed the store at 1:00 and carried out plans to get the men out. I went home and my family evacuated to Beaumont [Texas]. When I was finally able to return to New Orleans a few days later (because Army [workers] are considered first responders I was allowed in) I went to the center to check things out. The water was gone inside the building, but it left a thick, crusty, caked mud floor.”

Karen went to work at the Army’s EDS center in LaPlace. Every day a line of cars stretching over five miles waited for Karen and other caseworkers to process them. “It was a nightmare,” she sighs. She remembers vividly the sight of armed soldiers. “There was no job description during that chaos. We just did what we could; however we could. That lasted for about six months, at which time Lt. Colonel [Jake] Tritton hired me to come back to area command to work.”

Lt. Colonel Tritton was the disaster recovery manager for the New Orleans region while Salvation Army facilities and programs were being rebuilt and restored. Major Michael Hawley became the first official post-Katrina area commander, followed by Major Ethan Frizzell, Major W.D. Owens, and now Captain Worthy. Also of great importance were Majors Mel and Esther James, who came out of retirement to devote years of service to the Army’s recovery effort.

Now that a full decade has passed, Captain Worthy sees his role as the present New Orleans area commander as a mandate to return Salvation Army services, which have ministered in southeast Louisiana since 1886, to their traditional roles. “The work of disaster services is done here,” Worthy observes. “We are transitioning back to the historical area command unit, promoting highly sustainable programs that are intentional and specific to the needs of the people here.”

Corps activities are alive and well in the New Orleans Citadel Corps, particularly over the last five years. Chermane Allen is one example of the corps’ new life. She is one of a handful of soldiers who were faithful to the corps before August 2005, and now she’s taken up where she left off in her worship, praise and service to others. “I’ve been a soldier for 30 years,” Chermane says. “Being a part of this corps helps me overcome the nightmare we all experienced because of Katrina. I’m back at home now!”

Causeway Boulevard OverpassMarie Pellegrin, a soldier for 25 years, has also returned to the corps. Marie was very familiar with the Army’s EDS ministry, even before Katrina. “We lived in an apartment complex on the second floor, and we decided to ride out the storm. The water came up nearly to our balcony. I had a grill and meat in the freezer that was going to be bad since we had no power, so I cooked everything and fed as many people as we could!”

Post-Katrina soldiers at the Citadel Corps have their own reasons for becoming Salvationists. Joseph Showers was in the New Orleans ARC program that year, and evacuated with the other men to the Houston ARC. He even graduated from the program during their relocation. “After I graduated, I went to Baton Rouge to stay with my brother, and we eventually both went to work for FEMA back in New Orleans,” Joseph says. “Our job was to help clean up the city. It was a monumental task that I thought would never end!”

Joseph says that when the Citadel Corps came back to life he began attending worship services and Bible study classes. He became a soldier in 2008. Joseph has a heart for ministry among homeless men, and he still does whatever he can to help feed and clothe the homeless and bring them to church services at the corps. “I’m so thankful to God and to The Salvation Army. My heart’s desires are met by being a Salvationist!” he says.

Valerie Murry is a Salvationist of some 40 years. Today she feels extremely blessed. She ended up in Houston, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. After returning to her home, the Army helped her rebuild. When Bible study and worship services returned to the Citadel Corps, so did Valerie. “The Salvation Army adopted me, took me in, clothed me, sheltered me, fed me and prayed over me,” she says.

Several staff members at the area command have been sold on the Salvation Army’s multiple ministries and have come on board as caseworkers and volunteers. Cynthia Morrison began working for the Army in 2009 as a case manager.

Causeway Boulevard OverpassIn addition to coordinating building projects for houses for displaced families, Cynthia also promoted Major Frizzell’s vision to grow the local economy by offering homes for critical personnel coming back to the city, like teachers, firefighters and policemen. “By that time, many of the other community recovery agencies were shutting down, but the Army was still building houses for many families.”

