A Reformation Love Story

On April 4, 1523, under cover of darkness, twelve nuns from the Nimbschen nunnery climbed out of a window and crept into the back of Leonard Koppe’s wagon bound for Wittenberg. One of the nuns, a feisty redheaded, Katherine von Bora, had entered a convent school at age five when her mother died. At age 16, she took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

A few years earlier Katherine and the other sisters had heard of the radical teacher from Wittenberg, Martin Luther. While they continued to chant prayers and embroider, their whispered conversations centered on the monk’s audacity to refute the church’s sale of indulgences as a means to receiving forgiveness of sins.

One of the women, Magdalena von Staupitz, wrote Luther saying some of the nuns wanted out of the nunnery and asked for his help. Luther responded that if the elders in Torgau would plan the escape, he would find homes and husbands for the women.

Over the next two years Luther helped eleven of the women find husbands. For the twelfth escapee, Katherine von Bora, he was unsuccessful. While working for a wealthy family, she became engaged to Jerome Baumgartner, a student. But he left Wittenberg and when word reached Katherine that he was engaged, she was heartbroken. Another suitor, Dr. Glatz, showed an interest in the ex-nun, but she spurned his attention. Secretly, she had set her sights on Luther. While he encouraged other ex-monks to marry, he never planned to marry. As a hunted heretic, his life was often threatened and could end at any moment.

No one is sure what changed Luther’s mind, but on June 13, 1525, Katherine, age 26 and Luther, 46, married in a quiet ceremony. News of Luther’s marriage rocked the western world. Hadn’t the ex-nun and monk taken irrevocable vows? Many openly opposed the union, predicting the marriage would produce the antichrist. Luther explained that he married to “please his father, tease the pope, and spite the devil.”

The Luthers’ first home was a forsaken monastery in Wittenberg. In spite of the critics, Katharine proved capable of handling the problems that beset their marriage. She managed their finances, freeing her husband to teach, preach and write. Luther suffered from depression and various diseases which Katherine treated with herbs, poultices, and massages. She bought cattle, drove a wagon and maintained a garden and an orchard. Humorously, Luther said she also sometimes found time to read the Bible.

Often as many as 25 guests gathered around Katherine’s table as she took in refugees fleeing persecution, student boarders, four orphans of relatives and the many others guests who came to consult with her famous husband. Luther recognized his wife’s able management and said he wouldn’t trade his Katie for France and Venice.

Katherine and Luther had six children. But diseases dealt harshly with the young during the middle ages and the couple was saddened when a daughter died at eight months and another at age fourteen.

In 1546 Luther became ill while away from home and died without his beloved Katie at his side. His body was returned to Wittenberg and buried in the cathedral church. War raged in Germany at that time, and a year after her husband’s death, Katherine, with the children, was forced to flee their home. They came back in 1547 to find the farm in ruins. For a time the penniless widow took in boarders. Then a plague hit Wittenberg and again Katherine and her family fled. While enroute the horses bolted, Katherine fell from the wagon and received severe bruises. She died three months later.

Katherine Luther played an important part in the Reformation as she defined a role that had never before existed—that of the pastor’s wife. She also set the tone for future Lutheran parsonages; her home was a place of hospitality, open to friends, relatives, and strangers.

Perhaps Katherine Luther’s greatest legacy was her simple faith in Christ expressed when she declared, “I will cleave to my Lord Christ as the burr to the cloth.”

—By Jewell Johnson

The Battle in My Mouth

Every day I fight a war of words.

As I wrangle with my thoughts and vocabulary, I’m brought deeper into the Word of God for guidance and strength. My greatest challenge is when I am on the road. When I get behind the steering wheel something happens to me; I become aggressive and impatient. I know I’m not alone in this test.

The book of Romans is a great guideline for how to treat others. Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

It sparks my prayers of “Lord, please help me to be a good example and to say only kind words to people; to build them up and to not tear them down.”

Sometimes that is such a tough assignment!

While driving in the suburbs one day with my two teenagers in the back seat, I sat at a stoplight with only a motorcyclist in front of me. The light turned green and he didn’t go. I loudly yelled, “IT’S GREEN – GOOOO!!” Apparently my voice carried through my car windows, over his roaring motorcycle, and through his helmet. He slowly turned his head around to look at me and give me a well-deserved dirty look. Then he sped off.

A tiny spark can set
a great forest on fire.
The tongue can set your
life on fire. 

