GENERAL André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) were guests of honour as The Salvation Army in Finland celebrated its 125th anniversary. For Finns it was a particularly special treat to welcome back officers who had led the Finland and Estonia Territory from 2005 to 2008. Salvationists from across Finland and Estonia attended anniversary weekend celebrations which took the theme 'I Will Fight', based on Ephesians 6:10-16.
Before travelling to Finland, the General and Commissioner Cox spent time in the Estonia Region, where they saw The Salvation Army’s work in Tallinn, including the Hope House rehabilitation programme and the new regional office.
The actual anniversary weekend started with officers councils on Friday, followed by the commissioning and ordination of cadets, where Territorial Commander Colonel Johnny Kleman commissioned two new officers. In her Bible message, Commissioner Cox reminded the new officers and all Salvationists present that they need to take on the full armour of God, know their enemy, follow their leaders, know their battle orders, know their weapons and always be prepared for battle.
Saturday was an event-filled day. At the children’s festival in the morning, the General and Commissioner Cox joined in play with some of the children – admitting to the families present that young Salvationists always get to have the most fun! An open-air event took place in the centre of Helsinki, with a soup kitchen warming up the wintry proceedings as the brass band played. The General greeted the Finnish public and offered thanks to a major sponsor.
On Saturday afternoon, the General and Commissioner Cox were in the audience for a Salvation Army musical, Love Looks Forward, composed and written by two talented cadets from Finland. Saturday ended with a Festival of Music and Poetry in one of Helsinki's most famous churches, The Rock Church, which is quarried out of the natural bedrock. Finnish actress Ritva Oksanen sang and performed poems written by Commissioner Flora Larsson. The event included the launch of a new Finnish-language Salvation Army Song Book and a devotional book, Through My Eyes, written by Territorial President of Women's Ministries Colonel Eva Kleman.
In his Bible address to the vast audience the General explained that, even though the meeting marked 125 years of ministry in Finland, 'The Salvation Army’s work is far from complete'.
The major celebration took place on Sunday morning, a day after the actual anniversary date of 8 November. The newly renovated Temple Hall – home to the first corps (Salvation Army church) in Finland – was again packed with people. The Minister of the Interior for Finland, Päivi Räsänen, shared a greeting from the Government of Finland in which she emphasised the important role of The Salvation Army in Finnish society. She also commended the spiritual aspects of The Salvation Army’s methods of supporting people. Finland’s Ecumenical Council and the Council of the Free Churches also shared greetings.
In his sermon, the General sent a strong message to Salvationists and others who had gathered to celebrate. 'We need to take the breastplate of righteousness, which reflects the mind of Christ,' he said. 'Christ has not called us to convenience, but to write the history of the future. We need to be the witnesses of this time.'
He reminded the congregation that everything the Finnish Salvation Army has accomplished has been through God’s grace, offering the warning that if The Salvation Army is not wholly dependent on God it has no future. Many people responded to the General’s message by moving to the mercy seat.
The meeting also included the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in memory of Finnish Salvation Army General Jarl Wahlström.
The weekend concluded with a celebration meeting based around the theme 'I Will Fight' in which a young Salvationist (and aspiring future officer) shared an inspired testimony of being called to do God’s work. Commissioner Cox challenged her listeners to put the shoes of readiness on their feet so they can go forth and proclaim the message. 'We need to strive towards those people who suffer and who are waiting for us to come,' she said, 'not just with our words but also with our deeds.'
Report by Lieut-Colonel Eija Kornilow