Cynthia is now property manager for the Army’s Center of Hope. “I’m astounded at how the Army has been consistent and has never stopped helping people,” she says. “We still shelter people who were affected, providing social services, utility assistance, food, etc. The Army has been very flexible and consistent with their dedication to the people and their changing needs.”

Tamaka Golden-Ross has been a caseworker since 2006. Among the saddest stories of her client caseload is that of a middle-aged man who returned home to find the bodies of his mother, grandmother, two aunts and three cousins. “On top of all that trauma, he couldn’t find a job,” Tamaka says. “Ministering to him is indicative of thousands we’ve tried to assist.” Tamaka adds that her coworkers still come across many who are separated from family that is still scattered across the nation, and many are still dealing with their grief.

The three frontlines where Katrina caused immense destruction have fared differently in its wake, but each area’s recovery benefited from countless Salvation Army officers, soldiers and volunteers. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is back to normal, except for pockets here and there in Gulfport and Biloxi and several empty lots on Beach Boulevard. Emergency responders in Baton Rouge hope they never again face a tsunami of evacuees from New Orleans like they did in early September 2005, but if they do, they’ll have lessons learned to draw from. As for New Orleans, 20 percent of its pre- Katrina population may never return. Many damaged houses will never be removed or renovated until the legal bottleneck eases.

We thank God that the areas affected by Katrina have survived, and even thrived, since the hurricane swept through. Salvation Army personnel can take a measure of pride knowing that faith in one another is well deserved.


Each performance was star quality; each message drove home important points; each testimony spoke to the reality of God’s transforming power; each congregational song lifted delegates to a higher plane of worship. The Salvation Army’s unity and diversity were displayed side by side as international participants joined the singular effort to glorify God. The Salvation Army paused momentarily to celebrate a milestone while still marching toward a destination. This was Boundless, the international congress celebrating the Salvation Army’s 150 years. Nearly 15,000 delegates gathered in London from the 126 countries in which the Army operates. The Army’s internationalism was in evidence from the first session, when all the national flags were paraded in and all five zones, representing the worldwide work of The Salvation Army, participated in the meeting. General André Cox challenged Salvationists: “This celebration is not about The Salvation Army but what God has done through ordinary people like you and me. We have come to worship God alone… Our danger is to become a settled, satisfied people content with the past, living lives of relative ease, being a self-centered people. The world is a battlefield. As soldiers we must be mobilized and fight for right. God hates sin and He doesn’t like what He sees today.”

The second session focused on the Army building bridges using such means as international projects that link the donor with the implementer, helping and blessing both. The session highlighted the tremendous impact of these projects, including a dam in Kenya that provides much needed clean water for 1,000 people a day and the Tekotatu Clinic in Paraguay, which has sharply reduced infant deaths through medical intervention and education. The speaker at the meeting, Captain Diana MacDonald (Pakistan), asked, “Are we building bridges of peace, love, care and reconciliation, without discrimination, wherever we are?”

In honor of Founder’s Day, a special ceremony was held in the East End of London where a statue of Catherine Booth, the Army Mother, was unveiled. Paid for by women of the Army in the USA, it stands next to one of her husband, General William Booth. Speaking at the event, Commissioner Debi Bell (USA South) said, “One of the things that attracted me to the Army was that both [male and female] officers were ordained and spoke at the corps. I felt a calling to be a woman preacher. Because of what Catherine did I can do what I do.”

Under the theme “A Serving Army,” the next session celebrated the Salvation Army’s beginnings in the London’s East End. Following a moving video tribute to General Eva Burrows, who was promoted to Glory only months before the congress, General Cox awarded her the Order of the Founder, the Salvation Army’s highest award. It was the first time it has ever been awarded posthumously. A video presenting highlights of her life shows General Burrows saying, “I never wanted to live my way; I always wanted to live God’s way.” Because none of her family could be in attendance, the territorial commander for Australia Southern Territory, Commissioner Floyd Tidd, received the award on their behalf.

