Love Works — SeaWorld’s Redemption Story

All of creation is involved in God’s great redemption story.

Under CEO Joel Manby’s guidance, SeaWorld has become the largest animal rescue organization in America. In this conversation with Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee, Mr. Manby, who is a member of The Army’s National Advisory Board, explains how SeaWorld is taking on the enormous threats to the health of our oceans, and calls for private as well as public entities to include the ethos of love as essential in the equation for success.

War Cry: How have you worked to turn around SeaWorld?

Joel Manby: I shared with our board before I took the job what needed to happen. I knew it was a great company. I knew I had a great cause. It was a company that cared deeply about wildlife. There were five things that we focused on with the board.

The first was to transform the brand from being known as animal entertainment that is not the rising tide anymore, and be who we really are: preserving animals and their habitats around the world. We’re the largest animal rescue organization in America but no one knew that. We call that experiences that matter. When a family comes to SeaWorld, they’re contributing dollars to huge rescue initiatives that cost over $10 million a year.

Abandoned pups rescued.

The second step was making sure our experience in the park matches that but not always with live animals. We use technology. We theme our rides with animal-focused stories. For instance, we built the longest, tallest, fastest coaster here in Orlando but we called it Mako and we partnered with Harby, an artist, who is also a marine biologist. He’s a folk hero in Florida who is very focused on stopping shark finning which kills 75 million sharks a year. It’s wiping out an entire species. When you ride Mako it goes towards stopping shark finning.

The third thing was dealing with our problems head on. We had serious, negative issues from a trainer death and then a documentary and legislation that came out against us. We decided to make the difficult decision to end Orca breeding and transition to an Orca encounter, more what the animal does in the wild and about the plight of the whale. We also partnered with a former adversary, The Humane Society of United States, in big ocean life issues like shark finning.

Financial discipline was the fourth thing.

The fifth was looking at other ways to grow our business strategically whether it’s resorts or other related services.

An Orca encounter — conservation classroom.

Why should people feel good about where SeaWorld is going?

JM: This may be the biggest transformation of a private company in business in recent years. We’re going from animal entertainment to improving the ocean’s health and cleanliness, animal health and related environmental issues. Americans love redemption stories, and we are a redemption story.

There are so many things we’re involved in to make the earth better, healthier and to improve the lot of animals. The more people know that, the more they’re going to love and support SeaWorld.

In what ways can the entertainment industry and ecological concerns be compatible?

JM: In all ways. The biggest enemies of animals are pollution, poachers and human development. Occasionally there’s nature-based issues but for the most part, they’re man made. God created the world and asked us to be a steward over it. As a species mankind hasn’t done a very good job. These issues are huge. They’re bigger than any one company, any one country, any one organization. It’s going to take much more than just government agencies to solve the problem. Private enterprise has to be involved because all of this takes money. That’s the ugly truth.

You can’t stop pollution and poachers and human development without having some resources to regulate, put poachers in jail, stop pollution of corporations, and have the needed government laws. Governments are not able to do it on their own. Our governments are having a hard time keeping people from being poor. Animal issues are always going to fall to the bottom unless there are private enterprises that are really focused on it. That’s why what we do is so important. The more companies use their resources to do good things the better off our society is going to be.

A whale of a feeding.

Do you think we’re making progress?

JM: We are making progress.

One of the reasons I wrote Love Works was to get the message out there that you can care and have a really successful organization.

How have you applied the concepts of Love Works to SeaWorld?

JM: Love Works represents the principles I learned when I was at Herschend Entertainment, the company I ran before SeaWorld. It’s taking 1 Corinthians 13—as Paul described it and Jesus called us to do—as our number one commandment. Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. He used the Greek word agape.

That is not the emotional love that Americans think of when they think of love. It’s how you treat people regardless of how you feel about them. It’s applicable in all walks of life and certainly in the business world. We can treat people with respect and kindness and forgiveness and truthfulness even if we don’t like them or are frustrated with them. It means not only measuring what people do—like hit sales numbers, hit revenue numbers, hit cost targets. It also means what kind of leader you want to be. We want to be honest. We want to be straightforward. We want to be forgiving. We measure not only numbers, but also how you go about doing it.

