Bolivian Salvationists Inspired by Visit of the Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Sue Swanson
Salvationist and friends in Bolivia were invigorated and inspired by the visit of the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Barry C. Swanson) and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women’s Ministries). The Salvation Army’s work in Bolivia – part of the South America West Territory –comprises the Bolivia Central and Bolivia Altiplano Divisions. The visit was the first ever by a Chief of the Staff to the Central Division and the first for many years to the Altiplano Division.
The Swansons began their visit in the Altiplano Division. They were shown around day care centres that provide assistance to children and teenagers from vulnerable areas of La Paz. They also travelled out of the city to the historic community of Tiahuanaco – where the people speak Aymara – to see the work of a Salvation Army community centre.
Home league members from Tiahuanaco had prepared a large framework featuring coloured aguayos – pieces of cloth used in traditional communities – to demonstrate the joy they felt in being visited by the commissioners. Commissioner Sue Swanson spent time with the home league in the small room where it meets every week.
Back in La Paz, the visitors went to Achachicala and El Tejar Centres, each of which provides programmes for 350 children and teenagers.
In a united meeting the Swansons and territorial leaders Commissioners Jorge and Adelina Ferreira witnessed local Salvationists worshipping in a style which combined traditional Salvation Army music with native shapes and rhythms.
It was a special occasion for the Huajara Outpost from Oruro, which received a new flag from the territorial leaders, recognising the upgrading to corps status.
In his Bible message the Chief of the Staff challenged every Salvationist to preach the gospel. Many people went to the mercy seat at the end of what had become a night of joy and victory.
A brass band, officers and soldiers were waiting at Jorge Wilsterman Airport, Cochabamba, to welcome the Chief, Commissioner Sue Swanson and the territorial leaders to the Bolivia Central Division.
At an officers meeting the Chief explained with conviction the thinking behind the recently launched International Vision – One Army, One Mission, One Message.
In a TV interview later in the day, the visitors took the opportunity to speak about the work of The Salvation Army in Bolivia and throughout the world. It turned out that one of the interviewers had been born in The Salvation Army’s Harry Williams Hospital.
The hospital was the focus of attention the next day, when medical staff, Salvation Army soldiers, patients, community members, construction professionals and a representative of SEDES – the government agency which oversees health provision hospitals – gathered for the dedication to God and official opening of a new building.
It was made clear that, just as a building needs good foundations, so the work at the Harry Williams Hospital needs to keep God as its foundation, with the staff being even more important than the building. After the prayer of dedication and ribbon cutting, everyone had the opportunity to tour the new facilities.
A Saturday evening festival showcased some of the talents of the division’s Salvationists. Presentations of Christian dance, timbrels, mime, Christian folk and brass band music attracted the attention of people passing by. A programme for children, with the message ‘Hear and Obey’ ran at the same time as the festival. Children were given balloons and Salvation Army flags.
The Lord’s presence was felt from the first moment of the Sunday morning holiness meeting. Praise and worship choruses gave way to the sound of a brass band for the entrance of flags representing corps and centres from across the division. The forest of flags prepared the way for the entry of divisional and territorial leaders. Finally, the international visitors made their entrance, receiving a joyous reception from Salvationists and friends.
Enthusiastic dance items were presented by Catalina Booth Kindergarten and the divisional timbrel brigade.
The Chief of the Staff’s Bible message touched the hearts of the congregation, with many people moving forward to pray at the mercy set.
The meeting finished with flags waving and paper streamers flying as Salvationists and friends showed their happiness and thanksgiving to God.
Report by Major Aida Cáceres de Alí and Major Gloria Flores