Cultural Awareness Highlights Seminar

GRACEFUL–Laotian dancers lead call to worship at Saturday’s seminar.


by Geir Engøy – 

It certainly isn’t easy to be All Things To All People (1 Cor 9:19-23). It’s less cumbersome to settle for some things to some people, or maybe a little bit to my own group. But, reaching for that goal, more than 250 Salvationists from across the Western Territory, representing “all people,” converged on the Cerritos Sheraton ballroom in the afternoon of Saturday June 12.

The seminar was kicked-off very W.E.L.L. by Program Secretary Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock. Basing his thoughts in Acts 2:42-47, he inspired us to Witness, Evangelize, Lead and Love.

What transpired during All Things To All People went far beyond the mere gathering of bodies in a big room waiting for the ensuing culinary delights of the International Food Fiesta outside.

The seminar crossed cultural barriers–this was intentional. Cameo appearances of exotic ethnic or linguistic groups were not the goal. Jesus draws all people from all backgrounds. His cross has become a symbol of his sacrifice all over the world. At the foot of the cross there is no distinction between us while at the same time we reflect the diverse groups that make up our communities. All Things To All People was not about stereotypes, neither was it about the ethnics doing their thing for curious outsiders to witness before business as usual was resumed.

The multi-cultural call to worship was led, nonverbally, by the graceful Laotian dancers. Dressed in traditional costumes they interpreted a tune familiar to most of the delegates while the English words and music of “As The Deer” were provided by the “All Things House Band.” As in so many other instances throughout the afternoon the blending of cultural expressions helped create something grander than each part, glorifying God who is all to all.

Because of a technical glitch, Major Susan Wun, who had prepared her moving testimony in her native Chinese, had to switch to the more challenging English at the last moment. As she shared from her heart, those present lifted her in support. The common sentiment in the room provided ready channels for the Holy Spirit to flow freely.

Lt. Robert Marshall told it like it was, making no excuses for reminding the delegates that “just because you wave the flag, you won’t get in! Don’t make no difference whether you’re a first generation Salvationist or you grew up in the band. You need Jesus in your heart, as Lord and Savior. That’s were it’s at!” His verbal “dancing” stems from a colorful tradition and it brought our eyes onto Jesus.

Reflecting contemporary praise and worship music, the “All Things House Band” under the dynamic leadership of Cindy Engøy, led the congregation to blessed heights with South African inspired rhythms in “We Are All One.”

Workshops helped delegates learn more about the different nationalities, ethnicities and languages that are often hidden behind the “Asian,” “Latino,” or “black” labels. The presenters, Salvationists who themselves represented the gamut of people groups among whom we minister, helped delegates answer a question like: “How can I, as part of The Salvation Army, partake in this type of ministry where I live?”

Another workshop dealt with second generation Americans, who tend to identify more strongly with the USA than do their parents. Delegates were expertly instructed in how the Army meaningfully deals with such a situation.

Music and worship glorifying God are powerfully expressed through people’s cultural means. The Army has traditional ways of doing this. Yet in today’s multicultural world, unfamiliar ways are being heard and experienced to an increasing degree. Their places in The Salvation Army was candidly explored.

Also, recognizing that youth culture often unites kids across cultural, linguistic, racial and social barriers, the “plug-ins” between urban youth culture and the Gospel were highlighted. How do adults connect with the youth and what might they learn from them?

English as a second language was discussed with both learners and teachers in mind. Sharing facilities, the sacraments and The Salvation Army and educational opportunities rounded out the very interesting miniworkshops.

Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards with General Eva Burrows (R) supported the seminar throughout, and delighted the delegates with their greetings. Edwards expressed the need for all to get to know people from other cultures in order for us to better understand each other. Burrows shared insights gained through her vast cross-cultural / missionary experiences.

Salvationists in the Western Territory have high school education, college, graduate studies, doctorates–we were born in the USA, we were born in a dozen other countries–we speak one, two, three, four, languages, fluently!–we are minorities, we represent the majority–we were born into Christian homes, into Buddhist homes, into atheistic homes–we are black, Chinese, anglo, Korean, Norwegian, Tlingit…As we unite and tap our resources we are moving to the next level of cross-cultural ministries, intentionally striving always to be All Things To All People (1 Cor 9:19-23).

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