The Commander Sends Latest Party to France with Strong Charge

March 23, 1918

YOURS is not a pleasure trip, a sightseeing excursion—you are sent to hard, manual labor. You will need strength of back, of muscle, of head, of heart—the quality we commonly call grit. But while all this is true—and I emphasize it—yet remember—always remember—that the whole of The Salvation Army—mind you, not a part, however important, but the whole of The Salvation Army—is its religion.” This was the final charge of the Commander as, seated at her desk with the young people in a semi-circle before her, she talked out of her heart to the group of thirteen young women, under the command of Commandant Howard Hinkle who were to form the latest party of The Salvation Army officers to sail for France. And the young women thought of it only as a most solemn and important event.

The Commander, with the care of a mother for the comfort and physical wellbeing of her officers, inquired particularly concerning the dress of young women—was it comfortable, warm enough, not too tight not too loose? Were the shoes broad enough to give the feet plenty of freedom and not too broad so as to cause blisters? Everything seemed to be satisfactory in these material respects, so the Commander turned to the mental and spiritual aspects and for twenty minutes spoke so earnestly, so wisely, so pointedly to the young women that they shall not soon lose the impressions which with the words and the spirit made.

She inquired as to their willingness to go to the hard labor and trying situations of the war zone; she said it was not too late to turn back. She did not minimize the hardships and the sacrifices which their appointment was certain to involve, but emphasized the fact that once in France the appointment could not be revoked except for very urgent reasons. While the Commander talked the eyes of the young people shone with the eager anticipation of service on the battle-lines; there was not “a shadow of turning” in one of them. Indeed, it could be easily seen that to have withdrawn any one of them from the expedition would have entailed real grief to that one.

Our leader emphasized the idea of opportunity for which thousands of the brightest and most capable young men and women in the land would give everything to possess. It was a great record to write in one’s life-history—that one has fought hand to hand with the forces of deterioration on the battle fields and just behind the lines. “The war will stop, but your life’s history will not, and during the coming months you will write things which shall be of eternal value to yourselves,” she said.

She spoke also of personal influence. “You must have it said of you, when you return, that you carried yourself as a true soldier of Jesus Christ. Live the life. Have before you in all your work the Blood-stained Cross of Calvary!” she pleaded. Don’t let men get away from the holy influence of your life. Preach the Cross, fight for it, and go, in everything you lay your hand or heart to, for the deep souls of men!”

The Commander also touched upon the use of money. They were not really promised even their expenses. They would probably never want anything they need, but they were not of those that labored for material advantage; their service is of that kind which, if it is to be effectual, must be performed out of love. Such compensation as they received they must be careful to use wisely, and they must follow the primitive and true spirit of Salvationism—that of abstemiousness.

Our leader was highly gratified, she said, with the impression which the members of the former parties had made upon their fellow passengers on the voyage “across.” She had heard most excellent reports and this party must maintain the standards set. Finally, this thought must be perpetually with each one: “I must hold onto myself by constant prayer and faith, so that I may be continual help to the boys who are facing death.”

Now the men in the office are dismissed and the Commander speaks to the young women a few words of earnest, uplift in prayer.

We are sure that the influence of this little gathering will be felt when members of it have in their ears the detonations of their guns and the moans of the wounded.

WAR SERVICE LEAGUE NOTES
REINFORCEMENTS FOR FRANCE

Again they are gathering. Every little while we see a fresh crop of khaki-clad Salvationists about Headquarters, and then they disappear—sort of melt out of sight. Thus it is our parties for “service overseas” are gathered from far and near. First they see the tailor, then the photographer, and then, in turn, they visit the Passport Bureau, the Customs, the French Consul. Of course there is shopping which anyone has to do when they are going anywhere—much more when they are going over to the war zone. After days of fitting and outfitting, “the party” is ready; then, no doubt, word will be received that the boat is not ready. More waits! At last someone gets the word and there is a crowded elevator, bound for the seventh floor, where the now ready party is in their “overseas uniforms” are taken to the Commander’s office for their final inspection and instructions—and melt out of sight! No blare of trumpets, no farewells at the boat—nothing like that in war-times—but their going to such noble work is none the less appreciated by their comrades who stay here to work behind the scenes in the big building on West Fourteenth Street. Again they have gathered and again they have gone. In a few days another big party will be gathering. There are now 778 stars in our service flag, which represents the Salvationists of the entire country who are serving beneath the Stars and Stripes.

