From the Top: What is the General for?
by General John Larsson
THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD Gary Pitt, a Salvation Army junior soldier from Northampton, UK, sat in my office. When the video cameras began to roll he smiled and then with effortless charm fired off his first question: ‘What is the General for?’
But let’s set the scene. Gary was starring in a video presentation made to mark 2005 being The Salvation Army’s Year for Children and Youth, to be shown at a Salvation Army congress in London. Gary was the junior soldier chosen to interview the General.
The cameras had filmed him riding his bike in Northampton and sitting down at the computer to prepare his questions, and had recorded his comments on the mission ahead. The camera team followed him on the train to London and on the bus to International Headquarters. They were there to watch him arriving, being shown round, and having lunch with my wife Freda and me.
And here we were, in my office. From his backpack Gary pulled out his long list of questions, and for the next 20 minutes the conversation flowed while the cameras rolled. His questions were delightfully pointed and uninhibited.
But the traffic was not one way only, for at one point Gary asked me if there was anything I wanted to ask him! So I took the chance to ask him what kind of an Army he would like to see. His description of what a 21st-century corps should be would have made The Salvation Army’s Founder, William Booth, proud!
His question, ‘What is the General for?’ gave me an opportunity to speak of the privilege of giving leadership to an Army at work in 111 countries, seeking to set the strategic direction and enable resources to be shared, so that the Army’s mission can be accomplished around the world. I also spoke to Gary about the responsibility of being the Army’s spiritual leader.
Gary wanted to know how often I had received policy advice from young people, whether our military style was a turn-off to people these days, what I thought about uniform-wearing and much, much more. He also asked me where in the world I would like to take him to see the Army at work.
I told him I would love him to come with us to Africa. I said I would like him to experience one of the great gatherings of 10,000 or more white-clad Salvationists praising the Lord together, and that the next day we would like to take him out to one of the villages to see the Army engaged in its practical work, providing education and health services and ministering to those in need. He would then, I said, see the full wonder of the Army at worship and at work – as happens in every country where the Army serves.
Quick as a flash, Gary dug into his pocket, produced his passport and said he was ready to go at any time!
At the great congress meeting, everyone watched the video and then Gary and I continued our conversation. Gary had one more question he wanted to ask – what was my message to the young people of the territory? ‘Follow Jesus 100 per cent,’ was my reply. Never one to miss an opportunity, Gary then pulled out his passport again and reminded me that he was ready to come with us at any time!
‘What is the General for?’ For one thing, to thank God that the Army has young people like Gary!
The General with Gary Pitt at the UK Territory’s congress
Images on this page are taken from the UK Territory’s video of Gary Pitt’s trip to London and his interview with the General
General John Larsson is the international leader of The Salvation Army