This day is considered the birthday of the Salvation Army in Germany. But we can always ask, when and how does a movement begin?
I have a document in my office dated 5th July 1886. It has a hand drawn crest as the letter-head. The date is the day after the first International Congress in London.
I feel very privileged having an original letter signed by the Founder and pioneers of that time. The signatures begin with William Booth, Catherine Booth and Bramwell Booth. Next I recognise Hanna Ouchterlony, who opened The Salvation Army in Sweden 1882 and six years later in Norway. Ballington Booth is also a familiar name but there are some signatures which I can’t make sense of. Definitely not the one that looks like Chinese writing.
I have also learned that there were similar letters like this sent to the Grand Duke or Kings of the small Kingdoms at that time, which was before the unified Germany of today existed. The message in the letter is a presentation of the Salvation Army. The idea was to make the rulers aware of our good intentions. We do not know much about any answers. But my source of information says that the Emperor of Würtemberg forbade The Salvation Army to enter his Kingdom. But just the opposite happened.
A man by the name of Fritz Schaaff came to the Lord, was saved, at the Salvation Army in New York. He returned to Europe and served as officer for one and a half years in Zürich, Switzerland. But he had a calling in his heart to bring this Army, raised up by God, to his homeland Germany. Stuttgart was chosen as the city to begin with and he arrived there with his wife and four children in November 1886.
The meeting that is considered as the opening of Die Heilsarmee in Germany was held on the 14th of November 1886. Three months later regular meetings were held every evening apart from Saturday. Not without opposition – as in most countries. Police were posted by the hall doors and only allowed entrance to those people who had a personal written invitation which was signed by the responsible Salvation Army officers. The policemen collected and kept the tickets for every meeting so new ones had to be issued constantly.
For Staff-Captain Schaaff, the interruptions were just a sign that the message of God’s love was needed in this place. Six months later they rented a larger hall and the rest, as we say, is History. And you can read a bit more of that on our homepage here.