75-year partnership celebrated in Mexico
By: Commissioner Donna Igleheart
The Salvation Army opened its work officially in Mexico in 1937 when the Salvation Patrol affiliated with The Salvation Army USA Southern Territory. Under the leadership of Alejandro Guzman, the Salvation Patrol operated along similar lines to the Army. When Guzman heard about that, he asked if they could join forces. In a congress in Atlanta, General Evangeline Booth recognized their work and commissioned several Mexican nationals as Salvation Army officers.
Later, Lt. Colonel and Mrs. Ray Gearing were sent in charge. Under their direction the Army began to expand rapidly from Mexico City throughout the country. In response to the desperate need of orphans and displaced children, as well as those whose families could not afford to raise them, the Army responded to help. Hearing of the work, in 1948 the Home Leagues of the Southern Territory responded compassionately by raising money to help support this vital ministry. In 1954, the first children’s home was dedicated in Mexico City. A total of 16 were eventually established that through the years have been a safe haven and loving home for thousands of children.
Later when Mexico separated from the Southern Territory to be its own command, the Home Leagues in the South remained committed to the children’s homes and remain so to this day.
Supporting the children’s homes has not always been easy for the women of our territory. Many themselves were in poverty but they wanted to help these children. They gave sacrificially or sponsored a variety of fund raisers. My mother was the Home League Secretary in Owensboro, Kentucky for 25 years. She worked on raising money for the children, I have raised money for them and now my officer daughters are. It was very moving for me to stand next to a plaque from 1969 and realize that my mother helped raise the money for that building. I recall us receiving cards from the children when I was still very young thanking us for our support. That commitment across the South has now spanned four generations.
When Majors Susie Erickson and Joy Robbins joined me in a visit there recently, the officers constantly were thanking us for what our ladies do to make their work possible. They said, “We know these are not wealthy women and we know they work hard. Please tell them thank you.”
Our support makes a difference. When a child enters one of our children’s home, he or she will know that they will be loved, find spiritual nurture and also be given help in many ways so that they have the best chance to live successful lives. Each child is given education, healthcare, emotional support, family counseling as well as being allowed to enjoy being a child.
An example of this is Cadet Jennifer Sanchez. When she was ten years old, she entered the children’s home. Her mom left her there and never returned. Although devastated by this, she eventually found hope and healing through the Lord and the loving ministry of the officers and staff of the home. Eventually she married, had a son of her own, and has responded to God’s call to be a Salvation Army officer. She and her husband will be commissioned this June. When asked if she had any advice to other children, she was quick to respond: “Forgive your parents.” This poignant response shows both the sadness of her past, the work of grace in her life and the hope that now lights her life.
Cadet Jennifer also pleaded, “This work must never stop. This partnership has to continue. There are too many lives at stake. Now our children’s homes also serve women in the neighborhood. When the children are in school, they come and learn a trade or a skill so the good that is done continues to spread.”
I love the spirit of our women as they continue to work on behalf of the children in Mexico. They don’t consider it a burden—in fact, they say, “Look what we get to do!”
You can make a difference, too. Remember these precious children, our dedicated officers and staff and know that whatever you give makes a real difference.