'REJOICE in the Lord Always, and Again I Say Rejoice’ – the theme for General Linda Bond’s visit to the Papua New Guinea Territory – was wonderfully exemplified in the praise and worship of more than 3,000 officers, soldiers and friends who journeyed from all over Papua New Guinea. More than 500 people went to the mercy seat over the weekend in acts of commitment and rededication.
The event, held in the Roy Bungay Memorial Hall in Port Moresby, included the commissioning and ordination of the Proclaimers of the Resurrection Session of cadets, a celebration of 50 years of national officers being trained on PNG soil, and the retirement salute to Territorial Commander Commissioner Andrew Kalai.
At a reception for government and Church officials the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Leo Dion, welcomed the General and revealed that he 'first saw The Salvation Army marching down the street at Koki in 1969'. He went on to acknowledge the great work The Salvation Army is doing throughout Papua New Guinea – particularly through disaster relief.
The Friday evening Salvationists rally which was the first public meeting of the congress set the scene for a God-glorifying weekend. Two cultures were seen working hand in hand – the colourful PNG culture with its array of national dress and dance, and an enthusiastic Salvation Army culture, with flags, timbrels and brass band.
Times of praise and worship were punctuated with testimonies that spoke of the transforming work taking place in the lives of people all over PNG through the many facets of work undertaken in the name of Christ.
Early the next morning a men's gathering took place, led by Commissioner Hans van Vliet (Territorial Commander, The Netherlands and Czech Republic) and Commissioner James Condon (Territorial Commander, Australia Eastern). Both men are former chief secretaries of the Papua New Guinea Territory. God poured out his blessing on all who gathered.
Later, during the ordination and commissioning of the Proclaimers of the Resurrection Session, Cadets Bagu Leana and Sylvia Raymond testified to the goodness and faithfulness of God throughout their training.
In her message, the General challenged the newly commissioned lieutenants to keep true to their calling and to preach Jesus wherever they go.
A women’s rally included many examples of PNG culture. Each division and district was represented through testimony, dance, drama or singing.
The General challenged the women to stand firm and to encourage their daughters to obtain an education and make a difference in the world. Many women knelt at the mercy seat, rededicating their lives to Christ and uplifting their children before him.
A fast-moving, praise-filled youth rally gave the territory's young people a special opportunity to express their faith. Unusually, the rally included the appointments meeting for the new lieutenants, so that the young Salvationists of PNG saw people who have given their lives in full-time ministry receive their first appointments as officers of The Salvation Army from Commissioner Andrew Kalai.
Many items, both traditional and contemporary, expressed the young people's love for Christ and his power within their lives. Following the General’s Bible message, young people flocked to the altar, reaffirming their commitment to Christ.
A highlight of the holiness meeting on Sunday was a vocal item by Salvationists from the Solomon Islands. Commissioners Raymond and Aylene Finger (territorial leaders, Australia Southern) presented, on behalf of their territory, a new Salvation Army flag for the Solomon Islands. The enrolment of 37 soldiers stirred the congregation, which heard testimonies that spoke of the goodness of God in difficult times.
The General in her Bible message spoke about the ‘one message’ aspect of The Salvation Army's ministry as being the message of salvation – a full salvation – and a life of holiness. She went on to define holiness as ‘a heart that is true and clean’ and a love like the Lord's love. At the conclusion of the meeting the altar was the place of first-time decisions, rededications and a deepening commitment to the work of Christ.
The final meeting of the congress allowed the country's Salvationists the opportunity to express words of thanks to Commissioner Andrew Kalai, the first Papua New Guinean leader of The Salvation Army in PNG.
Commissioner James Condon and Lieut-Colonel Chris Webb (Territorial Secretary of Women's Ministries), along with Commissioner Hans van Vliet – all of whom had served alongside Commissioner Andrew in PNG – led ‘this is your life’ segments where mention was made of Commissioner Andrew’s life as a boy, Salvationist, husband, father and leader.
Officers, soldiers and family members paid tribute to the commissioner and the General presented him with his retirement certificate. A touching moment came when Commissioner Kalai's son, Pere, played the cornet solo ‘My All is On the Altar’ – typifying his father’s life and service to God.
In his response, the commissioner said: ‘I don’t know where to start ... but it’s good to start with God.' He told the congregation: ‘I retire with no regrets. I feel satisfied. The Army has been good to me and God has been good to me.’
Report by Major Deslea Maxwell