— James 3:5,6

“Mom, he heard you!” My kids were mortified. With my heart pounding and the Holy Spirit’s disapproval pulsating in my spirit, I continued on with my mouth shut. I later apologized to God and to my kids.

I wish I could say that was an isolated incident, but I cannot. Motoring happily along singing praises to God, I can, in the next breath, call one of His creations an “idiot” or some other horrible pronoun. When a driver pulls out immediately in front of me or cuts me off, the wanton word war begins.

James 3:10 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” Well, he’s right! I’m sure I’m not alone in this fault and it is a bad example of how Christians should behave. Our children or other passengers hear us, see us, and form conclusions about Christianity during such times.

How can we stop it? By reading the Bible and praying for wisdom, we can have more control over our tongues. No, we won’t be perfect. However, when God said in Proverbs 22:6 that we should “train a child in the way he should go,” it was spoken as a duty, not a casual suggestion. If that means we have to try harder, study deeper, and pray longer to get some control over our tongues, we must do it. There are many Scriptures about not dishonoring others with our words.

I often feel like the Apostle Paul who wrote, “I do not understand my own actions because I do not do what I want to. But I do the very thing that I hate” (Rom. 7:15). Do you ever feel that way too?

Paul relied on God’s help. “Now, if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who does it but the sin that dwells within me… Who will rescue me… from this life of sin? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24b-25).

Won’t you join me in this ongoing battle with the tongue? Studying the Scriptures every day helps to get the message of love into our spirits. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will bring the pertinent passages to our minds at just the right times. Let’s also pray that we will have the quick discernment to catch the nasty words before they roll off our tongues.

—Kelly Stigliano lives in Orange Park, FL

A River Runs Through It

The Salvation Army didn’t know it at the time, but God set the wheels into motion some 44 years before the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center—located in the South Mountain portion of Phoenix, AZ—came into being.

“South of the Salt River, land was dirt cheap back in 1968,” explains Major Gwyn Jones, Phoenix Kroc corps officer. “About 12 acres in South Mountain became the home of the old Phoenix South Mountain Corps—which happened to later be my first appointment as a new lieutenant in 1992.”

That part of Phoenix, which is situated on the south bank of the river, has always been very blighted and crime-infested. Middleand upper-class Phoenicians often avoided “crossing the bridge.”

“Believe it or not, it’s better today than it was about 25 years ago when I was serving as the South Mountain Corps assistant officer,” Major Gwyn says.

“That building was dilapidated. My office was in the basement, which I called ‘the dungeon.’ But we were building relationships since our beginnings here and that continues today on a much bigger scale!”

That seems to be an understatement when you gaze upon the Phoenix South Mountain Kroc— a 147,000 square ft. facility setting on 15 acres dedicated to the glory of God and service to humankind.

The Phoenix Kroc boasts some 7,056 members, with some scholarships available to members who cannot afford to pay. With about 150 employees (250 during the summer!) efficiently running the Kroc operations, Majors Gwyn & AnnMarguerite Jones can afford to be a pastor to their staff as well as the 7,000+ members, including the soldiers and friends of the corps.

“We can promote our corps center in the community, attracting new members and potential donors,” Major Gwyn says.

The Jones bring rich experience as corps officers from their previous appointment, San Diego Citadel. “The Kroc is a much bigger entity than San Diego Citadel, but the necessity to build relationships is the same. The same applies here,” he says.

“For instance, we had a gymnasium in San Diego, but not like the one we have here! Also we went from about 50 attending Sunday worship services in San Diego to having up to 200 here at the Kroc on Sunday morning!”

Their message to their congregation: see the Kroc Corps as your church, and also as a center that is drawing people who are in desperate need of Jesus!

“Sure, we could have built the Kroc about five miles north, or even on the north side of the Salt River—and we would have more members who could easily afford higher membership fees,” Major Gwyn points out, “but that’s not necessarily where we belong.”

Major Gwyn says he believes every Salvation Army Kroc—every corps and rehabilitation center, in fact—should be about “social justice.”

“If there is a reduction, or even no gang violence, isn’t that social justice?” he puts forward. “That’s exactly what William Booth meant about rescuing ‘the drowning masses,’ in my opinion.”

The major points to the Kroc’s unique boxing program as one tool that’s helping teach gang members to change their culture: “to keep from shooting one another, and to stop stealing stuff!”

South Mountain is exactly where the Army needs to be—where William Booth and Joan Kroc would want a Kroc Corps Center.

There’s substantial evidence that the Army in this neighborhood is making a difference—dating the old Phoenix South Mountain Corps to the greatly expanded role with all the Kroc facility brings to the table.