It’s a unique concept and we haven’t got it fully going here, but at SeaWorld it’s also about loving all creatures. At Herschend, it was much more about loving employees. At SeaWorld, it includes loving the guests as well as loving nature and wildlife.

How does your Christian faith interact with your professional life?

JM: It should be completely. There should be no dichotomy. I practice spiritual disciplines, morning quiet time, and have accountability with other believers. I’ve been part of an accountability group for 30 years; we meet on the first Friday of every month. I worship at church where I find my spirit, my attitude of prayfulness throughout the day and being consistent to those seven words of love that I wrote about in Love Works (patient, kind, trusting, unselfish, truthful, forgiving, dedicated). I find it’s fully integrated.

When I get off my game and I get too busy for quiet time, too busy for God, I start to do it too much myself. I start to wear down, I start to get weary and I start to worry too much about what the world thinks, not Who I really should be pleasing. The stress of SeaWorld and the turnaround that we’ve

been under actually drives me to my knees more. In that sense it’s been a good thing becauseI’ve been more dependent to get through it with my faith because it’s too big for any one man or woman’s ability.

“Jesus commanded us to love other people and have compassion for them.
The Salvation Army does that in spades.”

What led you to serve as a member of the Salvation Army National Advisory Board?

JM: I didn’t know much about The Salvation Army. When I was asked to serve on the board,

I thought of bell-ringing at Christmastime. I started reading the history and I realized they’re one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world. Jesus commanded us to love other people and have compassion for them. The Salvation Army does that in spades.

When I interviewed for it, the humility of the organization—I get emotional thinking about it—the humility of the people who serve is such a good example and a reminder for me. I get caught up in this fast paced materialistic world of business—then I go to a Salvation Army board meeting and I

feel good because of all the good that The Salvation Army is doing. I’m reminded of Jesus’ humility when I see the people of The Salvation Army. They are giving and humble people and that is a good thing.

Anything else you’d like to add?

JM: I want to encourage everyone in the Army. It’s got to be difficult trying to serve sometimes due to the lack of success you may see in people you’re serving. The Salvation Army is a great organization doing great things. It’s an incredible honor for me to serve.

 

 

Red, Yellow, Blue…& Green: A Call for Imaginative Faith

In late 2008, HarperCollins released The Green Bible. Designed “to equip and encourage people to see God’s vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it.” This NSRV edition of the Scriptures features a special, “green–oriented” index and a personal study guide. The accompanying notes include articles by such notables as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and all passages relating to God’s care for the earth are highlighted in green. It’s even printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink. 

‘The Salvation Army owes its existence to
the work of the Holy Spirit not only in the human heart,
but in the imagination as well’ 

The Green Bible may not be everyone’s preference, of course, but there’s no doubting the imagination behind it. For Salvationists, that alone is enough to make it interesting, because The Salvation Army owes its existence to the work of the Holy Spirit not only in the human heart, but in the imagination as well. Faith in the power of God, combined with a vision for what can be done to serve His people, is at the very foundation of our movement.

If you doubt that, just look at the record: the match factory, the labor exchange, the farm colonies. These and other creative programs were products of the early Army’s imaginative faith as it sought to address the cataclysmic social and economic dislocations caused by the Industrial Revolution. Such faith is also what equipped the Army to campaign effectively against poverty, sex trafficking and the inhumane treatment of prisoners. Indeed, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that imaginative faith is what has always made the Army so successful in meeting human need.

Today, the need for such faith is greater than ever. But it’s no longer the Industrial Revolution to which we must respond. Rather, the world faces a wide range of challenges, including social and political divisions, economic inequality and widespread violence.

Among these problems is unprecedented climate change, and addressing it will require innovation and creativity. But for the Army, it is precisely at this moment that our heritage empowers us to demonstrate the kind of holy imagination that God has used so powerfully in our past.

The good news is that responding to this crisis is not simply a matter of minimizing its negative impact. It also presents opportunities, and there are few Christian churches today better prepared to take advantage of them than the Army. Our profound understanding of and fellowship with the poor; the sheer scope of our social and educational programs and the enormous respect we enjoy from governments, institutions and individuals around the world give the Army a unique ability to do so.

