The Spirit of God uses a song and a typo, folks
The Spirit of God uses a song and a typo, folks
Retired General JOHN LARSSON, The Salvation Army world leader from 2002-2006, shares a hitherto unrecorded story from the era of Army musicals
“You won’t know me, but my name is Graham Hyslop,” said the mature-looking captain as he entered my office when I was National Youth Secretary for the then British Territory from 1977 to 1980. “I am Australian, and I have come to thank you for a song that you and General John Gowans wrote that transformed my life.”
Over a cup of coffee, Graham told me his story.
He came originally from Brisbane, where he worked as a doctor. When Salvationists in Brisbane presented the musical Jesus Folk at a theatre, he was given a ticket and attended out of courtesy.
As the musical about the life of Jesus unfolded on the stage, he listened impassively. “But then,” he said, “when it came to the scene where the resurrected Lazarus sings ‘Out of my darkness’, it was as if a thunderbolt suddenly hit me. A wave of emotion swept over me. I couldn’t explain it, but it was utterly real.”
On the way out of the theatre, Graham bought a cassette tape of the musical. As he played it the next day, the same thing happened when he reached that song.
Out of my darkness, God called me.
Out of the depth of my night.
Out of the shadows of sorrow
Into the life of his light.
Wanting to understand what he was experiencing, Graham said he decided to attend a Sunday morning meeting at Brisbane City Temple Corps. The corps officer opened the meeting by saying: “I have had a bad week. You people have been difficult. Divisional Headquarters has been impossible. Everything has been black. I came to the point of wanting to give it all up.”
Graham Hyslop wondered if that was how all Army meetings opened, but the corps officer continued: “On Thursday when I played the cassette of the musical we have been presenting together, it was all just background music – until it came to Lazarus’ song and a wave of emotion swept over me. When the track ended, I knelt by my chair and made my peace with God – and his light returned.”
Graham listened, enthralled. Here was confirmation.
After the meeting, he told the corps officer of his own experience. The officer helped Graham understand that what had happened to him in the theatre was that he had been born of the Spirit. They prayed together at the mercy seat.
Graham Hyslop became an active Salvationist and soon became a leader among the young people of the corps.
After a few months, he spoke to the corps officer about becoming an officer. The corps officer was delighted but said that, because Graham was 50 years of age, he would need to check with the divisional commander of the then South Queensland Division about his eligibility. (The cut-off age for single candidates in those days was 30, and candidates being accepted in their 50s was unheard of.)
The divisional commander was also delighted but said he would need to check with the then Australia Eastern territorial commander. As the regulations that governed the ages of candidates were international, the territorial commander felt he needed to check with International Headquarters.
The response that came back from IHQ was negative, saying acceptance of someone so far above the age limit would create an unhelpful precedent. With regret, the territorial commander dictated a letter to the divisional commander to say that “it was not possible to issue candidates papers to Graham Hyslop”.
When the territorial commander visited the division some months later, the divisional leader told him that how pleased they were with the number of young people who were offering themselves for officership “and it is all because Dr Graham Hyslop has applied to enter training. He is a wonderful influence”.
The territorial commander was taken aback: “Did we not say that he could not be processed as a candidate?” he said. “No. On the contrary," the divisional commander responded. “You said that he could.”
The correspondence was hastily consulted, and there was a typographical error in the letter the territorial commander had dictated and signed without reading it. It wasn’t a word that was wrong. It was only one letter. Instead of the secretary having typed “It is not possible to issue candidates papers to Graham Hyslop”, she had written, “It is now possible”.
“We can’t go back on it at this point,” pleaded the divisional commander. “Graham has bought his uniforms and has, in faith, sold his house.”
The territorial commander agreed to ask IHQ to reconsider. When the telex arrived at IHQ, the then chief of the staff, Commissioner Stan Cottrill, gathered the international secretaries together. After discussion and prayer, they concluded that this could only be the work of the Spirit and authorised the application to proceed. The territorial commander was relieved to be able to convey this outcome down the line.
So, through a song and a typo, Graham Hyslop entered the officer training college. Such was his influence among the cadets that he was appointed assistant territorial candidates secretary when he was commissioned as a lieutenant.
Graham Hyslop Career Profile
Cadet, Australia Eastern Territory, 1977-1979
Candidates Officer, Australia Eastern Territory, 1979-1981
Assistant Youth and Candidates Secretary, Australia Eastern Territory, 1981-1983
Candidates Officer, Australia Eastern Territory, 1983-1988
Principal, Centre for Officers’ Further Training, Stanmore, Australia Eastern Territory, 1988-1990.
Retirement: 1 February 1990.
Captain Graham Hyslop was Promoted to Glory on 24 January 2016 from Macquarie Lodge in New South Wales.
*Edited from an article written by Retired General John Larsson and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland Territory magazine, Salvationist