“Coming here saved my life,” admits one Kroc staff member. “I came to the center and hung out here; and not ‘out there’ (the streets). It was a place where I could see my friends and avoid getting into trouble.”

Major Gwyn says of her, “It’s great to have an employee who is so excited to be ‘giving back’ while helping kids along who are where she was not long ago.” He also points to another local youth who came to the old corps community center—today that person is a member of Congress.

Soldiers of the Kroc Corps are committed to the outreach afforded by the new facility.

Jesusa Sebastian began her soldiership 14 years ago in the old South Mountain Corps. She works at the nearby Irene Lopez Elementary School fulltime, and teaches first–to–third grade children at the Kroc.

“I work with after-school kids here and of course, on Sundays,” Jesusa says. “To me, it’s so exciting to see many of them attracted to the Kroc Corps Community Center, whether it’s for athletics, for play, or for worship.”

Anthony Velasco has been a Salvationist in south Phoenix “for all my life.” He was enrolled as a Junior Soldier at age seven. As an adult he got in trouble with the law and served time in prison until his release in 1998.

“God opened doors for me in 2010, when I came back to the Lord and to my roots at The Salvation Army,” he says, adding that he wants to keep young people from making the same mistakes as he.

By contrast, Michelle Jones is a new soldier of less than four years. She came to Phoenix from California for a new home and a new church family.

“I felt the love and acceptance from the people here right from the start,” Michelle says. “Its so wonderful to walk through the door and discover ministry that you can belong to and share with others!”

Another “newcomer” is Lieutenant Larry Carmichael, who became the assistant officer at the Phoenix Kroc Corps right out of the Training College in June 2016.

“This is my first appointment and is proving very beneficial for me to be a part of this dynamic ministry,” Lieutenant Carmichael says. “The reality is that my next appointment may likely not be anything like this, so I am learning a lot. My goal is to identify as many ‘future leaders’ as I can.”

Word is getting around Phoenix that the Kroc Corps Center is making a phenomenal difference in people’s lives.

“I have to admit that there remains some reluctance for people to ‘cross that bridge’ and check out what the Kroc is doing in South Mountain,” Major Gwyn joins
back in.

He is constantly on the lookout to bring individuals and group to the Kroc in order to showcase what great things are happening there.

“We get people here and they discover that the area is not as scary as they’d think—and they get ‘on board.’ Once they see what is happening, their whole perspective changes.”

The major says that the remark he hears the most from folks from north of the river is: “I had no idea!”

—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

Shocking Salvation

Some people need a “wake-up” call in order for them to finally turn to God. Jimmy White wanted to change; he knew he needed to change. But what finally made him get serious about how he’d spend the rest of his life—and where he’d spend eternity—well, that’s our iRony this time around.

“The last time I was in jail, I had a lot of time to think,” Jimmy admits. “I knew I needed help. So I came to The Salvation Army. Or, it was more like God Who brought me here!”

Jimmy considers the two dark decades of his adult life as “a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from.” Those decades were marred by addiction. He tried many things to shake himself free of his addiction, but nothing worked.

“Mine was a life of wrong choices and bad decisions,” he recalls. “As I sank deeper and deeper, I burned all my bridges—to family, friends, and anyone I associated with.”

The day finally came—and not a moment too soon, Jimmy says—when his past was overwhelming him. Jimmy needed a wake-up call; and it nearly killed him. He was servicing an air conditioner when the motor fell into water.

“I was electrocuted,” he says, now able to break a smile about his near-death encounter. “They say that I’m lucky to be alive!”

The bolt entered Jimmy’s body in his hand and blew out mere millimeters from his heart! The experience, he says, actually shocked him into recovery. But past failures at rehabilitation told him that he couldn’t do it on his own. That’s when he entered The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Program (ARP) run by the Albuquerque Citadel Corps.

“I realized that I was powerless over my addiction,” he explains, likening his powerlessness over the bolt of electicity that nearly ended his life.

“With The Salvation Army’s help, I took time to grow spiritually, as well as in my recovery.”

Image of Jimmy White Worshiping with Men from the ARP

Jimmy White worships every Sunday at the Albuquerque Citadel Corps with the men of the Adult Rehabilitation Program (ARP) under his care.

The Army’s ARP gave Jimmy a structured and comprehensive program that combined work therapy, intensive counseling, case management, and spiritual care. With his basic needs met, Jimmy was able to concentrate on what really matters. Jimmy also faced head-on the problems he’d created with his family and others he had mistreated.

