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A Visit with Henry Gonzales, Austin Area Commander, Salvation Army
by Tom Goodman
February 21, 2013

I want to periodically use LeaderLines to introduce you to some community leaders and opinion makers in our area.  I welcome your suggestions of community leaders and opinion makers you'd like me to interview.

Our first interview was with Donna Houser, principal of Anderson High School.  Our second interview was with Eileen Flynn, faith columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.  Our third interview was with David Smith, director of our Austin Baptist Association.

Today I want to introduce you to Henry Gonzales, Commander for the Austin Area of the Salvation Army.


Commander, tell us a little about yourself and your family.

I was born in Orange, Texas, and attended Little Cypress High School.  I was one of seven children, and thus I had to learn what it meant to have big brothers and a big sister supervising many of my activities, i.e., staying out of trouble, going to school and attending church.  As the fifth child I had to learn how to take care of and supervise my two younger brothers.  What I learned growing up has carried over into my adult life and my chosen profession.  While attending a youth rally I felt God's calling to become a Salvation Army officer.  I was encouraged by my parents and siblings to respond to the high calling.  In 1966 I entered the College For Officers Training to prepare to become an officer.  It was at the college that I met my wife Dorris.  After being commissioned as an officer (minister) in The Salvation Army, as Lieutenants we were married a year later and started our ministry.  My wife and I have completed 45 years of unbroken service as officers in The Salvation Army.  We were blessed with three children, and we were further blessed with five grandchildren.

What is the mission of the Salvation Army, and how do you hope it helps make Austin a better place?

The international mission statement of The Salvation Army is:
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church.  Its message is based on the Bible.  Its ministry is motivated by the love of God.  Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
The Salvation Army in the Southern Territory has adopted an additional mission statement:
Salvationists of the USA Southern Territory are answering God's call to make radical followers of Jesus Christ who love inclusively, serve helpfully and disciple effectively in the communities where they live.
There are many people that do not know that The Salvation Army is a Christian based organization.  We are a church.  Our roots are Methodist.  The Salvation Army has 11 doctrines that are the core of our beliefs.  The Salvation Army around the world is guided by our doctrines.  The mission adopted by the southern region states that the Army provides ministry and services that are inclusive, that strive to improve the lives of people.  These two mission statements are the engine that enables The Salvation Army to work with everyone to make Austin a better community.  I would like to believe that the Army is a voice for the hopeless, the homeless, the disadvantaged and a place where these individuals can find refuge in a world that may appear to have collapsed around them.

What are your responsibilities as the Austin Area Commander?

As the Area Commander for The Salvation Army in Austin it means that it is my responsibility to coordinate all activities and services of The Salvation Army.  This would include having spiritual responsibility and oversight of our congregation and to ensure that the army is on the front line providing services and programs to assist individuals.

Since most of my e-newsletter subscribers are church leaders, what do you think are the greatest needs of the Austin Metro area that our churches need to be aware of?

As church leaders we need to be aware there are many people in our community that are disadvantaged.  On a daily basis the army provides services to the homeless, the discharged veteran and women and children in need of shelter.  The church community needs to be aware that these individuals need to be treated with dignity and respect.  It would behoove the community leaders to support not only The Salvation Army but other organizations who are striving to meet the needs of individuals.

What are some ways that people can volunteer with the Salvation Army?

The Salvation Army has a long list of needs where individuals can volunteer their time and services.  I would direct you to The Salvation Army website and encourage people to contact our volunteer coordinator Michelle Packer via email.  Michelle would be able to match the need with a volunteer's area of interest.

How can we pray for you and the Salvation Army staff?

The Salvation Army staff and myself would solicit your prayers and the prayers of the church community asking that God would continue to provide the resources needed to meet the demands that are placed upon us.  Pray that our staff may be encouraged by the good they are providing to individuals (it is so easy for a staff person to become discouraged in what at times may seem like a thankless job).

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