Two truck-loads of soldiers on their way to a certain camp stopped in front of our Industrial Home at Hackensack, the other day (there had been a breakdown to the truck). While the repairs were being made, the soldier boys sang Army songs, which brought Adjutant Polhemus to his door. Some of the boys recognized him, for he had taken part in one of the recent meetings at the camp. We believe it would be a hard thing to find one hundred American soldiers of any regiment without finding in that number some who had been in contact with The Army.

LIEUT.-CHAPLAIN ALLAN tells us of splendid meetings he is having with the men of his battalion at Camp Upton. Several boys have told him they were once either in The Salvation Army or have relatives who are soldiers. “It’s a small world!”

Diary of a Donut Girl

December 7, 1917

“Today we came on board the “Esparange” on route for France. We have made a general survey of the ship, Myrtle, Louise Young, Adj. Bushnell are in one cabin.

“The sailor boys sing with us and I think before we land we will have them singing S.A. hymns.

“We are wondering how we are going to sleep in our new beds tonight. Myrtle and I have the top berth. There is nothing like trying so we will get into them and I hope we will find ourselves in them in the morning. I am afraid I will fall out. The boat is rocking quite a bit just now.”

December 14,1917

“A week ago today we came on board this wonderful ship. We haven’t seen any submarines yet. There was a little bit of excitement when we saw something spurting up in the water, but it proved to be nothing more than the fins of a porpoise fish.

“I wonder what they are doing at 14th street. I suppose they are out soliciting and standing out with the kettles. It doesn’t seem it is a bit like it is nearing Christmas. I suppose ours will be spent in Paris.”

December 15, 1917

“Our life boats are swinging over the side of the ship today. Things certainly do look serious. We sighted some kind of sailing vessel. This afternoon all kinds of conjectures were offered but no one seemed to know just what it was. Some thought it was a convoy but they informed us that we aren’t going to have any.

“Others think it may have been just a fishing schooner.  I guess it was nothing very dangerous. There was something projecting out of the water about a mile back of the other ship it was of more interest because it resembled the periscope of a submarine more or less, but everyone seemed unable to find out just what it was.”

 January 25, 1918

 (Friday)

“This afternoon Russell, Mrs. Riley, and I accompanied Col. to Toul, this is right near the front and is forty two kilometers from Ligny. It was a wonderful ride. We passed barbed wire entanglements and reserve trenches.

“We reached Sanzey about seven, this is where our new hut is. This is as near the front as we can go just now. It is about five miles. Front line trench conditions are still very crude.  The hut hasn’t arrived from Montiers, the last place the hut was situated. Mrs. Hammond, Gladys, and Ens. Purviance were walking around, keeping warm. Just tents had been put up but none of the supplies have arrived as yet. They are expecting them at anytime and until they arrive they have much to do. The mud is something fierce. They have to wear their boots all of the time, but they are all in fine spirits.”

February 14, 1918

(Thursday)

“Today has been another busy day making more pies. If we had better facilities we could do much more.  We didn’t realize until nearly night it was St. Valentine’s Day. Each day is so much alike we forget holidays. Adj. Bushnell walked up from Ligny in the afternoon; she brought up a can of lard so that means more doughnuts. We have to use the Co. kitchen when we do any cooking in it.”

February 16, 1918

(Saturday)

“We hadn’t so very good luck with our doughnuts. The grease was too hot and the first got burned but the rest were all right. They were all done within half an hour after we brought them into the hut.

“There was accident this morning in Co. C. They were out on maneuvers a bag of rifle grenades exploded. About 30 men were injured. It is expected about 4 will die. It was bitter cold out there this morning too. It made it hard for the medical men to work. We had to put our lights out tonight—German airplanes reported coming this way. A lot of the boys stayed it was early. We sat around the fire. A rather ghastly setting.”

May 31, 1918

(Friday)

“Airplanes are very active tonight, also the batteries, otherwise everything is normal. A raiding party went out last night. Got as far as the enemy front line trench. Got a few prisoners. A hut of our boys got gassed tho.”

