25 November 2016

IN what was an historic weekend for Kenya West Territory, the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Brian Peddle, together with Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World Secretary for Women's Ministries), travelled from London to formally open a new officer training college on one day and then witness 152 new officers being commissioned the next. 

Huge crowds of Salvationists and friends from throughout the territory travelled long distances by any means possible to attend the two outdoor events. The commissioning of the cadets on the Sunday, held at the sports arena of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kakamega, attracted a crowd of 12-15,000 people! 

This event, which commenced with a magnificent march-past, lasted for several hours and included typically vibrant African singing, stirring preaching by the Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle, and then culminated with the commissioning and appointing of the Messengers of Light cadets. 

This was a unique commissioning event inasmuch as, in addition to the 32 cadets who have undergone the normal two year college training programme, it also included 130 sergeants-in-charge who have been in leadership roles in corps throughout the territory, in some cases for up to 12 years. 

It was a 2013 decision of the Territorial Commander, Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder, supported by his cabinet, to give these many sergeants-in-charge access to formal training over these past three years so they could be commissioned as lieutenants. This day was the culmination of that strategy and was warmly welcomed by the thousands of Salvationists attending. 

The Chief of the Staff recognised the enthusiasm and passion of not only the newly commissioned officers but also the thousands of soldiers who had travelled great distances in hot conditions to be part of the celebration. Following the new lieutenants’ affirmation of faith he said: ‘You recited the doctrines well. Hide these things in your heart. We must not be blown back and forward by the things people in the world are saying. People will laugh at you, they will challenge you. But you are preachers of the word of God! Be confident that the word of God can set the prisoner free.’

After he invited the crowd to respond to the urging of the Holy Spirit, large numbers moved immediately to kneel on the grass under a hot Kenyan sun, only tempered slightly by the occasional wafting of a breeze. The presence of many eagles soaring overhead seemed apt as the crowd responded to the moving of the Spirit.

In her earlier preaching to the vast crowd Commissioner Rosalie Peddle had also urged all present to be true to their faith and to be strong witnesses: ‘God is faithful,' she told them. 'He will do more than can ever dream! You need to trust him. I cannot wait to see and hear what God is going to do through you.’

This historic occasion was honoured by the presence of several members of parliament and local county assemblies, led by the Governor of Kakamega County, His Excellency the Hon Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya. A member of the territory’s advisory board, he spoke highly of The Salvation Army’s service in Kenya and of the leadership provided by the territorial commander and Commissioner Jolene K. Hodder. 

The day was also notable as it was the final opportunity for the territorial leaders to address their soldiers. They were to fly to the USA within days to take up leadership of the USA Western Territory. Kenyan Salvationists were loud and passionate in their admiration of the Hodders and the way they had led the territory. 

Colonel Stephen Chepkurui, currently the Chief Secretary, will become territorial commander on 1 January. Colonel Grace Chepkurui will be the territorial president of women’s ministries, and together - with the new rank of Commissioner - they will look to build upon the visionary leadership of the Hodders. 

This strong strategic thinking was very evident the day before in the formal opening of the new training college at Turbo, about two hours' drive from Kakamega where territorial headquarters is located. During another magnificent outdoor meeting in the grounds of the Army’s complex, more than 2,000 Salvationists celebrated the opening of what is a modern and beautifully designed facility. 

Able to accommodate up to 80 cadets, the college sets a very high standard for this type of facility and was admired by all who toured its many buildings after the official ceremony concluded. 

Built at a cost of approximately US$3 million, most of this provided by territories from around the world, the college is an example of investing in the future of The Salvation Army in Kenya, the Chief of the Staff emphasised. It is not simply a matter of spending money, he stressed. It is part of the long-term strategy of the territory to invest in officer training and leadership. This is crucial in a territory which continues to see amazing growth. 

Across the territory’s 12 divisions and 14 districts there are more than 520 corps (churches), with a new corps being opened, on average, every nine days over the past year!  

The territorial commander has been adamant over recent years that this type of investment in the training of officers is vital. To help achieve this, the strong support of other territories, including the two Australian territories, the four USA territories and from Canada, New Zealand and Norway has been critical. 

But while most of the funding for the building of the college has been provided from these other territories, the Kenya West Territory was committed to raising the necessary funds for the college’s beautiful chapel. This it achieved, with much pride. It has also allocated significant funding to establish a trust fund to enable the ongoing running costs of the college to be met. 

This opening celebration meeting, which lasted several hours – commencing mid-Saturday morning and going through to early afternoon – was typically joyful, with music, dancing and strong preaching.

Commissioner Rosalie Peddle urged the crowd of Salvationists to continue to be ‘… the light of the world. Christ is calling us to be bright lights. The darkness is challenging… in our families, in our villages, in our towns. If ever there was a time when God’s people need to shine it is today,’ she proclaimed.

In his preaching the Chief of the Staff reminded all gathered that ‘we come by the way of the Cross. We come by the name of Jesus. There is no other way!’ He continued, as he encouraged the congregation: ‘Friends, today we must be sure that God has our heart and our soul. These things belong to God. The devil has no right to them.’

Pointing to the new college he challenged he cadets and all present: ‘This place is put here for people who are ready to fight. To fight for God!’

As soon as he appealed to the crowd to respond in dedication and prayer, streams of soldiers and officers surged forward and knelt on the grass. It mattered not that there was no mercy seat out on the grass. Under the Kenyan sky it was a powerful conclusion of the opening and dedication of the college.

Report by Major Brad Halse
IHQ Communications Secretary
International Headquarters

Tags: Africa, Events