Celebrating 125 years

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New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga hold recent congress.

Salvationists and friends celebrate during New Zealand’s Freedom Congress.

In early April, over 1,000 Salvationists attended The Salvation Army’s “Freedom Congress” to commemorate 125 years of service in New Zealand and the expansion into Fiji and Tonga. Eighty young Salvationists attended a separate Junior Soldier Congress.

Public worship services were held throughout the three-day event.

“This congress is an investment in our future,” Commissioner Garth McKenzie, leader of the Army in the New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga Territory, told worshippers. “And we want it to bear fruit!”

Visiting international speakers at the congress included Commissioner M. Christine MacMillan, director of the International Social Justice Commission based in New York; Captain Danielle Strickland from Melbourne; and Major Peter Farthing from Sydney. Local leaders McKenzie and Major Ivan Bezzant also participated.

“Let it be about Jesus!” Bezzant declared to the congregation. “Believers go to heaven, but disciples change the world.”

Hundreds of people of all ages moved forward to fill the large prayer space near the stage in every worship service. Many signed their names to one of the four large crosses and also took and signed commemorative bookmarks, dedicating themselves to serving The Salvation Army’s mission under God.

To recognize the Exchange—the site of the Army’s first open-air evangelistic outreach in Dunedin on April 1, 1883—a combined band of brass players from throughout New Zealand’s South Island filled the space with music.

Two months before the first Salvationists arrived in Dunedin in March 1883, a writer to the Otago Daily Times likened bringing The Salvation Army to New Zealand to the introduction of thistles, sparrows and rabbits. The warning was that “the Army will prove a nuisance as troublesome as these pests and as ineradicable.”

Those words had a “prophetic ring,” said McKenzie. “The Salvation Army, under the Holy Spirit’s leading and empowering, has indeed become a nuisance. God has used us! We’re looking forward to the future and believe that God has not finished with us yet.”

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