The process begins with our people. It is incumbent upon every Salvationist, whether officer, soldier, junior soldier or adherent, to proclaim our obligation as God’s stewards to care for the Earth and play an active part in healing its wounds and protecting its future.

Of course, it’s not essential that we use The Green Bible. As with every form of stewardship, this obligation may best be fulfilled simply by setting an example, by living a life that demonstrates a strong ethic of conservation. But regardless of how it is done, every unit can find ways to teach that, if God is indeed the “Creator, Preserver and Governor of all things” His people must honor that creation.

We can also speak out. We can advocate on behalf of measures that will protect the interests of those whose lives and families are now threatened. Through local, divisional, territorial and national bodies, the Army’s voice can be heard, not only in opposition to destructive and oppressive practices, but also to promote the creation of green-collar jobs. Just as the Cab Horse Charter articulated a guiding philosophy for Salvation Army social work in the late 1800s, so we can today formulate statements that reiterate our determination, with God’s help, to advance the principles of fairness, compassion and human dignity in the 21st Century.

Above all, we can act. Through its worldwide network of corps and institutions, the Army can put its scriptural understanding of stewardship to work, not only by giving its support to environmental initiatives, but by improving individual lives through them. It’s the same approach that we’ve used throughout our history: show that Salvationists are a people of God who do not simply believe or merely talk, but actually do something.

This is where opportunities abound, and we’re not alone in imagining them. Among the visionaries is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas L. Friedman, who has written passionately about the need to go beyond a “carbon neutral” approach to global warming and adopt instead a “carbon advantage” mindset that sees commercial and economic possibilities in the current crisis. The key to doing so, he argues, is ultimately not a matter of research or investment, but a simple willingness to think differently.

Would the promotion of a “carbon advantage” worldview represent a new departure for the Army? Perhaps. But no one questions the duty born of our doctrine and our tradition to act in support of those least able to control their own destinies. And because it is precisely these who will suffer most from the combined impact of climate change and economic disruption, the Army must act.t

“Our Heritage empowers us
to demonstrate the kiind of holy imagination
God has used so powerfully in our past”

On similar grounds, we can stimulate community efforts to recycle waste. We can work with educational institutions of all kinds to help workers develop new skills. We can seek out start-up companies in need of reliable workforces. We can develop working relationships at every level, from job centers and Christmas campaigns to national advisory organizations, with the individuals, companies and governments that create environmentally sound job opportunities. The Army’s gift for imaginative faith, when combined with that of others, will do more to honor God and bring healing to those we serve than we can even imagine. Indeed, once we Salvationists unleash our imaginations on any challenge, history shows there is no stopping us.

None of this is tangential to our calling, but rather a vital expression of it. And the benefits would be enormous. The environment would be that much better off. People who need jobs would find them in industries that can ultimately offer more opportunity and security. And those who give financially to our work would see even more reason to support an Army that refuses to be pigeonholed as a charity, but is rather a dynamic instrument for change that crosses the traditional lines between religious groups, anti-poverty organizations and the green movement.

But by far the biggest benefit will be the impact made upon people who, through the Army’s imaginative efforts to deal with the salient problems of our age, come to see the truly holistic nature of the Gospel. Just as David did in Psalm 24, they will understand that the entire natural world and everyone in it belongs to the Lord. They will recognize the direct connection between the Earth and the God who loves each man, woman and child as His own. A new generation will sense the relevance and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform individual lives and the world at large.

If we are a people who truly believe in accountability, shouldn’t we demonstrate it in the way we interact with the world He made for us?

Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder, Western territorial commander, updated this article for the War Cry. It was originally published in May/June 2009 edition of The Officer.

Caring for the Environment

The Salvation Army believes people are made in the image of God and have been entrusted with the care of the Earth and everything in it.

The Salvation Army recognizes environmental degradation as one of the most pressing issues facing the world today with its effects felt disproportionately by the most vulnerable communities, particularly in terms of health, livelihood, shelter and the opportunity to make choices.