June 1, 1918

(Saturday)

“Hell seems to be let loose tonight. A glare of light illuminating every thing. The batteries are firing too.

“Oh! What memories! They sing very well. By the movements passing by just now. Don’t know whether they are coming from the trenches or going in.”

June 3, 1918

(Monday)

“Lt. Cooley thinks I’m the champion doughnut maker around the hut, so she has pushed the job onto me. I made 1,500 today, my arms are tired after mixing and rolling all of them. We expected to have Myrtle and Stella Young for supper tonight, but the machine broke down (per usual) and couldn’t go after them.”

June 6, 1918

(Thursday)

“Made “beaucoup” doughnuts today, 1,600. I’m some tired. It was payday for some of the boys, rushing business, a line clear out to the street for about 2 hours. Don’t know what I would do without Bowman and Newton.”

June 8, 1918

(Saturday)

“The Germans seem to be strengthening their lines here and a big offensive is cooked. The Major wants us to pack our trunks and send them to Ligny in case we have to get out in a rush. We won’t have any luggage to look after, but I don’t think it will be necessary.”

September 19, 1918

(Boucanville)(Left for Paris)

“All the Zone Majors (including Adj. Case) Halpin Anderson, Col, and Hickey were getting ready to leave for the states. Capt McAllistar, her sister and Ens. Purviance also going home.’’

November 1918

(Saturday) (Only in Pannes two weeks)

“Oh! The many wonderful times we have had at that hut , we can’t ever forget. There was lots of work to do, but the companionship of the boys we worked with was so wonderful we forgot the irksome duties.

“It was one of my biggest disappointments, when we had to leave Panne. Major Dodd had been feeling rather badly and left for Ligny to rest leaving Capt Bishop and I in charge. We both had wanted to make some changes in the place, so took advantage of the Major’s absence and turned the house topsy-turvy changing all the rooms. We had just finished on Friday night and a truck load of supplies had come in on Saturday making lots of work for us when right in the midst of it Col. Wheeler with his staff looked thru the building, liked it very much, and decided they wanted it and that right away. They wanted it by eight o’clock Sunday morning. We said they could have it (“independent that’s us all over”) so we started to pack and moved all of our equipment up to Beney, the next town. Girls had never been in this place and we were told that we couldn’t stay, but we took a chance and moved up.”

November 11, 1918

“Never to be forgotten day when hostilities ceased. A great barrage opened up about ten o’clock and kept up until 11 when the last gun stopped. It was marvelous, the effect it had on the boys. They were sure a happy lot of boys and such a bunch of souvenir hunters. As soon as the hostilities ceased our boys were over the lines exchanging chocolate and cigarettes for souvenirs. On Wednesday Capt. Pownell and I went over to see what we could get. We rode to Xanies in an ambulance and walked the rest of the way. We had a long hike over the hills and shell holes in the fields. Our guns certainly tore up the ground. Lots of obstacles held us up such as barbed wire entanglements and tank mines, all wicked looking. It was hard to tell a great deal about the attitude of the German soldiers. They seemed amiable and friendly. The officers acted very overbearing, tho. None of them had much in the line of souvenirs. Our boys had stripped them pretty well. We passed a chaplain and two Officers who, with a burying squad, were burying five of our boys. They had been hurriedly buried in shell holes, and they were being re-buried. It was rather a gruesome sight.”

(Moving orders back to Menie-la-Tours)

 

Why the “Boys” Like The Salvation Army


JUNE 1, 1918

In Mr. Hopper’s story below, he makes comparison of The Salvation Army and the work of other organizations in the war zone. Such comparisons, and the deductions made from them, we explicitly disavow: they are not the expressions of our opinion as they do not accord with our relations with the several organizations at the front. These relations are for the most part cordial, and we take this occasion to express our sincere and high regard for the labors of the organizations with which we work side by side. —Ed