Another feature of the meeting was the launch of the new Song Book of The Salvation Army, the first since 1986. (The U.S. edition will be available in September along with accompanying story in the September issue of the War Cry.)

Commissioner William Cochrane, International Secretary to the Chief of the Staff, also spoke: “The Salvation Army knew what it was to be counter-cultural. We have been called to stand against powers that surround us, to fight against all that is immoral and unethical, to witness in homes and neighborhoods. The early Salvationists believed nothing could contain the Gospel. That’s the kind of faith and hope that God through the Holy Spirit wants to give to The Salvation Army.”

“A Caring Army” marked the fourth session. Special wristbands worn by the delegates lit up the vast auditorium during key parts of the meeting. Focusing on social justice, Commissioner E. Jane Paone (Switzerland, Austria and Hungary) declared, “Social justice is God’s idea. God needs committed people who love and care to make Him known… the Kingdom of God culture surpasses our own small mindsets.”

The session entitled “An All Embracing Army” highlighted international expressions. Delegates from Hong Kong, Canada, Indonesia, the United States, Sweden, Australia and countries in South America performed. An incredible combined timbrel brigade of hundreds of players from all five zones performed as its members spread throughout the floor of the auditorium. The speaker, Major David Vandebeulque (France and Belgium), spoke about the challenge of multiculturalism, particularly in the Western world where immigrant populations are growing both in numbers and influence. “Today the world is on our doorstep. We may not all be called to personally go to the end of the earth, but we are called to stand up and to open the door in front of us.”

On Saturday night “A Youthful Army” took center stage in an auditorium filled with energy, as youth from around the world demonstrated their commitment to the Lord and the consecration of their talents for His glory. An opening skit reminded everyone that it was a teenage William Booth who gave his heart to the Lord and began to envision the Army’s mission. Captain Marion Platt (USA South) brought a stirring message, calling on youth to arise and shine in the Lord. “It can seem that darkness is covering the earth. There are atrocious evils, injustice, war and other abundant proofs of evil. But we do not grieve as those without hope—we are the children of the day! It is time for us to rise and shine!” Later, General Cox challenged youth to listen to God’s call to officership. In response, youth crowded the mercy seat to commit themselves to God’s will.

The final session attracted the largest audience for worship and consecration. Particularly moving was the virtual choir singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”—made possible by thousands of Salvationists who recorded videos of themselves singing the well-known hymn. Over 15,000 others in the 02 arena joined in live with their voices.

Bill Flynn is admitted into the Order of the Founder by the General.The General interrupted the scheduled program to present two individuals with the Order of the Founder. First honored was Mr. Bill Flynn: a band and songster leader for the Pasadena, California Corps (USA West) for over 40 years, the CEO of the Tournament of Roses, and an incoming member of the National Advisory Board. The General then honored Envoy Iris Jones of Merton, England (United Kingdom Territory), for keeping the Merton Corps open for over three decades through her tireless leadership and service that eclipsed larger and better-staffed corps in the territory. Both were lauded because they “exemplify the spirit of Christ” and their “life and service would have commended itself to the Founder.”

The General spoke for the last time in the congress with a stirring message: “My dream for the Army includes a committed Army rooted and confident in Word of God, going before God on its knees. If we try to work in our own abilities we are doomed to failure. The only way this can be a reality is if lives are transformed by power of Holy Spirit. It is far more important what we do than what we say. We have the public persona to serve the marginalized, but is it matched and reflected in motives of hearts? We’re being cowed by pressures to force us to conform to values that are in conflict to Kingdom of God. We must stand firm. In a few hours we return to extremities of earth. What will change? Unless convicted, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, not much. If we are not convinced of our calling, we will fail. We must experience the power of the Holy Spirit, totally dedicated to the task assigned to us. We cannot serve with divided hearts. To do the will of God requires surrendered lives.”

