THE farewell meeting to Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Barry C. Swanson) and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women's Ministries) was infused with a sense of God-inspired affection, warmth, fun and integrity that perfectly mirrored the approach of the Swansons. General Linda Bond told the congregation at International Headquarters (IHQ) in London that the departing leaders had been 'exceptional' in carrying out their roles.
The ground floor at IHQ was packed with headquarters employees and officers, delegates from the International College for Officers and Penge Songsters, of which Commissioner Sue Swanson has been a member while in London. Also present were former colleagues and Salvation Army leaders, including Retired General Shaw Clifton, Retired General John Larsson and Commissioner Freda Larsson.
The General introduced the Swansons, telling those gathered: 'We are here because God has saved them, God has called them, God has used them and God will continue to use them.' They take up their new appointments, as leaders of the USA Eastern Territory, on 1 February.
Commissioner Lalhimpuii (Zonal Secretary for Women's Ministries, South Asia) gave a tribute to Commissioner Sue Swanson, describing her as a 'cheerful, happy and lively woman' who 'loves prayer' and is 'joyful making others happy'. Later in the meeting, Commissioner William Cochrane (International Secretary to the Chief of the Staff) spoke about her address to the 2010 World Youth Convention in Sweden. He said he had 'never seen God move among young people' so strongly as happened after the commissioner's honest contribution.
Commissioner Sue began her response with a humorous song about life at IHQ. She referred to The Salvation Army as a 'beautiful community' and told how she had been 'blessed to have been given a bigger and bigger and bigger family' while fulfilling her role at IHQ, referring personally to many members of the IHQ 'family' – from the International Commissioners right through to Mark Guess, who faithfully collects the recycling every day.
The commissioner then joined with Penge Songsters for the song 'Christ in Me'.
Commissioner Cochrane paid tribute to the 'stark, clear and concise' approach of the Chief of the Staff. He likened the Chief to the thoughtful and idealistic title figure from Graham Greene's The Quiet American, explaining that the 'quietness of the character was his strength – and that describes the Chief so well'. The commissioner said that the Chief possessed the gifts of thoughtfulness and intellectual rigour, but that he has also shown great compassion for the people who have been affected by his decisions. Above all, he concluded, the Chief has sought to ensure that 'the mind of Christ should be known and the will of God should be done'.
The General said that the Swansons have a great sense of their Calling, that they have a Character shaped by the Lord Jesus, and that they have displayed Competence in their work. She referred to the Chief as her 'colleague, brother and champion'.
Responding, the Chief of the Staff said it had been a 'tremendous privilege to serve with two Generals' [he was appointed as Chief by General Bond's predecessor, General Clifton]. He gave words of challenge as he explained what it means to be a follower of Jesus, committing oneself fully to Christ. He used an illustration of one of the walks he and Commissioner Sue had enjoyed in the British countryside to show the importance of following the right path and also showing others the right way too – the way to follow the Lord.
Commissioner Robert Street (International Secretary for Europe) closed the meeting in prayer, asking the Lord to 'open doors for a new adventure' for Commissioners Barry and Sue Swanson.
Report by Kevin Sims