A HISTORIC weekend of celebration marked 100 years of Salvation Army ministry in the south-east Asian country of Myanmar (also known as Burma). International leaders General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries), making their first visit to Myanmar, were warmly welcomed at Yangon International Airport by Colonels Lyndon and Bronwyn Buckingham, leaders of The Salvation Army’s Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar Territory. Also present were Majors Bo and Christina Jeppsson (regional leaders, Myanmar).
Under the theme ‘Great Is Your Faithfulness’, the centenary weekend included participation from Salvation Army officers from around the world who had helped develop the church and charity’s mission in Myanmar over the years, including Colonel Cedric Sharp, Major Violet Ovenden, Major Janice Smithies, Commissioners David and Grace Bringans, and Major Amaro Periera.
Mirroring the unwavering commitment of early-day pioneers, throngs of Salvationists and friends streamed into the Franc Auditorium in the country’s former capital Yangon (Rangoon). For some, this was at least a three-day journey. Their motivation – to worship God and to return home sharing new hope and new life.
‘Togetherness’ is a word picture of the weekend, with worshippers from diverse regions and ethnicities uniting together to encounter the living God. All came with thankful hearts, enjoying the moments of reflection on what God has done in the country – the church in Myanmar is growing! Delegates also relished the opportunity to march towards new endeavours, with a stated goal of adding at least two more areas of Salvation Army ministry in the coming months.
In a key address, the General drew on the events of Palm Sunday, saying that following Jesus Christ was not a fanfare of waving palm leaves or the shouting of ‘Hosanna’. ‘No short-lived terms of engagements,’ the General admonished. ‘Followers of the Lord must be radical disciples who commit themselves to the mission and purpose of Christ.’
A Friday evening United Prayer Rally entitled ‘We Will Fight’ saw the General testify that he believed in the power of prayer. Echoing Ephesians 3:20, he reminded Salvationists that God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’. With stark reminders in the international media that people are being killed because of their Christian faith, Burmese Salvationists acknowledged the spiritual battle and prayed for all those persecuted due to their beliefs.
A series of special meetings on Saturday began with Commissioner Cox offering words of encouragement from Galatians 6. She exhorted Myanmar Salvationists to ‘seize the opportunity to do good, to be careful how to live, to act on what has called believers to do and to witness for Christ’. The Myanmar Council of Churches and Bible Society congratulated Salvationists for their partnership in Myanmar to promote the gospel and to bless the disadvantaged. The General’s Bible message focused on Psalm 25 and encouraged attendees to both ‘wait on the Lord’ and ‘walk with the Lord’.
More than 100 Bibles were given away at a youth and children’s meeting on Saturday evening, which proved to be an enlightening and invigorating occasion, rich in song and dance. Commissioner Cox urged the youthful crowds to learn to ‘walk in blameless ways, to be perfect in Christ’. As the music slowed and faded, and stillness ushered in a reflective mood, many youngsters made their way to pray and dedicate themselves to God at the mercy seat. It was a night of victory!
The Palm Sunday holiness meeting included the commissioning of three new Salvation Army officers: Lieutenants Joshua, D. Par Shein and Tun Lin. The General challenged the lieutenants – and all those gathered – to abandon all ambitions and remember that Jesus said ‘let them daily take up the Cross and follow me’. A little later, the new officers were formally ‘sent out’ to their new appointments and cadets of the Messengers of Light Session were covenanted.
With the events of a deeply moving weekend firmly imprinted in attendees’ hearts and minds, The Salvation Army in Myanmar looks forward to serving with renewed vitality and enthusiasm in the days ahead.
Report by Major Chee Kwee Lim