The reason we wanted to see The Salvation Army hut was that, all the way up here, everyone we talked to, from general to private, had gone out of his way to enlist us in a violent and (it seemed to me) unreasonable partisanship. Everyone, in most violent terms, had praised The Salvation Army huts and had “knocked” the huts of other organizations (much stronger and richer than The Salvation Army) who also have huts at the front. Now I know that we Americans love to take sides and espouse causes. I remember very well a period in my life during which we who wore blue jerseys considered ourselves infinitely better, squarer, and more moral and at the same time more courageous than some fellows (regular skunks), a little farther down the line, who wore red jerseys; and yet I know also that, meeting since some of these red-jerseyed skunks, into whose stomachs it had been a delight to sink my head, I have found most of them quite decent men, and some of them, in fact, rather amiable and admirable characters. So, I was a bit leery about this hut business. “But why?” I would ask, and also “How?” and they would speak vaguely of hot chocolate served to men just out of the trenches, and with more enthusiasm of pies and doughnuts, and I was not quite convinced. That is why I went into The Salvation Army hut to see.

Featherston Camp

It was night, by this time, and the place we entered, lighted only by a few guttering candles, was made vast and mysterious by the great shadows which messed in the corners and pulsed in the depths of the high ceiling. It was, as a matter of fact, I think, some bug, deserted barn, but it had the aspect of an old and ruined cathedral. At first this is all one saw—the old, thick stone walls; the floor of beaten earth, smelling damp; the high ceiling, patched, where there were holes of suspicious shape, with white squares of tent canvas; the candlelight’s, each with its humid little halo. Then we saw that beneath the candles were tables, and about the tables chairs, and that at some of the tables men—American Soldiers—coated still with the mud of trenches, their steel helmets upon their heads, their gas masks beneath their chins, sat reading or writing—reading news from home, writing letters home. The vastness of the place, the darkness, the discomfort of the place, together with the thought that to those from the trenches, this was warmth and comfort, made of the scene something at once weird and touching. At the end of the room there was a long counter with a row of candles that made it look like an altar. It wasn’t an altar, however; when we were near we saw that it held all along its length small packages of tobacco, of cigarettes, of nuts, of candies and dates and figs and cigars—little bits of sacks, made little so as to be cheap and within the means of all; little bags such as one makes for a Christmas Tree—to which a thousand children—a thousand poor children—have been invited.

WHY IS THIS HUT POPULAR

Here, by this counter, was another group of soldiers. One of them, back from his turn from the trenches, was holding forth to others who had not yet been there. He was a young lad, very young (how very young most of these soldiers look!); a stripling of a lad, tall and lithe. His attitude toward what he had just been through was one of intense and eager satisfaction; he was like a freshman just out of his first football game—still a thrill with it and tremendously anxious for the next one.

His young face was all alight; beneath the steel helmet his dark eyes glowed and dilated as he tried to pass his less fortunate fellows, who had not been there, some of the essence of what he had seen and learned. At that moment he was holding forth on the subject of poisoned gases. “Yes,” he was saying “and there’s the mustard gas. That sort of burns you all over, then blinds you and makes you choke. Then there’s the convulsion gas—it gives you a coma and convulsion and nauseation, and things. Then there’s the pukation gas— ”

Serving troops in the trenches — WWI

One of the boys, further away, rapped on the counter for attendance. A moment after the canvas screen behind parted, a young woman appeared, and now we knew the reason of The Salvation Army huts popularity—we understood the vehemence of its many partisans. It wasn’t a matter purely of chocolate and doughnuts and pies. The real answer was right here before us—the woman who had just come through the screen and who was now waiting most graciously on the lad who had rapped. She was a young woman, and she was very pretty and most becomingly gotten up in a khaki-colored costume which had something about it of military chic and yet remained subtly feminine. And when she spoke it was with a pretty, low, well-modulated voice, and her eyes were bright and frank. Many soldiers came forward now to be waited on, and she did this graciously as any queen (fairy-tale queen, I mean) who loves her people very dearly and is bound to share their worries and their troubles and is filled with tenderness for their hardships and their perils—we could see she was adored.

