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The last of the brigadiers

Brigadier Geoffrey Sampson

Brigadier Sampson was born and raised in Christchurch. ‘As a family we would go every Sunday to the New Brighton Corps (church). I was 11 years old when I gave my life to the Lord as a junior solider and I’ve never been in any other church situation. The Salvation Army has been my life.’

Tranferring to Christchurch City Corps, he was enrolled as a senior solider at 16 years old and became the deputy Young People’s Sergeant Major.

It was while working on a farm in Springfield that God got Brigadier Sampson’s attention. ‘One Sunday afternoon I was walking through the field and suddenly I had a conviction the Lord wanted me to be a Salvation Army officer. And from that day, right through to this day, I can honestly say before the Lord that I have not disobeyed.’

He entered training college at 19 as part of the Guardians of the Covenant session before being commissioned in January 1938.

‘My first appointment was in Dargaville, but in those days single men could be picked up and moved at any time. There was no stability in it. You packed up your two belt boxes and off you went. It was a great discipline.’ Appointment changes happened every six months or so, until 1942 when he married Olive Atkin, and they went to Rangiora.

Invercargill was a highlight of his officership, where vibrant young- people’s work took place. He recently received a letter from an officer who was the Corps Cadet Guardian at the time. ‘She said in the letter it was my holiness teaching that set her on the right path to officership.’

The preaching of the scriptures and holiness teaching is one of Brigadier Sampson’s enduring passions and non-negotiables. ‘On many occasions I’ve gone into the hall and I’ve preached the sermon to an empty building so that I would have it in my heart and in my mind. And I could stand up on Sunday with the knowlege that I’ve got the Word of God there to give these dear people.’

Asked what he would do if he could start again, he said ‘I would make sure that I found ways and means of learning how to become a better preacher. I would need to dig deep into the Scriptures to grasp the truth of the Word and learn how to proclaim its message through preaching to my generation.’

Brigadier Sampson preached at Rotorua Corps on August 6 as part of his birthday celebrations. He was presented with a letter from General André Cox. ‘Your personality has influenced people; your Christian witness has made its impact on people; your ministry as an officer has been used by God to transform people. The world is a different place—it has been enhanced—because God has seen fit to work in and through you during your lifetime.’

Brigadier Sampson is still active leading a weekly prayer meeting at the Family Store. He says ‘it’s the greatest evangelical opportunity a corps has.

’'When asked what enduring lesson God had taught him, Brigadier Sampson’s response was simple; ‘the great need for obedience.’

‘If we don’t obey God, what’s the point of it all? When you read Numbers and all these wonderful books of the Bible again, everything God promised these people were good things, wonderful things. They could have had so much, if only they had obeyed.’

He joked that God has put a limit of 120 years on life so he’s still got a few good years in him yet. Amen to that!


by Geoffrey Sampson (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 9 September 2017, p11
You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.