All Africa Congress draws thousands
The 7,000 delegates to the Salvation Army’s first-ever All Africa Congress rejoiced together as the congress opened at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe. To the jubilant strains of the Zimbabwe Territorial Band, General John Larsson, Commissioner Freda Larsson, Chief of the Staff Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, Commissioner Eva D. Gaither and Africa Zone leaders Commissioners Amos and Rosemary Makina marched in together with a vast host of Salvationists from all of the African territories, commands and regions.
The international leaders had earlier been welcomed at the airport by the Zimbabwe territorial leaders Commissioners Stanslous and Jannet Mutewera along with the vice president of Zimbabwe, Her Excellency Joyce T. Mujuru, the acting mayor of Harare and the town clerk, all of whom are Salvationists.
At the opening ceremony more than 700 junior soldiers from Zimbabwe presented a colorful mass display; other presentations included the Zambia Territory Hosho Group, Zimbabwe Territorial Songsters and the East Africa Territorial Songsters. Delegates were also taught the specially-composed theme chorus, “Africa for Christ.” During the five days of the congress the national stadium became “Salvation Army City,” with Salvationists milling everywhere in their colorful uniforms. A major event was held each evening, but during the mornings and afternoons the delegates divided into groups for seminars, which were held in different areas of the stadium. These covered subjects of vital importance for the Army’s mission in Africa, including evangelism, combating HIV/Aids, marriage, young couples, single parents, youth, music, doctrine and Bible study. Sports Ministry for young people was a congress highlight.
Commissioner Stuart Mungate (territorial commander, Nigeria) led a seminar on Theology in an African context, dealing with topics such as satanism, sects and the occult. He spoke about Africa being found in both the Old and New Testaments and highlighted the theological challenge of mission in Africa. This seminar created so much interest that an extra session in the central concourse had to be arranged, attended by thousands.
The main evening events included “An Evening with the General” in which Larsson spoke about the international Salvation Army. He said “Africa is the continent that is wide open to the Gospel!” and in his message challenged African Salvationists to draw passion and purity and power from “the old wells.” General Eva Burrows (Ret.) was given a rapturous welcome when she addressed the congregation in Shona before switching to English.
The final meeting on Sunday morning, with more than 12,000 people in attendance, was led by the Chief of the Staff. A highlight was the recognition of exceptional service by soldiers and officers in Africa, including people who were establishing The Salvation Army in new areas. The meeting also saw a number of soldiers enrolled. In his final Bible message the General challenged the Salvationists to go into their communities and make “Africa for Christ” a reality. When he invited Salvationists to consecrate themselves at “the largest mercy seat in the world”—the soccer field—thousands went forward to pray.
In his final words the General thanked God for the truly amazing event that the first All Africa Congress had been, and thanked the Zimbabwe Territory for the outstanding feat of organization they, as hosts, had accomplished so successfully.
—Captain Evernice Chiranda/IHQ News Release