How General Burrows deeply impacted my life.
My relationship with the General started when I was 19 years old and volunteering in Russia. She was super interested in everyone – all the time. She was tireless in her willingness to speak and lead and meet people. Years later she would tell me how energized she was around other people – how their stories amazed and delighted her. It was obvious she loved people. I was no different. She took the time to get to know me. I have very fond memories of falling asleep on her shoulder during the Bolshoi ballet in Moscow (exhaustion and ballet never really mix well).
At the end of her Russian tour and despite the slobber on her shoulder she ended up inviting me to bring a team of Russian young people on a road trip to Sweden for a congress. We took the train overnight. I ended up falling asleep (catching a theme?) during the meeting and she ended up calling me on the platform as an example of a young person engaged in mission. It was all a little embarrassing.
Eventually I woke up and staggered on the stage. We did a little “stage hug” and as our heads connected so did our hairpins. We were stuck together. Literally. I’m sure the whole thing only lasted a few minutes but I was paralysed on stage in front of thousands of people stuck to the General.
When General Burrows made it back home to IHQ she took the time to phone my parents. Again, it speaks volumes of her genuine care and interest in people. It just so happened she called on April the 1st and my mother assumed it was a crank call. When the letter with the photos arrived in the mail she realized that it really was the General of the Salvation Army that had called her to thank her for letting her daughter serve in Russia. Seriously.
Perhaps our relationship was destined to be funny. A few years later, General Burrows had just retired and I was a lieutenant serving in nowhere, northern Canada – where we had just launched one of the first Salvation Army websites. Burrows was intriqued and signed our ‘online guestbook’ with contact info and a desire to re-connect. So, reconnect we did.
She came out to our little town, loved our people deeply and danced the nights away with loud worship music – David Ruis launched his Wide, Wide World dance classic on one of those nights. As the floor buoyed under the weight of the bouncing crowd and the music boomed louder than normal I yelled over to the General and asked if she wanted to go to the back of the room. She looked at me with sheer delight and said, ‘why would I?’ and got back into her groove. Who didn’t love this woman? Seriously.
Again, she made the trip across the world and stopped in to see us in the ‘hood’ at Vancouver 614 where we were running The War College. She sat on the global board of TWC and prayed for every student, everyday. Intriqued by our ‘house group’ model of corps planting she wanted to experience a small group that met in our little apartment. We both spent the better half of the group trying to explain to my skeptical prostituted friend that she really was the “world leader of the salvation army”. Afterwards we toured a war college room (which only had a working sink) and General Burrows explained how to take a sponge bath from a sink. As you do.
I’d see General Burrows regularly over those years, mostly in Australia when I was over for a visit but whenever she was close – she would come. She invested in my family. She held Zion and prayed for him a few months after he was born, Judah a few days – and she never stopped praying for them.
When we moved to Melbourne I began meeting with General Burrows regularly. I wanted to know more. There was much to learn. One of my most impacting teachings on prayer came during one of those visits when she broke down the stages of her prayer life. She could challenge me, question me, encourage me, and pray for me. I’d consider a rebuke from that woman solid kindness.
Whenever she came to my house for dinner and to hang with the kids she always did the dishes. I couldn’t get her to stop serving. No one could. The first Christmas card to mark the season always came from General Burrows. Somehow, no matter where we lived she found the address.
She was exemplary. Not just as a leader, or a woman or a General, but as a human being. She was an extraordinary human being. When she decided to follow Jesus she really meant it. She didn’t worry too much about politics or human favour (and she surely wasn’t ignorant of them) – she worried about loving people.
After she hung out with us at The War College/Vancouver 614, trolling the streets of the downtown eastside of Vancouver, she said it stirred something in her. She returned to her own hometown and decided to join the crew in the hood there too. She had tasted the Holy Spirit’s flavor in the next generation’s desperate measures to stay true to the Salvation Army’s calling. She was all in. She didn’t just applaud them or fundraise for them or appreciate them – she JOINED THEM. She became one of them.
Her shift in service at the end of her life reflected the shift she had made at the beginning. It was a reckless abandon to God’s deep calling in her. It was a posture of prayer – in real life. At the end of her years General Burrows was deeply committed, not to a theory or an idea or an organization – she was deeply committed to people; to love people. And she understood and demonstrated like hardly anyone could, how loving people could really change the world.
I want to be more like her. Not a charismatic leader with influence and power and a fancy title or rank, but a committed disciple of Jesus who doesn’t simply talk but lives it out in the day to day reality of loving people.
She used to get me to do memory exercises – challenging my excuses that I just couldn’t learn people’s names. She’d tell me how to improve that skill and how much it mattered to people that I’d take the time to try. She said above all techniques a genuine love and interest did wonders for knowing people’s names and remembering who they are.
Well, I guarantee you this, General Eva Burrows. I will remember you. I will remember what you taught me, modeled for me, demonstrated in my company. I will remember your rebukes as kindness, your relationship as a Holy tonic, your personal care and coverage a Divine mercy. I will remember your life well lived and I will remember to live the way you showed me.
I will remember to love.
Above all things, I will remember to love Jesus. I’ll remember how you showed me to spend my waking moments in the presence of His love. And I will remember to love people. And I pray that this remembering will not simply be done in theory or in sacred temples, or on stages, but with everyday people, in the streets of the forsaken of this world. Accompanied by slobbering, sleeping young people who need a shoulder to sleep on, and prostituted women who doubt my own story, to sponge baths in bed bug infested quarters. I will remember to keep our heads together – with holy hairpins – I’ll keep your example as close as I can. Let thousands of people see it – as I live out this holy calling, I’m remembering you.