The Salvation Army is concerned about the effects of environmental damage on present and future generations. Sustainable environmental practices are required to meet today’s global needs and aspirations without compromising the lives of future generations.

BACKGROUND & CONTEXT

In the past century, the Earth has suffered unprecedented and devastating levels of degradation resulting in unnatural changes to biodiversity, air and water pollution, ozone depletion and land destruction. The majority scientific opinion predicts increased temperatures leading to more extreme and less predictable weather patterns due to human activity.

Coal, natural gas and oil accounted for 87 per cent of global primary energy consumption in 2012. It is predicted in 2040, liquid fuels, natural gas, and coal will still account for more than three-fourths of total world energy consumption.

Given the finite nature of these resources and a rapidly expanding global population together with the impact of industrial and rural activities, it is clear that this consumption of resources is not sustainable.

Environmental degradation is, however, more than merely an issue of energy efficiency or carbon emissions. It is also impacted by other factors such as population growth, population movements and poverty.

Species extinction of both flora and fauna is increasing because of loss of habitat and climate change. Pollution of air and water, reduced food production and desertification of significant tracts of land threaten the health, well being and very

survival of millions of people. This issue should concern all people everywhere. The solutions are not simple and will require a concerted effort over a long period of time.

GROUNDS FOR THE POSITION OF THE SALVATION ARMY
The Army’s response to environmental issues is based on the following:

  • GOD IS THE CREATOR, GOVERNOR AND PRESERVER OF ALL THINGS. The Earth belongs to the Lord and everything in it (Psalm 24:1, Exodus 19:5). As people made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) we have been entrusted with the care of the Earth’s resources (Genesis 2:15). God invites us to share responsibility for the care of Creation (Genesis 1:28-31; 2:15) and participate in the work of healing the world (Romans 8:19-22).
  • THE RELATIONSHIP OF GOD TO CREATION IS ONE OF LOVING CARE AND CONCERN. Humanity’s stewardship of the earth is a reflection of that care, as human beings are made in the image of God. The world was made to praise God and reveal His glory (Psalm 19:1-6); our stewardship of it furthers that end.
  • THE DEGRADATION OF THE EARTH IS, IN PART, THE RESULT OF HUMAN ACTIVITY AND IT IS THEREFORE OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO WORK FOR IT’S HEALING (Isaiah 24:5-6). The biblical command to humanity to ‘subdue’ and ‘rule’ should be interpreted as a requirement to be good stewards rather than understood as justifying abuse of the Earth’s resources (Genesis 1:28). The disproportionate effect that climate change and environmental degradation has on the poorest parts of the world creates additional responsibilities to defend the cause of those who are vulnerable by restoring a sense of justice to the global community (Micah 6:8).

PRACTICAL RESPONSES

The Salvation Army seeks to improve its responses to environmental degradation by affirming the following actions:

  1. We acknowledge our lack of care for the environment and seek repentance, thereby endeavouring to be more consciously involved in seeking a changed attitude that will lead towards a more responsible use of the environment and its resources.
  2. We will encourage changes in Salvationists’ attitudes to the environment that will lead toward a more responsible use of the environment and its resources by encouraging reflection on current and past practice.
  3. We will enact sound environmental policies and practices within The Salvation Army including comprehensive recycling, environmentally sensitive purchasing policies, environmentally responsible waste management practices, and the development of innovative ways to reduce the destructive use of natural resources.
  4. We will mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation by the training, education and awareness-raising of Salvationists, towards a goal of improving their environmental practices.
  5. We will provide practical care and advocacy for those who are impacted by adverse or damaging environmental situations.
  6. We will seek opportunities for cooperation and coordination with all governments, people and organizations of goodwill who are working towards a common goal of sustainable lifestyles and environmental care.

 

REFERENCES:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (n.d). Retrieved from www.ipcc.ch/ International Development Policy – Environment; IHQ, 2014, approved by the General, November 2014. The views expressed in this international positional statement constitute the official position of The Salvation Army on the issue addressed, and they may not be modified or adapted in any way without the express written permission of International Headquarters.

Speeding Ticket Leads to Officership

Camelia Mendoza was not happy about it at the time; after all, this was her third traffic ticket in a week! Three speeding violations through her Newark, California community would have been more incredible had all three been issued by the same policeman.