Despite the arena’s physical barriers, crowds thronged the crossshaped platform in response to God speaking to their hearts.

The congress’ final event was a grand march of witness down the mall in front of Buckingham Palace that featured 2,500 Salvationists in national dress, Army bands and row upon row of happy Salvationists testifying to the joy of the Lord. It was a grand moment of hallelujah in response to five incredible days. In addition to the general sessions, an array of activities included the debut of the musical Covenant by the team of Larsen and Larsen. Band, songster, youth choruses and cultural music presentations were sprinkled throughout. In the halls Salvationists hugged, laughed, prayed and shared, so that a palpable atmosphere of joy flavored every conversation. It proved the truth of the old Army song: that there is indeed joy in The Salvation Army.

Encounters with Christ: Legion

In 1973, the movie “The Exorcist” chronicled the tale of Regan, a teenage girl who opened herself to demon possession through a Ouija board. Hollywood special effects had a heyday in this film; in the most famous scene, Regan’s head spins around. Demon possession continues to be favorite fodder for horror films, with increasingly graphic and nauseating portrayals. The New Testament accepts demon possession as a reality that Jesus boldly attacked.

But how did demons originate? Theories propose that they are the spirits of wicked people; that they have always coexisted alongside angels; that they are fallen angels who joined in Lucifer’s failed rebellion against God; that they are the inhabitants of a civilization before Adam that was destroyed by God; and that they are the spawn of angels and people who had sexual relations (see Genesis 6:1-8).

As portrayed in Scripture, demons have distinct powers. They are spiritually aware, as shown by their recognition of Christ’s divinity (James 2:19). Paul makes a glancing reference to the belief that they fill the earth (Romans 8:39). Ancient Jewish teachers believed demons were so prevalent that a person could not stick a pin in the air without hitting one. They also believed that demons liked to dwell in tombs. Many people today feel uneasy in cemeteries, especially at night. And many are afraid of demons possessing humans.

Demon possession is a frightening possibility. The child of God need not fear, because demons cannot possess someone who belongs to Christ. A soul cannot be possessed by both the holy and the unholy. However, the unbeliever has no such defense.

Demon possession is not to be confused with mental illness—even the ancient people distinguished mental illness from demon possession. Christians need to be aware, however, that although they cannot be possessed by demons, they can suffer from demon oppression, perhaps in the form of unexplained illness or confusion.

With that background we examine the story of Legion. Though we don’t understand how, perhaps through his own devil worship or occult activity, the man was possessed by so many demons he called himself Legion. (Roman legions had as many as 6,000 men.) When Jesus appeared, the man rushed out in torment. Jesus’ appearance was like bright light to eyes accustomed to darkness. Jesus spoke directly to the demons—strange behavior if He did not accept the reality of their existence.

In Jesus’ day it was commonly taught that when the Messiah came, demons would be destroyed. The demons realized their imminent ruin and bargained with Christ for their survival. Since they were in a Gentile area, there was a herd of pigs nearby. They begged to go into the swine and Jesus allowed it.

When the demons possessed the pigs, the ferocity of their power and the torture their presence represented caused the pigs to run wildly off the cliff and into the sea, where they drowned. In Jewish teaching, water is fatal to demons; the demons had inadvertently chosen another means for their obliteration.

In “The Exorcist” and subsequent movies dealing with demon possession, elaborate ceremonies cast demons out of their hosts. Interestingly, Jesus did not employ any of these ceremonial rituals. He simply said, “Go!” It is important to remember that while rituals help us, God is not, nor will He ever be, tied to acting in accordance with anything devised by people. Our God is infinitely creative in executing His will.

The demon-possessed man was then “fully clothed and perfectly sane” (Mark 5:15). What was the reaction to this grand miracle? “Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged Him to go away and leave them alone” (Matthew 8:34). Apparently they valued the pigs over this tortured man.

