Friday, March 8, 2024

The People's General - A New Tribute to General Eva Burrows

I was sitting around a table on the tenth floor overlooking the city of Melbourne. I was privileged enough, as a cadet in those days, to be sitting next to General Eva Burrows. There was always something special about that hand of hers that would reach out and touch your arm. You felt cared for, supported, uplifted and inspired all in one simple gesture.

Other Salvationists have their memories. For me, it's the treasured email my wife Jo and I received after the birth of one of our children. From General Eva Burrow's perspective, it would've taken a couple of minutes; a few lines of text. But for me, it was a retired world leader, taking a few moments to congratulate us, and offer a prayer of blessing. Once again a simple gesture that brought joy to my heart.

I remember the times I would see her at large Salvation Army gatherings, and she would not miss a beat; she'd look over and mention one of my children's names and ask how they were. She'd remember what corps we were serving at and ask, 'How's Craigieburn going?' A simple gesture.

The date was May 2nd, 1986, when the first Australian-born woman was elected General of The Salvation Army. During the next few years General Eva met with Presidents, including President Ronald Reagan, President Fidel Castro in the Caribbean and President Daniel T. arap Moi of Kenya. She preached about Jesus right across the nations, from Canada to India, and South Africa to the Pacific Islands, in her homeland Australia, and of course, across the countries of Africa that she loved so dearly.

There are many aspects of the life of General Eva Burrows that are worthy of a mention.

Firstly, her resilience. Commissioner John Clinch said of her, 'I have seen her on more than one occasion sitting at her desk following a heavy and demanding period away, grey-faced, bone-weary, head in hands, completely drained. Most people would need a week or two to recover. But one good night's sleep and she is back on the job, full of vitality...'  

She was passionate about renewal. In Henry Gariepy's biography, General of God's Army: The Authorized Biography of General Eva Burrows, she says, 'God has shown me that I must emphasize our need for renewal in The Salvation Army. God seems to have said, 'You've tackled several administrative challenges, you've done quite a lot of clearing away of the organizational problem; now it's time to center down and focus on the great issue of renewal within The Salvation Army and on the mission for which I called it into being.'' She had a deep passion for Christ, and always sought to raise up leaders, care for the vulnerable and make disciples for the sake of the Kingdom of God. 

Thirdly, there was a deep passion for relationships. When General Eva walked in the room, there was something about her demeanor, her smile, her way of connecting that made you feel at ease. You felt cared for. You felt like it was ok for you to be in the room. You didn't feel power-plays happening. You were welcome. Even with thousands of relational connections across the globe, General Eva Burrows remembered your name, she genuinely cared and the love of God was present when she was there!

General Eva Burrows was intently focused on reforming organisational structures and the brokenness of society. Whether it be standing in the queue with black South Africans at the local South African Post Office as a silent protest against apartheid, speaking up about unity at a conference in Melbourne (I was in the room and everyone went silent when she spoke), or standing up for the sanctity of life by writing to the Prime Minister of England, or sitting with the poor and vulnerable on the streets of Melbourne in her retirement years. She believed The Salvation Army had a rich heritage and a clear mission to care for the most broken across our societies. 

The People's General lead by example, and on this International Women's Day 2024, I want to pay tribute. One thing I've realised, just by writing these few paragraphs, is the power of one particular thing...

All it takes is one small gesture to impact someone's life. 

1 comment:

  1. A very gracious lady.When we were stationed in York Temple,General Eva Burrows Conducted the Corps Anniversary. A very Precious Memory for us today.
    Majors Lorne and Ella Hiscock


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