After she had attended to many wants we introduced ourselves, and she invited us behind the canvas screen to see her kitchen. The kitchen was merely the further end of the building; like it, it had grimy stone walls, a damp earthen floor and an absurdly high ceiling patched with canvas. But on the ground was a field range, and there were, besides, a deal table, several rough chairs, barrels, boxes and cans of provisions, and in a corner a little tent which was her home. We sat at the table, and while observing secretly, meanwhile, the fact that she possessed humor and tolerance and understanding, a mind as beautiful as her external charm, we perused our service investigation (though now we knew). We asked why The Salvation Army around these “diggings” was more popular than the other organizations. She depreciated such talk, of course. She said the other organizations were admirable ones, and that theirs and hers worked together in mutual helpfulness and amity. But when we pressed our questioning she at last admitted that perhaps the unreasonable partnership of the soldiers of the sector was due to the fact that her hut made hot chocolate and doughnuts and pies (once more the chocolate and doughnuts and pies!). She called her helpmates—two blond Salvation lassies—and asked the statistics on the subject, and they said the record was this: One day they had made fifty pies and two thousand—I say two thousand doughnuts!

By MR. JAMES HOPPER, War Correspondent for Collier’s Weekly

A Boon for Beantown

Dorchester Heights is the central area of South Boston. It is the highest area in the neighborhood and commands a view of both Boston Harbor and downtown a critical and successful component of the American Revolutionary War. General George Washington commanded the siege of Boston, and drove out the British with the firepower of two cannons brought over from Fort Ticonderoga.

In the 21st Century, a war of a different kind is in progress on the very spot where patriots helped win liberty.

The Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, opened in 2011, is the daily scene of battles being waged by men, women, and children struggling to learn life-skills in physical, emotional, social, and spiritual realms.

The Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Boston, MA, is located in the historic neighborhood of Dorchester—featuring fitness facilities; Boston’s largest aquatics park; a gymnasium with an NCAA-regulation basketball court; a 250-seat chapel and performing arts center.

“I look at this place as a citadel of hope for building brighter futures,” states Major Edgar George, Boston Kroc Administrator. “That can take many different forms, but a person is changed for eternity if Christ is in the center of it!”

New England’s largest and most comprehensive community center represents The Salvation Army’s ongoing commitment to building communities of faith, hope, compassion, and grace.

“The Boston Kroc is an investment that is changing the lives of Boston’s neediest families for generations to come. At the Kroc Center, children play. Learners discover. Parents dream. Troubled spirits find healing. Families come together. Our community has a place to gather,” Major George explains.

Two exceptional ministries set this facility apart in Dorchester Heights: the Culinary Arts School and a first-time juvenile offenders rehabilitation program, called Bridging The Gap.

The Culinary Arts program takes both unemployed and unemployable would-be chefs and preparing them for careers in the food industry.

The Culinary Arts Training Program, led by Chef Timothy Tucker, is a unique job-training ministry of the Boston Kroc.

“We’ve had a pretty good success rate with the dozen or so classes already graduated since 2014,” says Chef Timothy Tucker, the program’s culinary prof. “On average, we’ve had a 90% graduation rate and about an 80% job placement record.”

A 10-week program, instruction includes all basic fundamentals in the food industry, proper food handling, and serve-save management. Graduates receive certification and a culinary apprenticeship somewhere in New England.

While most graduates are now functioning very well in the culinary job market, Chef Timothy proudly reports that some have even gone on to become entrepreneurs of their own restaurants.

“We teach them life-skills as well, because it’s very important they learn how to work as a team with others around them,” Chef Timothy says. “We bring on a life-coach as part of the curriculum to ‘peel the layers’ from potential personality conflicts. By the time they leave here, they should be working as a team, connecting with other employees, and mindful of each other’s concerns and traits.”

Graduates have ranged from as young as 19 to over 76. And although the average investment per student is $4,000 (food, education, textbooks, kitchen supplies) there is no tuition cost—underwritten by government and private grants made to the Army for this program. At the beginning of new semesters, four countries are selected for the students to learn ethnic food preparation.

“We have so many unbelievable success stories!”

Success stories also come from Bridging The Gap, a 10-week curriculum for juveniles who are court-ordered in the hopes of avoiding a life of crime.

Jovan Zuñíga is the director of the Boston Kroc version of Bridging The Gap, one of 13 such programs operated by The Salvation Army in the Massachusetts Division.

