25 April 2017

GENERAL André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) encouraged Salvationists and the public alike during their visit to Sri Lanka. In public meetings, leadership conversations, VIP gatherings, media interviews, a holiness meeting and Salvation Army officers councils, the message of the General and Commissioner Cox focused clearly on living according to the values of integrity, accountability, compassion, love and purity – values found in the heart of God. 

A last-minute change to the itinerary saw the international leaders visit the scene of a tragic rubbish dump landslide that had claimed the lives of at least 32 people and destroyed more than 140 homes on Good Friday – only four days before their arrival. The General and Commissioner Cox joined a team of Salvation Army officers to distribute much-needed relief items to hundreds of the disaster survivors. They moved freely among survivors and relief workers from many agencies, bringing personal greetings and showing interest to as many as possible.

Speaking on national television following an on-site media interview, the General assured survivors of The Salvation Army’s ongoing support. He also encouraged the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to work towards solving issues that had come to light as a result of the dump’s collapse. ‘We need to work together,’ he said, ‘to build more stable communities where people can live with security.’ 

Later in the visit, at a public rally held in the capital, Colombo, and attended by up to 2,000 Salvationists and friends from across the island nation, the General reminded the crowd: ‘We live in a generation where we believe we can do anything and God will love us anyway. But Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life!”’

People moved forward freely and readily at the end his message, committing their lives to Christ – some for the first time – and to living by his values.

The venue, the Anglican Church’s Christ the Living Saviour Cathedral, was filled with the sounds of celebration from the start, in true Salvation Army and Sri Lankan style. The international leaders entered to flags waving and drums playing. They experienced the joy of worship in Sri Lanka, with translators sharing their messages in both Sinhala and Tamil.

The General accepted the covenants of 57 new senior soldiers and 13 new junior soldiers of The Salvation Army in Sri Lanka. ‘We are called to be soldiers in The Salvation Army,’ he challenged the crowd. ‘Soldiers don’t just come and sit in pews. Soldiers are called to fight. The Salvation Army is raised up to fight against sin, injustice, exclusion. We’re not called to be play soldiers. We are at war against the kingdom of Satan. Our weapons are the Word of God and the Cross of Christ. Those being enrolled declare they will make the standards of the Kingdom of God the standards of their lives.’

Scenes of excitement were found in the ‘Transformation’ women’s rally, where Commissioner Cox focused on the difference women can make in the world when they live in relationship with Christ every day. ‘We believe it is possible to be transformed into God’s image,’ she said. 

In the ‘GLOW: Shine Your Light’ youth event more than 400 young people entered into a powerful worship and rich cultural experience, responding readily both to the General’s appeal to follow Christ and his call to consider being an officer in The Salvation Army.

While in Sri Lanka, the General and Commissioner Cox met with government ministers, heads of churches and NGOs, the British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, and members of The Salvation Army’s newly established National Advisory Board. They also spent time visiting Salvation Army residential services in Greater Colombo.

Throughout their visit, the General and Commissioner Cox were supported by members of the territorial leadership team, including Colonels Alistair and Marieke Venter (Territorial Commander and Territorial President of Women’s Ministries), and Lieut-Colonels Suresh and Martha Pawar (Chief Secretary and Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries). Worship was supported by Colombo Central Corps Band and Worship Ensemble, specially formed choirs, timbrel brigades, and drama and cultural presentation groups.

Report by Major Peter McGuigan

Tags: Emergencies, The General