Hello, my name is Eliza Shirley. I was born in 1863 to Amos and Annie Shirley. My father was a part-time minister.
When I was fifteen years old, the Salvation Army marched into my hometown and began a work led by women preachers that came to be known as Hallelujah Lassies. The women's mission was to reach the poorest of the poor, whom no one else cared about, with the saving message of Jesus Christ. I was so affected by the preaching of these women that I dedicated my life to God’s service and wanted to become a Salvation Army worker.
After she turned sixteen, Eliza was summoned by William Booth, General of the Salvation Army to discuss her entry into full time service with the group. When I turned sixteen, William Booth (the General of the Salvation Army) met with me and I accepted a post in Bishop Aukland, a coal mining village in Northern England.
As part of my new post, I lived in impoverished conditions among the poor of the village, getting most of my food from keeping what was thrown at our Salvation Army meetings. Most of the money taken in offerings to be used to help with the work was stolen by the crowds before it ever reached us. Though times were hard, we saw God move in that village in a powerful way as even the worst men were converted to Christ during our meetings. We remained faithful to the work, and lives were changed.
Later that year my father sent word that he and my mother were moving to America and they wished I would go with them. My dad thought that I could start a work for the Salvation Army in America . I decided to ask General Booth for advice. While he wasn’t sure if I should go, he gave his blessing for me to test the waters in the U.S.
My family arrived in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania in 1880 and immediately began looking for a building to hold meetings. Their first meeting was attended by only 12 people and the work grew slowly. Though the rough crowds often pelted us with mud, stones, sticks, and rotten vegetables, we didn't lose hope.
Nearly four weeks after their first small meeting, God intervened. As we made our way to the lot where we would be holding our meeting, we noticed a glow in the sky. A fire had been started on our lot and hundreds of people turned out to see the spectacle! We knew God had a plan, so we began to sing and preach. After the sermon, a drunken man known as Reddy came forward and asked if God would even forgive a drunk like him. Yes, even him, we explained. So, at that moment, Reddy gave his life to the Lord and his life was changed…and so was the ministry in Philadelphia . Reddy became such a living testimony to the grace of God, that people filled the meeting house to see it for themselves.
Soon after this, I was able to find another building on the West Side of Philadelphia and opened a new work for the Salvation Army. I asked General Booth for reinforcements and the work of the Salvation Army spread throughout America.
Later, I took a rest trip to England and returned with a new husband, Captain Philip Symmonds. I had four children, and lived into my eighties. I retired in Chicago and became an huge fan of the Chicago Cubs! As I was on my deathbed, the Cubs were in the final games of the World Series. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I was alternately praying and asking how the Cubs were doing. I was a huge fan! When word came that I had been promoted to glory, there was a moment of silence in the stadium in my honor!
I was a courageous young woman who heard God's calling and answered. I hope that you will remember that young or old, male or female, if you have a willing heart, God will use you to build His Kingdom. Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)
* The namesake of AHG’s Pathfinder level, Eliza Shirley is being honored in her capacity as a faith filled girl who followed God’s calling on her life. This designation does not serve as an endorsement by the American Heritage Girls of the Salvation Army, its positions on social issues and its beliefs.*
Information from Hallelujah Lass by Wendy Lawton, Moody Press, 2004 & Salvation Army Archives.
Want to learn more about Eliza Shirley? Try reading:
The Hallelujah Lass: A Story Based on the Life of Salvation Army Pioneer Eliza Shirley (Daughters of the Faith Series)
by Wendy Lawton
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