“Bridging The Gap teaches life-skills to youth from ages 12-18,” Zuñíga says. “An offender can be referred to us through several ways: judges, probation officers, lawyers, or even the District Attorney’s office.”

The teens learn conflict resolution, writing resumes, addressing drug/alcohol addictions, constructing budgets, paying bills, setting goals, and going on job interviews.

“This is a real chance to catch them before they wind up in prison,” Zuñíga points out. “It’s like we’re saying to them, ‘You are at a crossroads; you don’t have to go down that road!’ There’s some redemptive stuff here. Hopefully they’ll won’t wind up where so many before them have gone before a program like this was available.”

Bridging The Gap comprises three units of instruction: Health & Wellness; Me and My Community; and, Education and Future.

“Health & Wellness is about character building,” Zuñíga says. “While Me and My Community explores how growing up in your community impacts you personally. And Education and Future teaches how each one can become a successful member of society.”

Youth programs at the Boston Kroc are held throughout the week.

Isaiah Thomas, point-guard for the Boston Celtics, was very impressed by what he saw when he visited the kids recently at Bridging The Gap.

After signing autographs and an endless stream of selfies, the NBA All-Star told the kids, “Look around you. These people care about you. Listen to them!” referring to the Boston Kroc staff.

Thomas further remarked that “the energy in this place is tangible” and that he intends to “partner with the Kroc” for future work with the teens.

Captain Darrell & Lieutenant Willow Houseton are the Kroc Corps Officers, shepherding a corps family that was formerly the Boston Roxbury Corps from the early 1890s.

“This is a very traditional corps that has embraced a cultivating culture offered by a Kroc facility in order to welcome people of all ages in the 21st Century,” says Lieutenant Willow

Lieutenant Willow Houseton demonstrates what she’s learning in the Kroc Piano Lab.

Ironically, the Lieutenant received the CSM Edward Gooding Award upon her commissioning in 2016. CSM (Corps Sergeant-Major) Gooding, promoted to Glory at age 95 just a few years ago, is acknowledged in the USA Eastern Territory as a great man of God—and was admitted into the Order of the Founder, the Army’s highest honor, for his many years of service at the old Roxbury Corps and for a brief time at the Boston Kroc Corps.

“It is an honor for me to serve here at ‘his corps’ for my first assignment,” she says.

CSM Gooding’s widow, Catalina Gooding, served alongside her husband for most of the 67 years they were married. He was able to see the Kroc center shortly before his passing.

“He would certainly approve of all that is going on here to reach people for Jesus in so many unique ways,” Mrs Gooding says.

Patricia Yearwood is the current CSM, and another transplant from Roxbury.

“Having this marvelous facility is a great opportunity for evangelism,” CSM Yearwood says. “This is a sanctuary to come to for physical fitness, social services, and spiritual food. Our Kroc encompasses The Salvation Army’s total mission of ‘Heart to God, Hand to Man.’”

Deanie Robinson was “very happy” in the church she was attending in 2012 when she decided to see what the excitement was about on Sundays at the Kroc, although she had worshipped occasionally at the Roxbury Corps.

“I came my first Sunday to worship at the Kroc Corps and I’ve been coming ever since. I never did go back to my other church!” Mrs Robinson exclaims.

In fact, with the exception of Saturdays, Deanie comes to the Kroc everyday, especially for seniors’ activities.

Lisa Welds moved back to Boston in 2011, from Newburgh, New York, where she and her husband were soldiers in the corps there.

“My husband came to the Kroc on the Saturday just before we started to attend here,” Lisa says. “We knew the Majors Yearwood, and it just felt so right!”

Chris Sumner calls the place where he works, “The most incredible Sunday School from Mondays to Sundays!” He is the Kroc Chief Operations Executive, overseeing day-to-day operations and supervises the Kroc employee staff. He worked for 30 years for non-profits, but was never able to share his faith.

“This city has never seen anything like this,” says Sumner, who is also an ordained minister in another denomination. “The Kroc is a tremendous potential to redefine ministry, and be a light of hope to everyone around!”

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

Part Two — The Bread of Life

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty”‘ (John 6:35).

Eight times during His final year of earthly life, Jesus startled His listeners by using a mysterious phrase beginning with the words “I am …” Only the Apostle John records these cryptic, self-revealing declarations in his Gospel.