“While Jimmy was in rehab, he received another ‘shock’ of sorts,” says Major Raewyn Aspeitia, Citadel Corps Officer. “He discovered that the child he’d raised as his daughter, wasn’t. But he’s still actively engaged in being a dad to a struggling teenager that isn’t his own.”

After Jimmy graduated from the program, he became an employee of the ARP and is now one of the resident managers. He’s found a life-calling in helping other men make the same journey through recovery and on to redemption in Christ. Jimmy also officially joined The Salvation Army as an adherent of Albuquerque Citadel.

“When I walked through the doors of The Salvation Army, I took my first steps into a new life,” Jimmy says.

He acknowledges, “The struggles you go through with addiction are struggles you have to keep working on.”

Jimmy wants to show others “the Way” he’s found—only without getting electrocuted to do it!

—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor, USA National Publications

Part Three — The Light of the World

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I Am the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”‘  (John 8:12).

Six months after declaring “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35), Jesus reluctantly journeyed from Galilee to Jerusalem. It was the last time He would attend the Feast of Tabernacles before His death. He urged His brothers to attend the feast without Him, explaining “for Me the right time has not yet come” (John 7:8). However, two verses later, John notes that Jesus changed His mind: “After His brothers had left for the Feast, He went also, not publicly, but in secret” (7:10). Jesus not only changed His mind. He attended the feast in disguise.

The occasion provided the setting for three of the eight “I Am” proclamations. During this seven-day festival, Jesus declared “I Am the Light of the World” (8:12 and 9:5),”I Am the Gate for the Sheep” (10:7-8) and “I Am the Good Shepherd” (10:11,14).

This celebration was one of the three Jewish Feasts of Obligation. God commanded that “three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place He will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles” (Deut. 16:16). All males within a day’s journey of Jerusalem (approximately 20 miles) were required to attend the feast.

The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot, in Hebrew) celebrates the 40 years that the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, living in booths or tabernacles. The feast was a time of magnificent pageantry and thunderous rejoicing. Rabbis say that “he who has not seen the Feast of Tabernacles does not know joy.”


Water was the important element in the celebration of the feast. Each morning a white-robed priest drew water from the Pool of Siloam in a golden pitcher. He carried the pitcher of sacred water on his shoulder as he processed up the vast Temple steps. The crowd opened a way for the priest to walk through the expansive Court of the Gentiles and into the Court of the Women. Levites standing on both sides of the 15 steps leading to the Court of the Israelites intoned Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The priest paused on each step. Reaching the top, he passed through the giant Nicanor doors and proceeded straight to the altar. After ascending the ramp to the top of the altar, the priest poured the water and a flask filled with wine into silver vessels that hung over the altar. As he poured the water and wine, the entire congregation chanted Psalm 118:25: “O Lord, save us; 0 Lord, grant us success.”

The daily water libation symbolized a memorial, a prayer and a forecast. Water represented a memorial to God for His provision in the desert, a prayer that God would again give water for the next harvest and a forecast of the days of the Messiah.

It was on the last day of the Feast, Hoshana Raba (“The Great Day of the Call for Help”), that “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”‘ (7:37-38). Could it be that the priest carrying the final water libation heard His shout?

Later that same day, Jesus again startled the crowd. John records that “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said ‘I Am the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”‘ (8:12). On the last day of the feast, Jesus boldly proclaimed that He alone was the Light of the World. Jesus was the Light, and to His followers He gives the light of life.

Jesus not only stated the fact that He is the Light of the World, but He went on to explain why the world needs the Light. Whoever follows the Light will never stumble, for he or she will “have the light of life” as a beacon in a dark world.

The important verb in Jesus’ proclamation is “follow.” The Greek word is akoluthéo (pronounced a-ko­lu-theh-o). Of the 77 times this word is used in the New Testament, only once does it signify following someone other than Jesus (Mark 14:13). Every other time, this word describes following Jesus. Akoluthéo carries five primary meanings. It describes (1) a soldier following his captain, (2) a slave accompanying his master, (3) a person accepting a counselor’s opinion, (4) a citizen giving obedience to the laws of a city or state, or (5) a student following a teacher’s line of argument. All five meanings apply to the believer following the Light of the World. Christ calls us to follow Him as His soldier and recognize Him as Master, Counselor, Judge and Teacher.

Jesus is the Light of the World, and He calls His followers to become “sons of light”:

“You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35- 36).

Children of Light—let your light shine!

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.