AT least 15,000 Salvationists travelled from across The Salvation Army's India Western Territory to see and hear their international leader, General Linda Bond. Territorial headquarters is in Mumbai but the main gatherings took place in Ahmednagar and Anand – ideal locations to bring together Marathi and Gujarati-speakers respectively.
In both locations the General was given a spectacular and colourful welcome, including the honour of arriving in a brightly decorated horse-drawn chariot known as a ratha yatras. Her journey between the two cities was punctuated by the sight of groups of young Salvationists beside the roads, waving banners and greeting the international leader.
At Anand the General saw signs of a thriving Salvation Army. In her Bible message she spoke about the apostle Paul’s transformation. She encouraged the Church of today to be relational rather than religious. 'There is nothing more important,' she reminded Gujurati Salvationists, 'than to have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.'
The meeting included the dedication to God of children, a bamboo dance by representatives of South Gujurat Division and the singing of traditional devotional songs known as 'Bhajans'.
While in Anand the General visited The Salvation Army's historic Emery Hospital. In the maternity ward the General prayed with new mothers and held some of the babies. She encouraged the mothers to ensure that their children grow up to know God.
The public meeting in Ahmednagar included the publication of the Marathi-language Salvation Army song book.
Speaking about the tremendous growth of the Early Church, the General told her listeners that '120 people gathered in the upper room changed the world', adding the challenge that the 7,000 Spirit-filled Salvationists who were gathered for the meetings also had the potential change the world. She talked about the value of prayer and recognised the India Western Territory’s support of the Thursday morning Worldwide Prayer Meeting.
The General spoke about the sense of community found across the international Salvation Army, encouraging the Marathi-speaking congregation members that they are part of an international family.
The meeting included testimonies, a cultural presentation and 'Bhajan' songs.
Many Salvationists and friends of the Army knelt at a large cross to pray during the singing of 'To Thy Cross I Come, Lord’.
The General was accompanied throughout her visit by territorial leaders Colonels Thumati Vijayakumar and T. K. Manikyam, other territorial headquarters staff and Captain Elizabeth Nelson (International Headquarters). She also led officers councils in both Anand and Ahmednagar.
Report by Major Babu Samraj