John vividly describes the occasion when Jesus made His first pronouncement: “I am the Bread of Life” (6:35, 48 and 51). It was in spring—Passover time—one year before His death that Jesus “crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee … and a great crowd of people followed Him because they saw the miraculous signs He had performed on the sick” (John 6:1- 2).

John sets the stage for Jesus’ declaration by meticulously recounting the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels: the feeding of the 5,000. The apostle provides details that enliven the scene. He notes that it was the spring of the year (v. 4), there was “plenty of grass” in the area (v. 10) and it was to Philip, from nearby Bethsaida, that Jesus posed the seemingly absurd question, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (v. 5).

After Jesus fed and addressed the multitude, He retreated to the nearby hills known today as the Golan Heights. His disciples sailed back to Capernaum. When a storm almost capsized the boat in the middle of the lake, not only did Jesus come to the disciples’ rescue by walking on the water, but “immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading ” (v. 21).

JESUS MOVED THE
CONVERSATION FROM THE
CROWD’S DESIRE FOR
PHYSICAL NOURISHMENT TO
THEIR NEED FOR SPIRITUAL
SUSTENANCE. 

Word spread swiftly through the nine villages surrounding the Sea of Galilee. By foot and by boat the people followed Jesus to Capernaum (vv. 22-24), where they cornered Him in the synagogue (vv. 25 and 59). Jesus ignored their shallow questions and bluntly challenged their motivation: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for Me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life …” (vv. 26-27). With these piercing words Jesus moved the conversation from their desire for physical nourishment to their need for spiritual sustenance.

Jesus’ popularity had soared that day. The multitudes followed Him (v. 2). Some in the crowd considered Him a prophet (v. 14) and a number were ready to make Him king (v. 15). Others were asking the right questions: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (v. 28) and “What miraculous sign then will You give that we may see it and believe You? What will You do?” (v. 30).  After Jesus described the spiritual bread that He offered, the crowd pleaded, “Sir … from now on give us this bread” (v. 34).

The throng’s approval plummeted when Jesus declared that He alone was the Bread they were seeking. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen Me and still you do not believe” (v. 35-36). It did not take long for the fickle crowd to turn on Jesus. The Jewish leaders “began to grumble because He said, ‘I am the Bread that came down from heaven”‘ (v. 41). Some asked, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He say, ‘I came down from heaven ‘?” (v. 42).

The crowd came looking for bread, and Jesus offered them Himself—the Bread of Life. The cost of discipleship was simply too high for many to pay. Jesus illustrated the sacrificial cost with an unforgettable, startling metaphor: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world … I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of  Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you … For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him” (v. 51-56).

Sadly, this discourse ended with many followers leaving Jesus. “‘This,’ they concluded, ‘is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ … From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him” (vv. 60-66).

Thankfully, this is not the end of the story. It was Peter who had the right answer. Peter did not always act in the proper manner, but he never failed to answer Jesus’ questions correctly. “‘You do not want to leave, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God”‘ (vv. 67-69).

Jesus’ penetrating  question resounds throughout the ages to all who would follow Him. His faithful disciples must ever follow Peter’s example and respond: “We believe … we know …we gladly receive and follow the Bread of Life .”

Commissioner William W. Francis is a retired officer. He is also the author of The Stones Cry Out (USA Eastern Territory, 1993) and Celebrate the Feasts of the Lord (Crest Books, 1997), and is a frequent contributor to the War Cry and other Salvation Army publications.

The Gospel of John — Introduction

The Bible is an amazing book.  Its formation is no less than extraordinary. Consider the Bible’s unique characteristics. Thirty to 40 authors penned its words, using three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), over a period of 1,500 years (60 generations). No other book in history comes close to equaling these remarkable characteristics.

The conditions in which the Bible was written vary as widely as do the backgrounds, personalities and professions of the various authors. From the king’s palace in Jerusalem (David and Solomon) to a Roman prison cell (Paul), from the quill of a well-educated priest (Zechariah) to that of an uneducated fisherman (Peter), from Babylon (Daniel) to Rome (Peter and Paul), from a murderer (David) to a physician  (Luke) comes the Word of the Lord.