“This should give you a glimpse of what my life was like at the time,” Camelia sighs.

She had to appear in court, and was given the option of community service. Her sister, standing with her, suggested The Salvation Army as a way of paying the expensive fines and avoiding jail time.

“I went to the Tri-Cities Corps in Newark, not knowing that the Army is a church,” Camelia says. “To be honest I didn’t know what to expect as I walked into this oddly-shaped building. I just remembered wanting to get out of there as quickly as I could because everything and everyone there seemed so odd to me at first.”

Her anxiety was compounded by the need she saw in people coming for assistance.

“It was overwhelming and I wanted to run from there,” she says.

But Camelia didn’t run. In fact, she ended up staying around for a very long time.

Before becoming involved with The Salvation Army, she had gone through a psychotherapy program for eight months, due to severe chronic depression and alcoholism. She ended up in the program because she was at her wits end—suicidal—and tired of the struggle.

“My addictions began with alcohol, and that drove me to try new drugs, such as meth; and meth became my new addiction,” Camelia explains, “but when I tried to kick that habit, I merely replaced that habit with drinking hard liquor heavily.”

The drinking got worse to the point where depression really settled in.

“I really thought that this program would heal me and put all my broken parts back together. I felt as if all of me was broken,” she says.

Camelia quit drinking, all right—but only because of being so heavily medicated to treat the depression—only to become addicted to the meds. So in a sense, Camelia replaced one addiction for another once again.

Despite all her efforts, Camelia returned to the bottle and the struggle continued to spiral. Soon after that, Camelia found herself inside the front door of The Salvation Army—a place she didn’t really want to be.

“The Salvation Army officer in that corps took an interest in me and pulled me from the social service area into the administration section. She immediately noticed my office skills and put them to good use.”

Cadet Camelia Mendoza and her husband, Cadet Febronio Mendoza, listen to a small group discussion at the National Seminar on Evangelism (NSE) last August.

This was something she soon found much satisfaction in doing, because it was something she could do well and made her feel useful.

Whether the major did it intentionally, or was led by the Holy Spirit—or both—she slowly asked Camelia to do tasks that required her to look into the Bible.

“I found myself becoming curious about Scripture for the first time in a long, long time,” she says. “I came across the story of Lazarus and I was like, Wow, this Jesus is a pretty cool guy!”

Having Camelia search Scripture passages was the very spark she needed.

“Struggling with my addictions, I tried to quit through many different avenues and programs, but none of them worked for me,” Camelia admits. “I was always ending up in the same place or farther away from even the thought of being sober.”

She thought of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

“This was the first story I had ever heard about Jesus; that is why I thought of Lazarus in the moment of my despair,” she says.

“Okay, if You’re the God everyone thinks You are; if You are the Almighty Healer and Giver of Life; if You could raise this Lazarus guy from the dead—then You can remove this addiction I can’t seem to get rid of,” Camelia prayed aloud.

Camelia realized she was begging God to prove Himself to her.

“This moment was my breaking point to God,” Camelia admits. “I was brought to my knees due to so much pain and hurt. It was the day that I was going to jump out of a window in hopes that I would die!”

God responded to Camelia’s agony in a mighty way.

“He took it all… even the smoking,” she says with a sense of wonder.

Camelia laughs when she admits that she didn’t really mean taking away her smoking habit—but He did that too!

“It made me understand that He wanted to heal me completely!”

Camelia explains that she felt an extreme “sense of peace, the room got very quiet. I could no longer hear the talking in the other room. Then I felt this warmth surround me, my crying stopped, my breathing slowed down, and I felt nothing but this peace within me.”

She goes on to say that the next morning the desire and thoughts of drinking or depression were gone.

“Everything looked new and bright and clear,” Camelia says. “The Lord answered my prayer that night.

Cadet Camelia Mendoza entered The Salvation Army’s College For Officer Training in August 2015 as a member of the Joyful Intercessors Session. She will be commissioned as a Salvation Army officer with the rank of Lieutenant this month.

