Europe Moves Forward
THE Salvation Army's Europe Congress in Prague, Czech Republic, brought together 1,300 Salvationists from 30 countries in a weekend of witness and worship under the leadership of General Linda Bond.
'Forward! In Confidence, Unity and Power' was the theme of a gathering which celebrated what God is doing in the lives of his people throughout Europe. The three main sessions each picked up on an aspect of The Salvation Army's International Vision: One Army, One Mission, One Message. The General was supported by Commissioners Robert and Janet Street (Europe Zonal leaders, International Headquarters) and Commissioners Hans and Marja van Vliet (territorial leaders, The Netherlands and Czech Republic Territory).
The opening meeting, 'One Army – Speak your Heart', gave opportunity for a number of people to talk positively about the kind of Salvation Army they would like to see. A young Moldovan Salvationist, Yana Miheeva, said she would like her country to be 'famous, as the country where Jesus lives!' She shared her dreams of an end to human trafficking and poverty before concluding by telling all present: 'Pray for your country.'
Vocal ensembles G-Thanks (France) and LivingSoul (Switzerland) thrilled the congregation, which also appreciated the beautiful a cappella singing of Hallelujah Quartet, made up of Russian and Romanian officers.
Commissioner Robert Street held up a piece of the Berlin Wall, serving as a powerful reminder that, until recent years, The Salvation Army was proscribed in 12 countries in Europe in which it is now operating. It was a miracle to see uniformed Salvationists from those countries participating in the congress.
Following her stirring Bible message, the General led the song 'They shall Come from the East, they shall Come from the West'. An invitation was given to people to move to the platform and join hands. They went immediately, including Salvationists from Poland, Russia, Latvia and the former East Germany, to share sacred moments as throughout the auditorium people joined hands.
On Saturday afternoon an open-air meeting in Námĕstí Republiky (Republic Square) was introduced by Captain Josef Knoflicek. The large crowd that gathered was fascinated as the General showed a pearl necklace, which she used to illustrate her testimony that 'Jesus is the real thing'. Vocal groups from France, Switzerland and Sweden participated, along with UK Brass.
In the evening, 'One Mission – Celebrate what God is Doing' was the theme. There was great excitement as all the territorial and command leaders of the Europe Zone marched in with their Salvation Army and national flags. The 150-strong Europe Choir made its debut, led by Commissioner Dick Krommenhoek (Territorial Commander, Finland and Estonia). The group's singing was fantastic – even after just one rehearsal!
'This is Europe' gave a glimpse of the Army's work in each country through five audiovisual presentations. The congregation responded with enthusiasm, especially when photos of growing numbers of cadets were shown.
The Sunday meeting, 'One Message – Forward in Faith', was a challenging and inspiring conclusion to the celebrations. A choir of Czech children and a Spanish group called Básico, whose youthful members sang and played timbrels, brought great delight with their items. The Spanish young people had travelled by bus for 30 hours to attend the congress. Cadets from the Italy and Greece Command, Denmark Territory and Norway, Iceland and The Færoes Territory were featured during the weekend. Sports ministry and anti-human trafficking work in the United Kingdom and Greece were highlighted, and powerful testimonies to the transforming power of Jesus Christ were shared by men from Lithuania, Poland and Hungary.
In her final message the General challenged the 1,300 congress delegates to go forward with faith that God will bring revival to Europe, staying certain of God's grace from generation to generation. Many people knelt at the mercy seat to dedicate themselves to God and pray for a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit as they serve him in future days.
As 'O Boundless Salvation!' was sung in full, flag bearers went forward spontaneously and Army colours from many countries were waved in unison across the platform; a wonderful finale to a God-glorifying event.
The gathering in the Czech Republic had begun on the Thursday before the congress with a Central and Eastern Europe Conference. The General addressed the 85 delegates on Friday morning, before attending a reception at the British Embassy in Prague. The British Ambassador, Her Excellency Sian MacCleod, welcomed the General and spoke warmly of Salvation Army work in the Czech Republic and its leaders, Majors Mike and Ruth Stannett. Conference delegates met ambassadors from other countries, including Canada, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova and The Netherlands.
Report by Lieut-Colonel Jayne Roberts
The main sessions from the congress can be watched online at: sar.my/forwardeurope
A full selection of photos from the Europe Congress can be viewed and downloaded from a Flickr album at sar.my/fwdeurf