Salvation Army's 95-year-old hero

FORWARD MARCH: Linda Chambers, 95,  is the world’s oldest Salvation Army Junior Soldier Sergeant.
FORWARD MARCH: Linda Chambers, 95, is the world’s oldest Salvation Army Junior Soldier Sergeant.

The Salvation Army's oldest Junior Soldier Sergeant in the world marches to the beat of a different drum.

Ninety-five-year-old Linda Chambers spends much of her time at the Papakura office on Clevedon Rd, offering her talents in the garden, the food bank, the family store and even the occasional sermon.

Papakura Corps Officer Steve Dutton says Mrs Chambers is "much loved" and respected for her wisdom and her insight and years of experience are put to good use on the church's leadership team.

She keeps fit by working in her perfectly manicured rose garden and when she's finished "she jumps on her mobility scooter with her dog and trucks around and does the [Salvation Army] gardening too," Mr Dutton says, adding that her energy levels are "just insane".

He reckons Mrs Chambers, who is known to many as Nana Linda, embodies the principles of the Sallies.

"She's just such a caring person," he says.

"There wouldn't be a person [in the church] who hasn't been touched by Linda in some way."

That includes 30 years' worth of 7 to 14-year-olds who have gone through her Junior Soldiers classes.

Mixing Bible and history teaching with activities and badges, the classes are "full of laughter", Mrs Chambers says.

Her first students now have children of their own - "that's how it is at this age" - but she's still going strong.

Church officials did a bit of digging on Nan Linda's 95th birthday and discovered she was the oldest Junior Soldier Sergeant in the world - no small feat in an organisation with millions of members in at least 120 countries.

But she's not interested in accolades, instead reserving all her praise for the Sallies.

Joining them "had always been my wish", she says.

"I loved the Salvation Army and all that they did for everybody," she says.

She and her husband moved to Papakura from Te Kauwhata in their 60s and her husband died soon after.

"I don't know how but somebody told the local Salvation Army officer and he knocked at my door and said: ‘I hear you're in trouble - can we help?

"Well, that sold it straight away so I went to the Salvation Army.

"I've loved the principle they have of helping anybody at any time regardless of circumstances."

Papakura Courier