08 December 2014

FIFTY-SEVEN territorial, command and regional leaders from across Africa met in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 2014 Africa Zonal Conference. Sadly the leaders from Liberia Command, together with two from Rwanda and Burundi Command, were unable to obtain visas for travel.

General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) had been scheduled to preside over the conference, but they were unable to attend, meaning that the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner William Roberts) and Commissioner Nancy Roberts (World Secretary for Women's Ministries) took their place.

The conference took the theme 'Christlike Leadership', with delegates considering a leader's responsibility to reflect the Spirit of Jesus in all aspects of his or her ministry. There was a particular focus on the importance of transparency and accountability, with Jesus as the example.

Philippians 2:5-7 laid the foundation: 'In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant' (New International Version). Thought-provoking presentations considered the spiritual life of a leader, developing both present and future leaders, true Salvationism, leadership challenges, financial issues, child abuse and domestic violence. The frank and open discussion which these topics engendered was enhanced by the work of six small-group facilitators who were not from the leadership teams. This was the first time that non-leadership personnel have participated in an Africa Zonal Conference – with encouraging results. Relevant Bible studies also addressed both personal and ministerial aspects of the conference theme, providing further opportunities for reflection.

The strength of the fellowship enjoyed and the opportunity for personal reflection on matters relating to their ministry brought spiritual refreshment and renewal of purpose to the delegates. They returned to their appointments with clear vision and strengthened resolve that the Spirit of Jesus be seen in the administration of their areas of command.

On Sunday morning all delegates joined the Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Nancy Roberts, accompanied by Commissioners Joash and Florence Malabi (International Secretary for Africa and Zonal Secretary for Women's Ministries), at a divisional celebration of praise in Soweto, arranged by the Southern Africa Territory's Central Division.

Officers and soldiers from the division gathered together in a large tent to welcome the visitors in true African style, with much singing and dancing. Various music sections shared items of praise and worship.

Commissioner Nancy Roberts, in her words of welcome, testified to God's saving grace, protection and love. She spoke of the love she and the Chief have for Africa. Two delegates from the zonal conference gave their testimonies. Major Kapela Ntoya (Regional Commander, Mali) spoke of God's guidance and the privilege that is his to serve God in Africa, and Lieut-Colonel Mary Mkami (Territorial Secretary for Women's Ministries, Tanzania) testified that Jesus is everything to her.

In his Bible message the Chief of Staff remarked how incredible it is to all belong to the same Salvation Army. He called on the congregation to 'be whom we say we are'. Reflecting on the apostle Paul's challenge to 'put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humbleness, patience, forgiveness', he pointed out that the spiritual 'clothes' people wear reflect who they are.

Many people stood in commitment and rededication to God during the singing of 'I Surrender All'.

The Africa Zonal Conference was preceded by the All-Africa Women Leaders' Conference, held in the same venue and piloted by the Zonal Secretary for Women's Ministries. The theme for this conference was 'Shepherding with Love'. Using Psalm 23 and John 21:15-17 as the foundation, topics for consideration included anti-human trafficking, child abuse and domestic violence. The delegates were delighted to welcome Commissioner Nancy Roberts as guest speaker in the final devotional meeting.

Report by Lieut-Colonel Margaret Wickings and Major Carin Holmes

Tags: Africa