The General Leads Spirit-filled 75th Anniversary Celebrations in Mexico
MORE than 500 people made commitments to Christ during 75th anniversary celebrations led by General Linda Bond. The international leader's visit was marked throughout by touches of Mexican tradition, from the welcome at the airport – with cadets and children dressed in traditional costumes – through to mariachi music used in worship and re-enactments of the Mexican Salvation Army's early days.
Canadian Ambassador Sara Hradecky hosted a reception on Thursday evening for the General and around 90 invited guests, including ambassadors, religious leaders and influential business people. A group of children from The Salvation Army's México City Children's Home entertained guests with cultural dances.
An eight-year-old resident from the home, Ramsés Beltrán, gave his testimony. He explained that his parents had abandoned him and his three siblings. They had lived with their elderly grandmother but she could not cope, so they were taken in by the children's home three years ago. 'Now,' he said, 'I have found friends, have good food, clothes, education and I am learning all about Jesus. I have everything I need.'
More than 1,200 delegates from corps and outposts throughout Mexico joined together for the Friday evening Salvationist celebration. God was praised through rhythmic timbrel playing to singing accompanied by a united band formed of México City musicians and 13 visiting musicians from Texas Divisional Band from the USA. Four outposts were upgraded to corps status.
Territorial leaders Commissioners David and Grace Bringans donated a new territorial flag. This signalled the entrance of flagbearers – cadets and a mission team of young people from the USA Southern Territory – who handed over to every corps officer a new, name-embroidered flag and metal pole, gifts from the USA Southern Territory. Salvationists were ecstatic to receive their new flags.
The General enrolled 97 new junior soldiers and 94 senior soldiers from throughout the territory. In her Bible message she encouraged the congregation to thank God for the past, be committed in the present and believe for the future.
'Come and See' was the theme for the women's rally the following morning. The General and women's ministry leaders wore Mexican mariachi neck bows with matching shawls of yellow, red and blue or red, white and green. Each division and region was represented, with presentations of Spirit-filled music and intricate timbrel-playing.
The General told the women about the care and example she had received from an older sister. She then moved alongside 95-year-old Mrs Margarita Martínez, who was in her wheelchair. Mrs Martínez's husband had forbidden her to attend the Army when it started in Alvarado, but this one time she disobeyed him. As a result there are 105 Salvationists today from this family, many of whom are officers and one a cadet. The General spoke words of encouragement to her and, taking her own neck brooch, she pinned it on the matriarch, thanking her for the obedience to God she had shown and for the example she is to her family.
A men's rally and a children's rally were held at the same time as the women's rally. Around 350 children attended their special event, with 74 making commitments to Jesus.
The Saturday evening 'Mexico on Parade' event featured many people dressed in traditional Mexican clothes – including the General and territorial leaders. The programme featured the Capital Division's re-enactment of the beginnings of the Army in Mexico. Rio Bravo Division depicted the opening of work in various towns and cities, with people carrying named corps banners onto the platform in a very colourful presentation.
A new territorial award, the 'Alejandro Guzmán Award' was presented by the General to Major Angela Tavares and Maria Guerrero for their pioneering service in Mexico.
The cadets concluded the evening with an energetic drama, depicting officers in Heaven encouraging lieutenants to be faithful servants of God. The mercy seat was lined with seekers – testimony to the drama's powerful message.
A fast-moving, praise-filled youth meeting followed. The Bible message touched the hearts of 42 young people who made decisions to follow Jesus.
Sunday began with a united prayer meeting. In the holiness meeting the General took the salute as the Friends of Christ Session of cadets marched onto the platform, the flags across their uniforms adding splashes of the Army's yellow, red and blue. The cadets – ordained and commissioned as Salvation Army officers by the General – recited the Army doctrines with great sincerity.
In her Bible message the General spoke of being 'One Army', with 'One Mission' and 'One Message' – a holy people living a holy life. Many people moved to the mercy seat following her appeal.
The afternoon appointments meeting and civic rally included music presentations and vibrant testimony. Territorial Commander Commissioner David Bringans presented 'Others' awards to people or businesses which had been generous in their support of the Army on a nationwide basis.
In her Bible message the General gave examples of the work of The Salvation Army in many parts of the world, emphasising that at all times its mission is the mission of Jesus Christ.
Commissioners Grace and David Bringans conclude their active service as officers on 30 June, having given 42 years and 5 months service as officers in eight countries. The General conducted their retirement ceremony, presenting the commissioners with their retirement certificates. Representative officers spoke words of appreciation from the territory.
The territorial commander concluded the afternoon meeting by giving the new lieutenants their first appointments. He challenged everyone present to be committed to the mission – and congress theme – of 'Building the Future'. Fourteen accepted candidates for the next session were greeted and 23 people went to the platform, publicly declaring for the first time their acceptance of the call of God to be Salvation Army officers.
The salvation meeting was a joyous, Spirit-filled time. The Proclaimers of the Resurrection Session of cadets were given their summer training appointments by Chief Secretary Lieut-Colonel Douglas Danielson.
The General, in her final Bible message, encouraged everyone to bring sinners to salvation, in the realisation that only Jesus can break the chains of sin forever. 'This is the message we all should share!' the General exclaimed. Many seekers again made their way to the mercy seat.
In all, more than 300 adults and 266 children and young people made life-changing decisions during the congress.
Report by Commissioner Grace Bringans