If you’ve read Portraits of Integrity, you may remember the story of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. His life and work are rightfully admired all over the world. He’s a man our children should get to know.
Born in Nottingham, England in 1829, Booth was converted to Christ at 15. He was apprenticed to a pawnbroker but his real passion was to reach the lost with the gospel and to relieve the suffering of the millions of people living in squalid conditions in the inner city. As a very young man he felt called to preach and though England was at that time sending thousands of missionaries overseas, he concentrated his efforts at first on the East End of London.
Booth and his young wife, Catherine, established soup kitchens to feed the poor. Day and night Booth and his friends preached the gospel to the slum dwellers, prostitutes, drunkards and petty thieves. They constantly hammered the evils of alcohol, seeing all around them the consequences of drunkenness. The pitiful poverty-stricken people would spend the last of their few shillings buying booze. Even many of the children were addicted to alcohol.
There was plenty of opposition to their work. Fashionable upper-crust Christians and the powerful Church of England decried the unorthodox methods of the Booths. A drunken gang calling themselves the Skeleton Army harrassed the workers. Sometimes when William Booth preached, the slum dwellers would throw rocks or rotten vegetables at him. Still he persisted and some were saved.
Slowly, painfully, the mission grew. A hundred fifty years later, the Salvation Army is still feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and preaching the gospel to millions around the globe.
One of the most remarkable evidences of William Booth’s faithfulness is the fruit produced in his own family. His eight children gave him forty-four grandchildren. All of those children and grandchildren grew up to serve God in full-time Christian work. William Booth stands in history as a faithful man whom God delighted to honor.