Despite the wide differences of time, language and circumstance, the Bible presents a united, progressive revelation from God to all who will listen. William Ellery Channing sums it up well: “The incongruity of the Bible with the age of its birth; its freedom from earthly mixtures; its original, unborrowed, solitary greatness; the suddenness with which it broke forth amidst the general gloom; these, to me, are strong indications of its Divine descent; I cannot reconcile them with a human origin.”

Of all the 66 books of the Bible, the Gospel of John is a favorite for many. Throughout his singular work, John alone records the eight cryptic declarations of Jesus that begin with the phrase, “I Am …”

Key to understanding the distinctive content of John’s Gospel is an appreciation of the author’s unique relationship to Jesus. A comparison of the Gospel accounts of the women gathered at the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, 16:1 and John 19:25) reveals that John’s mother, Salome, was likely Mary’s sister, making John and Jesus first cousins. The key to this deduction is John 19:25, which lists the same group of four women named by Matthew and Mark, substituting [Jesus'] mother’s sister” for “the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matthew) and “Salome” (Mark). It is likely that these three references describe one person—Salome, John’s mother and Jesus’ aunt.

JOHN CLEARLY STATES THAT
HIS WORDS WERE “WRITTEN
THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE…”

John’s Gospel is different from the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). The uniqueness of his Gospel is doubtless due to his close relationship with Jesus. Not only was John likely Jesus’ cousin, but he was also a member of the “inner circle” of disciples that included Peter, James and John (see Mark 5:37, 14:33 and Matthew 17:1). At the conclusion of his Gospel, John clearly states his purpose in writing. He declares that his words were “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

The Gospel of John is noted for what it omits and for what it includes. More than 90 percent of John’s record is unique to his Gospel. For example, of the eight miracles recorded by John, six are found only in his Gospel.

Written in the last decade of the first century, John’s Gospel does not include stories that were well known by that time. He omits a description of Jesus’ birth and the first 30 years of His life, as well as His baptism by John the Baptist and His temptation in the Judean wilderness. John does not mention the institution of the Eucharist or Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane. The “Great Commission” and the account of Christ’s ascension into heaven are also absent.

John includes accounts that are not contained in the other Gospels. The marriage feast at Cana (2:1-11), the coming of Nicodemus to Jesus at night (3:1-15) and Jesus’ profound conversation with the woman of Samaria (4) are recorded only by John. It is John alone who recounts the raising of Lazarus from the dead (11), the washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper (13:1-17) and Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit (14-17).

John’s Gospel brings the disciples to life. Thomas speaks (11:16; 14:5; 20:24-29); Andrew (1:40,41; 6:8,9;12:22) and Philip (6:5-7; 14:8,9) are described in such a way that they become for the reader recognizable personalities.

John also provides details not found in the synoptic accounts. For example, he meticulously records that there were six stone water pots at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (2:6), that the bread the boy brought to Jesus consisted of barley loaves (6:9), that there were four soldiers gambling for Jesus’ seamless robe (19:23), that the exact weight of the myrrh and aloe used to anoint the dead body of our Lord was 75 pounds (19:39) and that Jesus prepared breakfast for His weary disciples on a charcoal fire (21:9).

Most striking among the statements that only John records are the occasions when Jesus uses the self-revealing phrase, “I Am …” Eight times Jesus uses this phrase with a sentence structure that conspicuously parallels God’s direction to Moses. In the midst of the burning bush, God said to Moses, “I Am who I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I Am has sent me to you”‘ (Exod. 3:14).”

Subsequent articles in this series will ponder Jesus’ startling assertions: I Am the Bread of Life (6:35, 48,51), the Light of the World (8:12, 9:5), the Door of the Sheep (10:7,9), the Good Shepherd (10:11,14), the Son of God (10:36), the Resurrection and the Life (11:25), the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6) and the True Vine (15:4,5).

Commissioner William W. Francis is a retired officer. He is also the author of The Stones Cry Out (USA Eastern Territory, 1993) and Celebrate the Feasts of the Lord (Crest Books, 1997), and is a frequent contributor to the War Cry and other Salvation Army publications.