It was the fall of 1899 in my hometown of Monkstown—then known as Paradise Sound—a tiny, isolated community accessible only by boat in Newfoundland and Labrador. The town had no church building and no regular full-time minister. In faith, the men of the town built a church. They called it the “Whosoever House,” and they said that the people of the town would adhere to the denomination of the first minister who came and was willing to stay.
During that time, The Salvation Army in Newfoundland and Labrador operated a boat called the Glad Tidings that sailed along the coast, visiting tiny communities and sharing the gospel.
In the spring of 1900, just a few short months after the men of the town built the Whosoever House, the Glad Tidings sailed into my hometown with officers and uniformed Salvationists on board. They held a meeting at the Whosoever House.
The following week, the people of the town sent a wire message to divisional headquarters and asked for an officer. Weeks later, an officer arrived and, for the last 123 years, The Salvation Army has remained the only church in the town.
The gospel message started with a few faithful Salvationists in a boat called the Glad Tidings and the good news and love of God have now been shared in that small community for more than a century.
It was here I had my spiritual beginnings, receiving love, support and encouragement from faithful, godly people. It was here, in this Whosoever House—now The Salvation Army—that I gave my life to Jesus as a seven-year-old in Sunday school. It was here, in this small church, as a young child, that I felt God speaking deeply into my life.
I am grateful for the godly people and officers who recognized that God was calling me and, like Eli in the story of Samuel, nurtured me in giving my “yes” to God.
In my hometown, the glad tidings of God’s love have been shared in many ways over the last 123 years. It has been preached from the pulpit, but even more effective have been the practical acts of kindness shown to family, friends and neighbours who never come to the church.
Over the years, this small corps has produced many officers—each one grateful for our humble, yet God-ordained, beginnings. My attraction to this church was not because of its décor; it was simple and plain.
My attraction was not about its many offerings of video and technology; there were none. My attraction was not of its crowds of people; it was a small congregation.
The memories I hold dear, that helped mould and shape me, were the godly people, some educated, some not, who gave testimony to God’s work in their lives. It was the officers who showed an interest in a child who God was calling and nurtured me in my childlike faith. It was the singing and preaching that I remember, and the weekly invitation for a deeper commitment to God or a first-time decision.
As a child and teenager growing up in this small corps, the attention given to the youth was marvelous—from Sunday school to junior soldier classes, corps cadets, youth group and “YP” meetings. As children, we found our place!
I know times have changed, and our methods have changed, but as I think of my beginnings in that tiny corps in Newfoundland, I am reminded that there are some things that never change. Our need for godly connections has not changed. We all need to find our place. Our need to be taught the truths of Scripture has not changed. We need to be people focused on the Word. Our need to be invested in and to invest in others has not changed. We need to find our purpose.
We have been created to love God and be loved by him. I’m grateful for my humble beginnings and for the godly people who influenced my life. Thank you, Lord, for inspiring the men of the town to build the Whosoever House that became a beacon and a place of transformation for so many for more than 100 years.
Due to out-migration in some of our coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, my home corps officially closed last year. However, the faithful members have found their place in other Salvation Army congregations and continue to let their light shine. They continue to let the glad tidings ring, and for that I am grateful.
Colonel Genevera Vincent is the territorial secretary for women’s ministries in the U.S.A. Western Territory.
Reprinted from Caring magazine.
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