UP to 8,000 Salvationists gathered from across the vast India Central Territory to meet under the leadership of General Linda Bond. The visit was a time of spiritual renewal for many people and included the awarding of The Salvation Army's highest honour.
A day after receiving an enthusiastic welcome at Chennai Airport, the General travelled to Periamet to open and dedicate to God a new Human Resource Development (HRD) building, which will be used by the community.
At a civic meal in the evening, church leaders and local government representatives spoke warmly about the ministry of The Salvation Army. The General told her audience that India needs Christ. She emphasised the importance of prayer, saying: 'I believe that if we pray the Lord will move with power.'
The next day the General had moved on to the officer training college compound in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, where thousands of young people gathered for a youth congress. Crowds cheered the international leader's progress to the venue and in some places young people presented items of cultural dance by the roadside.
Territorial Commander Commissioner M. Y. Emmanuel led the youth congress, which featured a song by young people from Vijayawada Division and cultural items from Chennai Division and Rebala Corps (church). Captain Elizabeth Nelson (International Headquarters), who accompanied the General throughout her visit, encouraged the young people to commit themselves to the Lord. Nurses from Evangeline Booth Hospital presented a tambourine item.
The General told the young people: 'You are the Army!' She commended them for being from a generation which treats women with dignity; which stands for social justice; and which brings people to faith. 'This is your day,' she said. 'Stand for Jesus!'
After the General's message, hundreds of young people made their way to the mercy seat in acts of consecration and rededication.
In the evening, thousands of Salvationists were joined by church and other leadrs, including the Rt Rev Sunil Bhanu (Lutheran bishop) and the Rt Rev M. D. Prakasam (Roman Catholic bishop).
In a special moment of the meeting, the General awarded The Salvation Army's highest honour, the Order of the Founder, to Corps Sergeant-Major N. L. Victor from Hyderabad Temple Corps, in recognition of his exceptional service to God through The Salvation Army.
In her Bible message the General told the congregation that everyone needed God’s salvation, irrespective of their place in society. She explained that God didn't call people to be religious but rather that they should be relational, passing on the love of God to others.
When the territorial commander called people to the mercy seat for prayer, hundreds responded – many with tears rolling down their cheeks.
At the end of the meeting the General took time to meet many members of the congregation.
The visit concluded with two sessions of officers councils.
Report by Major Babu Samraj