“The Lord has made my heart very sensitive to those who are lost in their addiction, especially the women,” Cadet Mendoza says.

She gets this heaviness in her heart, she says, when she sees addicted women in their struggle—her heart hurts. “Jesus is willing to make us whole in Him,” she unashamedly tells someone who is in the place where she once was. “I never once felt shame and guilt for what I did after my heart was surrendered to Him.

“So it doesn’t matter what you have been through or done, Christ loves you and He will never reject you!”

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

The Drumbeat of Diversity

Marleen Mallory’s involvement at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center affords her the opportunity to indulge two of her passions: music instruction and The Salvation Army.

“Both sides of my family are Salvationists,” Marleen explains. “My father is from the Eastern Territory (Ohio), and my mother is from the Southern Territory (Virginia).”

It turns out that the family’s common denominator with the Army has been through music. And it started a long, long time ago.

“When my uncle was a little boy, my great-grandmother was walking down a street in Norfolk when they heard the call of the Salvation Army drum during an open-air meeting,” she goes on.

“He was so enamored with that drum that my great-grandmother had to take him to an Army meeting to find out what the music was all about.

“Members of my family have attended The Salvation Army ever since!”

There can be no doubt that Salvation Army music has played a huge role in Mallory’s life. From Meadowbook High School (Richmond, VA), Mallory entered Virginia Commonwealth University for her Bachelor’s degree (Music Education); and later to Old Dominion University where she earned her Master’s degree in Music Education/Conducting.

She’s been a band director since 2000 for Norfolk Public Schools, and now works as Assistant Program Director for the Hampton Roads Kroc.

“I don’t recall one specific day that I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” Mallory says. “There have been multiple instances in my life that caused me to rededicate myself to Him. I see my walk as a journey of multiple landmarks. No single landmark has been the most influential—however, when I see the journey as a whole, it is an amazing view!”

Each “landmark” was a staccato note for Mallory to follow as she progressed to where she is today at the Hampton Roads Kroc.

“What I love most about the Army—and this Kroc Corps Center—is our compassion for all people,” Mallory exclaims. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.’

“This has not been my experience with The Salvation Army.”

Mallory found a full diversity in all three corps she grew up in from childhood.

“Divisional, Territorial, and International (Army) events spark my love for all God’s people even more when I can literally see so many cultures coming together to worship the same God,” she marvels.

She points to her opportunity to witness this first-hand on a global scale at the Boundless International Congress in London.

“It was invigorating to see Salvationists from six of our seven continents praising God together!”

Back home there’s something equally invigorating for Mallory: watching young Kroc members blossom because of high-quality programs the Army offers.

“I was given spiritual and leadership education opportunities that I would never have experienced anywhere else,” she says, adding that her desire is to pass such opportunities onto kids and teens at the Hampton Roads Kroc.

“My desire to show all others compassion coupled with my love of music led me to my God-given calling to be a teacher.”

Marleen quickly acknowledges that a unique facility like a Salvation Army Kroc gives to her an opportunity to shape lives—an opportunity she would not likely find anywhere else.

“Making a positive difference in the lives of my community is truly a passion,” she says, “and I am very excited to be able to continue making a difference in this community with an organization that has given so much to me and my family for generations!”

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

Gypsy Boy

Rodney “Gypsy” Smith (1860-1947) was the Billy Graham of his time. Hundreds of thousands on several continents were won to Christ through his mesmerizing preaching style and his winning personality. His trips across the Atlantic Ocean were so numerous that historians seemingly disagree on the exact number.

Photograph Courtesy of The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, London.

Smith capitalized on his family culture. His parents and five siblings lived and traveled in wagons and tents, typical of the nomadic stereotype of gypsies. Before his father was converted to Christianity, dad would play his violin at barrooms and pub houses while little Rodney danced to the music. Dad (Cornelius) was the first to be gloriously saved, then mom (on her deathbed), and one-by-one his brother and sisters, beginning with the oldest and so on down the line.

For 16 year-old Rodney’s conversion, it took the witness of his father, the singing of Ira Sankey, a visit to the home of John Bunyan—and one more very important reason. And that’s where our iRony can be found.

