A kind invitation by the Spain and Portugal command leaders, Lt-Colonels Gordon and Susan Daly, gave me the opportunity to visit Madrid Central Corps and lead officers councils for the officers of the fairly recently merged command of the Salvation Army’s work in Spain and Portugal.
My hosts greeted me at Madrid airport in temperatures 20 centigrade above the temperature in London. They drove me for a very brief visit of the Command’s headquarters which are some distance from the centre in the outskirts of Madrid, before we drove on to their home.
I was told that the meeting at Madrid Central which often lasts for three hours or longer, would need to be kept shorter due to the fact that while the Corps premises were being refurbished the toilet facilities were out of bound for several days. Our friends in Madrid have clearly a different concept of short, as I began the Bible address after one hour and a half, although I could hardly believe my watch, as I stood up to preach. In the absence of the Corps officers young people and the Sergeant major had led a fervent time of praise and worship followed by testimonies and a farewell to a member of the corps who was returning to South America to care for a sick family member. Heartfelt prayers and tears on many faces testified to the fact that theirs is a fellowship of people who deeply care for each other.
The Corps members are mostly Latin Americans, many of them young adults proudly wearing their uniforms. As soon as the meeting was over, they formed a human chain to carry food items from a food bank stored in a back room to the main hall, which needy people are invited to pick up during the week.
When the hall refurbishment is complete, the people receiving aid from the Corps will also be able to freshen up in the newly established showers and find new clothes in a much larger storage room.
Please join me in praying for our comrades in Madrid as they seek to alleviate human suffering and by doing this to make the recipients aware of the love and care of God for them.
On the following day we drove to a superb Catholic retreat centre in Guadarrama, a village in the hills north of Madrid, where the command’s officers’ retreat took place for the second time. Similarly to Sunday, people I had never met before did not hesitate to greet me with a hearty hug and include me in their friendly banter.
We spent richly blessed days together. Times of devotions in groups alternated with Bible studies based on the subjects of prayer, the Holy Spirit, holiness and social justice. The spiritual disciplines of meditation and a simple life style were also explored. Fellowship around the table was always enriching, with conversation taking place in Portuguese, Spanish and English, and more often than not, a mixture of the three languages with much gesturing and laughter.
On one of the evening programmes which started at 9:30pm (!) we celebrated everyone’s birthday, on another, upon invitation by the command leaders, I spoke about some of the amazing Salvation Army pioneers presented in General (R) John Larsson’s well researched and sympathetically written book “Those incredible Booths”. As I retold some of the stories I thought to myself that this is an excellent way to introduce to officers literature which will not be translated in their own language for a long time, if at all, and possibly a powerful encouragement for them to learn English.
All too soon we were gathering for the closing meeting on which the theme of incarnational living, closing with a moving time of praying for each other. After lunch the officers started their long journey home to their respective appointments including Barcelona, Lisbon, Las Palmas and Majorca. May God turn the blessings received in that time into blessings shared with the members of the Salvation Army in Portugal and Spain!
Lieut-Colonel Hervé Cachelin
Principal - International College for Officers and Centre for Spiritual Life Development