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When William Booth embarked on his ministerial career in 1852, he desired to spread the love of Christ to the lost souls of England. Soon he abandoned the concept of the traditional church pulpit and took his message to the streets of London and preached the gospel to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
As disagreement grew between Booth and fellow clergymen, he and his wife Catherine withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England to conduct evangelistic meetings and train evangelists. The couple returned to the East End of London in 1865 where many followers joined their mission to fight for the souls of men and women. By 1874, their organization, known as "The Christian Mission," had grown to more than 1,000 volunteers and evangelists.
Among Booth's first converts to Christianity were thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards who connected to his message of hope and salvation through Christ. Soon, they were also preaching the gospel in the streets, spreading throughout London and other cities.
When Booth was reading a printer's proof of the 1878 Christian Mission annual report, he noticed the statement "The Christian Mission is a volunteer army." Crossing out the words "volunteer army," he penned in "Salvation Army." From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army.
From that point on, converts became soldiers of Christ and were known then, as they are now, as Salvationists. Their early evangelistic efforts through the British Isles were met with violence and persecution, yet they converted 250,000 people to The Salvation Army between by 1885. Their message spread quickly around the world, gaining a foothold in the United States in 1880.
Today, we serve 128 countries around the globe, have over 1.5 million members, and assist more than 25 million Americans annually.