Once Cornelius became gloriously saved, there was no more panhandling at the public houses. Instead, Cornelius took his family on revival appearances throughout England, billed as “The Converted Gypsies.” Crowds especially loved Rodney, quickly known as “the little gypsy boy.” People flocked to see them, if only for the oddity of seeing real gypsies.

One day, William Booth (then general-superintendent of The Christian Mission) took note of the singing gypsies; and in particular, young Rodney. He invited Rodney (at one his Booth’s appearances) to preach on the spot. Rodney sang a song and gave his testimony.

Although Rodney didn’t try to be funny, he connected immediately with the audience and on June 25, 1877, Booth invited him to be an evangelist with and for the Mission.

With The Christian Mission’s metamorphosis into The Salvation Army the following year, Rodney was made an Officer with the rank of Lieutenant. He worked under the mentorships of such Army pioneers as Ballington Booth and Elijah Cadman. Rodney served as a single corps officer in Whitby, Sheffield, West Hartlepool, Plymouth, and Bolton. While in Whitby, one of his converts was Annie E. Pennock, whom he later married.

Capt. Rodney Smith —
The Converted Gypsy.
War Cry, October 23, 1880
Photograph Courtesy of
The Salvation Army
International Heritage Centre, London.

Rodney and Annie went on to serve as corps officers in Chatham, Hull, Derby, and Hanley. Most everywhere they went, the Army’s numbers grew mightily. In Chatham, for example, the crowd grew from 13 to 250 within nine months. Derby was the only post where the Captains Smith encountered discouragements and defeats.

It was during their post in Hull that the name “Gypsy” Smith began to circulate.

Later in life, Gypsy Smith pointed to their time in Hanley as the most productive and memorable during his five-year career as a Salvation Army Officer. For the rest of his life, he referred to Hanley as “my greatest battlefield.”

In December 1881, General Booth asked Gypsy, “Where do you want to go next?” Captain Smith replied, “Send me to the nearest place to the bottomless pit!”

The little couple and their babies arrived by train in Hanley on New Years Eve. As the train approached town, the many factory pit fires came into sight. They could smell the sulfur of the iron foundries, and saw smoke rising from seemingly everywhere.

“I began to wonder if I had not got to the actual place (hell) whither I had asked to be sent!” he later mused. Nevertheless the work in Hanley greatly increased in success and fruitfulness.

“From 6:30 pm on Saturdays to 9:30 pm on Sundays, we held nine services, indoors and out of doors,” he recalled.

The Smiths and their growing band of soldiers sold up to 10,000 copies of The War Cry every week. “No other station in The Salvation Army has ever managed to do this, as far as I know.”

Unfortunately, Gypsy Smith and The Salvation Army parted ways in 1882—but his ministry as an Officer in his eight corps produced an estimated 23,000 decisions for Christ, with crowds numbering on occasion anywhere up to 1,500!

Gypsy Smith went on to become a world-renown evangelist. His influence for God’s Kingdom is inestimable.

But none of that would have been possible except for the real reason Rodney decided to accept Christ as a teen.

It seems back then, in his family at least, there was a natural progression in their little circle—a pecking order, of sorts. As Rodney’s father, then mother, then older brother and sister accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, Rodney reasoned secretly that in order for his two remaining younger sisters to be saved—he first had to take the plunge!

All six Smith children entered the ministry.

“I must say that my love for (my dear sister) led me to (my own) decision for Christ, and God repaid me more than abundantly by making me a blessing to her!”

—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

It’s ’50 Love’ for Greenville Kroc Tennis Center

As is his custom, Bobby Austell awoke on morning and began reading his newspaper. One story leaped out at him: The Salvation Army Advisory Board for Greenville, South Carolina was set to make a bid to land a Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in the city known as “the Textile Center of the South.”

Austell, a tennis professional and long-time coach of the sport, read with great interest of the proposed amenities of the center—a pool, exercise room, performance theater; in short most everything envisioned by Mrs. Kroc in her bequest.

Tennis students of all ages hone their skills.

“I called a friend of mine on the board and told him, ‘Ben, you’ve been holding out on me! You have everything listed except tennis!’” Austell explains. “After he thought a moment, Ben said, ‘Well, Bobby, I guess we just didn’t have anyone to bring that up.’”

