Alaska proclaims “Come join our army”

Salvationists gather for the 2008 Alaska Congress.

by Tina Bottjen, Captain, and Jenni Ragland –

Commissioner Pat Swyers (center) poses with the “Women of Warfare” at the Alaska Congress.

“Come, join our Army” was the battle cry as more than 200 soldiers and friends gathered for the Alaska Congress in Saxman-Ketchikan under the leadership of Majors Doug and Sheryl Tollerud. Commissioners Philip and Patricia Swyers, Lt. Colonels Harold and Joann Brodin (Northwest divisional leaders), the Northwest Brass, and Territorial Bandmaster Neil Smith were special guests for the Congress weekend. Majors James and Eileen Halverson and the soldiers of the Gateway Corps planned a welcome by the Cape Fox Dancers, a local Native dance troupe, who greeted delegates with their traditional dances.

During the weekend, participants were able to be strengthened and equipped for better service. While officers spent a time of encouragement with the Swyers, soldiers, including many of the young people, learned about serving as local officers in the TEAM Seminar, led by the Brodins. At the women’s rally, vignettes of Alaska’s “Women of Warfare” portrayed the WOW (Win One Woman) theme. Written by Home League Secretary Tina Bentley of the Mat-Su Valley Corps, the vignettes featured Commander Eva Booth, Field-Captain Belle Newton, Adjutant Coralee McKinnell and Major Dolores Rivitt, who each contributed significantly to building the Army in Alaska. At the men’s rally, Brodin challenged the delegates to be “men of mission,” quoting from Ezekiel 37.

The division celebrated its youth, recognizing the Gateway/Wrangell Bible Bowl team, who placed first in the Southeast Regional Bible Bowl playoff, after stiff competition from Haines and Sitka. A budding timbrel brigade from Klawock entertained the audience.

The Army in Alaska welcomed its newest recruits, as Swyers enrolled five junior soldiers and six senior soldiers.

Onlookers watched the march of witness, as flags and musicians paraded through town. Many from the community also enjoyed the craft bazaar and a special concert with the Northwest Brass, held in the shopping mall, and learned about the Army with “salvation” as its middle name.

The Sunday morning service was a time of remembrance, honoring comrades who were promoted to Glory this past year. A giant white cross was carried through the crowd, bearing roses that were placed in a smaller cross. The visual was a reminder that although the journey can be long, eternity with Christ—because of the cross he bore for us—will be beautiful. In his message, Swyers encouraged the delegates to be clean, to cast their cares on the Lord, and to be refilled. The Holy Spirit poured out blessings as God’s people sought him around the cross that was transformed into a penitent form.

It was hard to leave the mountaintop to go back to the valley. We were reminded, though, that the valley is in Southeast Alaska, surrounded by the glory of God’s creation.

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