23 May 2012

GENERAL Linda Bond called on Dutch Salvationists to pray when she led 125th anniversary celebrations in Amsterdam. 'Above all,' she said, 'be a praying Army!' Her challenge came at the end of a vibrant weekend of celebration and rededication.

Celebrations started on Friday with a Spirit-filled officers meeting at the Westergasfabriek Culture Park, followed by 'high tea' for retired officers.

At the Major Bosshardt Gala on Friday evening – attended by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands – the General presented the annual Major Bosshardt Awardto Dutch TV host Lucille Werner in recognition of her work to integrate disabled people into Dutch society. After the gala the General met with Queen Beatrix and special guests representing the wide range of Salvation Army work in The Netherlands.

A praise meeting on Saturday morning was attended by more than 1,500 people – including Dutch officers serving overseas and special guests from the UK, France, Germany, Suriname, Indonesia and Norway. The Amsterdam Staff Band, Amsterdam Staff Songsters and J-Unit Youth Choir of The Salvation Army provided great music in a meeting where the Spirit's palpable presence moved many people to rededicate their lives to Christ.

The General spoke about The Salvation Army's life-changing message. 'The Salvation Army is most known for its activism,' she said. 'It's the love of Jesus Christ that compels us ... That is why we are a Salvation Army. Not a business army, not a social army, not a PR army; we are a Salvation Army!'

In the afternoon many people took the opportunity to greet the General in person as she visited various activities, including an anniversary exposition, a prayer room and Salvation Army scouting.

At the end of the afternoon the General and leaders of The Salvation Army's The Netherlands and Czech Republic Territory saluted the bands that marched through Amsterdam in a relay that started at the Gerard Doustraat, in front of the building where The Salvation Army held its first meeting on 8 May 1887. Thousands of people crowded along the marching route through the city centre, along Dam Square to the Westergasfabriek park.

A Salvation Army music festival in the evening included contributions from the Amsterdam Staff Band, Amsterdam Staff Songsters, a youth choir and a large festival choir. A laser show at the start of the festival depicted the history of The Salvation Army and violinist Anne Roos (Almere Corps) played the violin that was used by Lieutenant Gerrit Govaars in the first meeting in 1887. Guest soloist was the Indian-born Salvationist and concert pianist Julian Clef. The festival was highly praised by members of the public in the audience.

Sunday meetings included inspiring preaching from the General. Her message in the morning – that any one can come to the Cross of Christ – touched many hearts, with a number of people praying at the mercy seat. At the end of the meeting people who wanted to become officers of The Salvation Army were urged to go to the platform where the General prayed for them.

Report by Jurjen Sietsema