Austell asked his friend if it was too late to come “on board,” and thus began a feature of the Greenville facility that would make it one-of-a-kind in the 26 Krocs across the country—the Kroc Tennis Center.

“Bobby became the co-chair for the campaign to build the entire complex, and his passion for tennis was the genesis for what we have today,” says Steve Cook, who is now the Kroc Director, but for five years was the Tennis Center Director.

“He remains a key volunteer for the tennis program and his connections in the sport have brought several major figures—local and national—to assist in the program,” Cook says.

Eight certified tennis instructors, called “coaches,” share their expertise with kids and adults, many of which have never held a tennis racquet in their hand before.

“The people we have gathered here possesses a level of coaching that can be measured against any tennis staff anywhere,” Cook says.

The Tennis Center spans seven acres, with a most prominent tennis house overlooking 16 tennis courts. Inside the building is a welcome desk and a tennis store were equipment is for sale. Outside, a wrap-around deck overlooks all 16 courts.

“The arrangement of the 16 courts are in ‘quadrants of draws’ comprised of four courts each” explains Cook, who is no stranger to tennis facilities—his father built a 16-court non-profit facility in Midland, Michigan.

“The four quadrants are part of what we call ‘tight site’ so that anyone can watch tournament action in every court from that elevated position.”

The 16 courts nearly were not built, Cook says. The Salvation Army has nothing like this anywhere else, and it was suggested that only two courts be approved. Cook adds that the administration then offered six court; but a three-person committee (including Cook and Austell) shared their vision of what this program could be, and the concept of the Kroc Tennis Center was approved.

One of 16 tennis courts, all of which are viewable from the Tennis House deck.

“This is not just ‘a couple of courts,’” Cook asserts, “it is a bona fidetennis facility who are being introduced to the Army in a way that Mrs. Kroc foresaw. It is a program staffed by professionals.”

Anibal Braga, Terry Palma, and Amale Allen are among these professional athletes.

Braga, who was promoted to Tennis Center Director when Cook moved on to oversee the Kroc program, has an MBA from the University of Auburn-Montgomery. He was a member of national championship teams, and was director of tennis at Clemson for both men and women. Palma was the women’s coach at Furman University. Allen is a former basketball Olympic athlete from Lebanon.

“Another instructor is nationally-known ecology work; and yet another has a law degree,” Cook says. “Who else can be so qualified to teach these kids about integrity?”

The Kroc Tennis Center boasts over 200 league teams annually (the local private tennis club has half that number).

The program has already garnered an impressive list of awards, among them the South Carolina Tennis Association Member Facility of the Year and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Facility of the Year. The latter was presented to the Kroc Tennis Center during the US Open in New York.

An impressive display of state and local championships won by members of the Kroc Tennis Center, a component of the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Greenville, SC.

“There are players here who live in families among the 90% below the poverty line,” Austell adds. “This is much, or more, about outreach than (it is about) tennis. Tennis is the vehicle!”

Every mentor is aware that “not everyone will play at Wimbledon” someday. That’s not the point. Success just doesn’t happen with a good work ethic. There is no “magic pill.”

Two annual events stand out for participants. The Kroc Junior Open is held in the Fall; and the Kroc Adult Classic is in the Spring. About 140 players participate in each tournament.

In addition, there are numerous USTA “Play Days”—a fun competition for children.

Wheelchair tennis is also a popular competition. In that version, the handicapped player can let the ball bounce twice.

Every group starts out on the bleachers, before they can retrieve their racquets and a bucket of balls to begin practice. The lead instructor for that day points their attention to one of 14 character-building words that are inscribed around each court.

Groups of young tennis students are given a character-building word of the day before beginning their practice sessions.

The word today is “integrity.”

Lindsey O’Donnell is a physical education teacher at the nearby Legacy Charter School. She often brings her class over for tennis instruction and practice.

“This is great exposure for our students because there are no tennis courts at our school,” O’Donnell says. “This is a wonderful place for our students to come and learn about not only about the sport, but about life.”

—Major Frank Duracher