The man realized that life had totally changed. Deeply grateful for what Christ had done, he wanted to join others who followed Him around the countryside, a living, breathing demonstration of God’s power to deliver. But Jesus would not allow this. Instead, He gave him a mission that in its own way, was far more difficult: “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful He has been” (Mark 5:19). The man was to show the difference in his life to his family and friends. If our family can’t see the difference in our life in Christ, it is foolish to expect anyone else to.

A word of caution: some Christians become obsessed with the study of demons and Satan. While you should be aware and on guard, remember that Satan loves nothing more than distracting us from witnessing to the world about the saving power of Jesus Christ. If you look at Satan instead of Jesus, the devil will keep feeding you tantalizing tidbits while you focus on him instead of Christ. Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Ken Cavallero Retires as USA West EDS Supervisor

Ken Cavallero, an adherent of the Marin County (California) Corps, has a Salvation Army heritage goes all the way back to London. A grandmother was among the first “Sallies” sent by General Bramwell Booth in 1916 to “open-fire” (begin Salvation Army ministries and service) in China.

His grandparents were Salvation Army officers and were housed for the duration of World War Two in a Japanese Internment Camp. His mother (as a child) was also there.
“So you see,” Ken says, “The Salvation Army has had a big influence on my life!”

Ken retires on August 5, 2015, after many years as a volunteer and eventual head of the Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) for the USA Western Territory. But even as he plans to spend more time with family (especially grandchildren!), Ken’s philosophy will continue to be based on sage advice given to him by his dad, “Do everything you can to make a difference!”

Very much like his esteemed ancestors on both sides of his family, Ken has always been about service to others. Three months after graduating from high school, Ken went to work for the Marin County Fire Department as a relief fire warden assigned to fire-lookout.

One year later, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. After basic training and technical school, he spent the balance of his USAF career as a flight crewmember on KC-135 aerial fueling tankers.

For 30 years, Ken returned to his hometown of Novato, California, and to firefighting, working as an engineer/relief captain and lead-instructor for the department. Beginning in 1989, Ken started volunteering as a disaster relief work for The Salvation Army, and later became a paid employee as a field representative for the Service Extension Department for the (then) Northern California Division.

When the Del Oro Division was formed, Ken took on the role of assistant EDS coordinator; actually holding two fulltime jobs as he remained with the fire department for another 10 years.

It was precisely because of his experience that The Salvation Army requested that he go to Ground Zero for a two-week stint as Operations Chief in the aftermath of the September 11th attack.

“I was still with the fire department then, and so I asked my chief if I could go and he said, ‘Definitely, yes!’ Working at Ground Zero became a life-changing experience for me,” Ken says. “It was an horrific scene there in ‘The Pit,’ but I was honored to be a part of the Army’s relief effort there and to help out.”

Upon his retirement from the fire department, Ken became the EDS Director for both the Del Oro and Golden State Divisions. He was sent to Jackson, Mississippi and to New Orleans, Louisiana for five weeks of EDS service following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He again traveled east for EDS service following Superstorm Sandy. By 2010, Ken was promoted to EDS territorial supervisor for the USA West.

In that territory, Ken helped oversee many Salvation Army EDS responses, among them the Napa Earthquake, wildfires in California and Colorado, and flash flooding in the Intermountain Division.

Every disaster brings heartbreak, but Ken will always remember walking from “The Pit” at Ground Zero in New York City one night. He was passing a wall where desperate families were posting signs, looking for unaccounted loved ones.

“This one poster caught my eye,” Ken describes. “It was a picture of a little girl with her dad, and beneath it she had written, ‘Will you please help find my daddy—he hasn’t come home yet!’”

Even as he retires this month, Ken is thinking of ways to help people affected by disasters.

“The current drought in California will affect farmers who need water for their crops—then there’s the growing possibility of wildfires,” he says.

Ken believes that when God closes one door, He always opens another.

“I’m just waiting to see what He has for me next!”