The General Stresses Importance of being United in Mission during Visit to The Netherlands and Czech Republic
'WE are one Army with one mission: preach the gospel and meet human needs.' These were the words of General André Cox to more than 200 leaders of The Salvation Army – officers and employees - on the first day of his visit to The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory. Joined by Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) for a weekend of reflection, mobilisation and celebration, the General challenged Salvation Army leaders in The Netherlands to reach out to their communities, because 'people need God!'
In an inspiring opening session on Friday morning at The Salvation Army's Belmont Hotel in Ede, the General stressed the fact that officers, Salvationists and employees have the same mission. 'We are strong if we all fulfil our mission,' he said. 'We need each other ... If we stop preaching the gospel, we are no longer The Salvation Army. But if we just come together and celebrate on a Sunday and forget about the ones in need, we are also no longer The Salvation Army.' He encouraged the leaders using an African saying: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, travel together!
In the afternoon the General and Commissioner Cox visited ‘The Connection’ - a meeting point of the corps (church) in Apeldoorn. A highlight of the day was the opening of four new apartments for residents of a clinic for addiction treatment, offering a place where they can live on their own while receiving guidance and protection. Ed lives in one of the apartments and is happy with the guidance and protection of The Salvation Army. 'I have lived on the streets for over 25 years and seen a lot of clinics,' he says. 'Now I am doing great, but I know things can easily go wrong.'
The afternoon concluded with several workshops in which the General himself took part. He answered questions and shared his dream about The Salvation Army being a force for good deeds, change and positive transformation.
On Saturday, almost 200 active and retired officers gathered at the Belmont Hotel for the annual officers congress.
The international leaders' visit to The Netherlands concluded at a gospel celebration attended by 700 people, including the mayor of Ede. The evening began with the Amsterdam Staff Band and Songsters, together with the national youth band, J-Unit Youth Choir and dance group Custom Made performing ‘Celebration of Contemporary Gospel Songs’ which ended with the entire congregation singing ‘To God be the Glory’. The celebration continued with a ‘One Army’ emphasis and included clients from the the Army's social services who, accompanied by the staff band, brought the congregation to its feet with a medley of popular Dutch songs. The General gave a short challenge and the evening ended with all participating groups on the platform, leading a massed singing of a modern version of the song ‘Greater Things’.
Early on Sunday morning the General and Commissioner Cox, supported by territorial leaders Commissioners Hans and Marja van Vliet, flew to the Czech Republic to meet with Salvationists and friends from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The rented hall in Brno buzzed with excitement as 300 people prepared not only to meet the international leaders, but also to join in worship and fellowship.
Captains Josef and Stáňa Knoflíček, coordinators of the work with Roma in Slovakia, welcomed the General with the traditional sharing of bread and salt. They explained that the bread can be seen as the Bread of Life – Jesus, who will satisfy the deepest need – and the salt, which gives taste to everything, is a symbol that Christians should be the salt of the earth.
A children’s choir brought joy to the meeting and the worship band led the congregation in focusing on Jesus.
In his Bible message, the General pointed out that, while many people think it doesn’t matter if you believe in Jesus or how you view him, Christ is the only mediator between God and humans. Jesus, he said, is important for all people.
During the message, there were many cries of 'Hallelujah!' and 'Amen!' as people reacted to the General's words. The mercy seat was lined again and again as people went forward to meet the Lord in prayer - some making first-time decisions, others renewing a desire to follow Jesus.
Before the meeting ended with the Founder's Song ('O Boundless Salvation!), the children marched in, returning from their own programme singing: ‘The Army, the Army, continues to move forward,’ to the melody of ‘Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest’. It was a fitting conclusion to a weekend full of inspiration, hope and blessings.
Report by Menno de Boer (The Netherlands) and Major Attie van Wagtendonk (Czech Republic)Tags: Europe, The General