12 June 2013

MORE than 3,600 Salvationists converged on St Louis, Missouri, for the USA Central Territory's Family Congress under the leadership of General Linda Bond. Exhilarating meetings, special events and family-oriented activities made for a non-stop weekend of spiritual refreshment, strengthened connections and renewed commitments.

From the moment the General exclaimed: 'This is a victory congress. The Holy Spirit is going to do a new thing that could very well spark revival around the Salvation Army world,' she had won over her listeners with her fervour and hope. Her strong, clear Bible messages – sprinkled with humour and anecdotes – expounded on the International Vision, One Army, One Mission, One Message. Many Salvationists felt compelled to kneel at the mercy seat at the end of each session, with others standing to show a deeper commitment.

Anchored by the world-renowned Chicago Staff Band, each meeting was packed with blessings. Highlights included a record US$8.1 million World Services ingathering; the enrolment of 160 senior soldiers; a massed singing company of nearly 200 children; the presentation of Certificates in Recognition of Exceptional Service to two women soldiers for their support of missions and youth; an original musical drama based on William Booth’s essay 'In Heaven but Not of Heaven'; and moving testimonies of transformation given by officers, soldiers and employees. The God-glorifying event was supported by territorial leaders Commissioners Paul R. and Carol Seiler, and USA national leaders Commissioners William A. and Nancy L. Roberts.

Outside of the main worship sessions, delegates had many other opportunities for participation. An exhibit hall featured a marketplace of vendors, historical exhibits and The Salvation Army’s supplies and purchasing department, with a special emphasis on fundraising to support a clean water project for the Kenya East Territory, which is a partner in mission of the USA Central Territory. Elsewhere, 225 people completed a sponsored five-kilometre walk/run for World Services, raising approximately $5,000. 

There was a myriad of family opportunities during the congress, including a leisurely Saturday afternoon at the zoo. During main meetings, dynamic, spiritually-enriching programming for children was provided.

Special activities for youth and young adults included a late night 'afterglow' at a museum, a contemporary Christian music concert, and a Soapbox with the General where she answered a broad spectrum of questions. She told the young people: 'William and Catherine Booth’s heart is in the youth. This is a revival generation. Our greatest days are ahead of us, and you’re going to be a part of it.'

Echoing this sense of promise, on Sunday morning 32 cadets – nearly half first-generation Salvationists – were commissioned as Salvation Army officers by the General. Again, the General’s heartfelt preaching on holiness met people where they were, with large numbers of people moving to the place of prayer. A call to officership resulted in nearly 130 responses.

In the exuberant final meeting the General challenged the new lieutenants to be their God-given best. They were given their appointments by Territorial Commander Commissioner Paul R. Seiler, with most beginning their ministry as corps officers across America’s Midwest.

Report by Elizabeth Kinzie