Extreme ’99 Reaching the Lost
Delegates Challenged To Sacrifice
by Annika and Josh Cowing –
Approximately 275 delegates from all over the United States, Canada and Australia gathered at Pasadena Taber-nacle recently to attend the third annual eXtreme conference. The theme this year was “Reaching the Lost.”
In opening the conference on Thursday evening, UK Mission Team leader Phil Wall prayed, “God, I want to pray that you would come and speak to everyone here, and that at the end of this weekend, we would be different people than the ones who came in. People that know you more, people that love you more, people that will love our fellow man and those around us more than we do today.” Russell Rook expanded on this sentiment when he prayed “We want to know what it means to be lost; we want to be prepared to go to new places to find your people. Enable us to hear the cries of your world, Lord.”
These prayers were answered in many of the delegate’s lives over the next three days. eXtreme Coordinator Andrew Hill felt that “this year, delegates seemed more prepared than ever to be challenged and their level of spiritual maturity seemed to be higher as well.”
“A whole bunch of kids [from our corps] came last year and really got inspired and they came back and got more involved in the corps. So, this year we brought down even more because of the experience last year. We really wanted to light the same kind of fire under them,” said Lieutenant Doug Riley, corps officer of Portland Moore Street.
The conference programming was put together by members of the eXtreme management team from Pasadena, with contributions by The Salvation Army’s UK Mission team. Guest speakers included Bart Campolo, who spoke on the Christian’s call to action in their community, and Josh McDowell who emphasized the importance of knowing the Bible and the moral truths it contains.
Wall and Rook of the UK Mission team were also featured speakers. The worship was lead by Sara Downey and Pasadena Tabernacle’s Impact Worship Band. Sarah Grace once again provided challenging drama presentations.
One of the changes Hill implemented this year was the formation of “cell groups” which combined delegates from the same geographic region into smaller groups of 6-12 individuals. The purpose of these groups was to facilitate discussion, create more intimate bonds among delegates, and furnish platforms for prayer and reflection during the event. Additionally, delegates were encouraged to maintain contact with their cell groups after the event, to provide accountability for commitments made over the weekend.
A second change to this year’s conference was to transform the morning sessions into Bible studies, led by Major Chick Yuill. The atmosphere in these sessions was more relaxed and conversational than the evening sessions. Each Bible study ended with an interactive panel discussion, which gave delegates the opportunity to ask the speakers questions about previous sessions.
EXTREME MOMENT–Praise, worship, and teaching were all a part of the conference, which focused on “reaching the lost.” Approximately 275 attended.
But the most powerful addition to the weekend came on the Saturday evening of the conference. The delegates gathered expecting a similar format as the previous nights, but soon found something quite different. Phil Wall took the stage and invited the delegates to load a fleet of waiting buses quickly, explaining that they were being given a special opportunity to put their faith into action.
The groups were given a tour of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, and then taken to several Salvation Army outreach centers throughout the area, including the Pasadena ARC, Bell Shelter, The Haven, and Harbor Light. At each center, a worship service was held, led by members of the UK Mission Team and Yuill. Members of the Impact Worship Band provided musical support.
Following each service was a time of fellowship, where delegates were encouraged to interact with the residents of the programs. It was evident by the overwhelming response of the delegates that evening that their perspectives towards social action had been radically altered as a result of this experience. “The Salvation Army has such a great reputation for social outreach, but I’ve been a Salvationist my whole life, and this is the first time I’ve ever put personalities with the term ‘homeless,'” said Keith Spencer after visiting the Bell Shelter. “It definitely motivated me to find creative ways in which I can do my part to reach these people.”
“The challenge made to eXtreme delegates to reach the lost was met by a radical front line response in which hundreds of men and women were ministered to in the most moving and powerful way. This was a truly God honoring night, and in my opinion The Salvation Army did its absolute best,” said Steve Allen, divisional Social Services director.
Indeed, even Wall was affected by the experience. “I speak at so many conferences that very rarely am I so emotionally moved by an event,” he said. “But as I participated in the service at the Bell Shelter, I found myself speechless, and so overwhelmed that I actually had to sit down. In fact, after having that experience on Saturday night, I now believe that this type of outreach should be a standard for all future Salvation Army conferences.”
“In speaking with delegates during the conference, I really got the sense that session by session, God was stripping away layers of fear and timidity, leading them to a point where they would be receptive to the changes he wanted to make in their lives,” said Hill. On Sunday afternoon, delegates were given the opportunity to testify to those changes. As they began to share, an overarching theme began to take shape. The delegates found they had been emboldened with a new passion for the lost, and a sense of fearlessness for the future.
The feelings of the delegates of eXtreme ’99 are best expressed in the words of the worship song that concluded the conference: “Goodbye rage, goodbye hate, goodbye anger, goodbye malice, goodbye bitterness and slander, goodbye fear of man!”
A Visit to Harbor Light
by Susan Barton –
Growing up in the Army, my impression of “Salvationism” was going to the corps on Sunday morning, songster rehearsal mid-week, and a youth retreat now and again. On Saturday, October 30, 1999 that all changed, when the entire group of delegates piled on buses and headed to skid row.
Each bus had a staff member from the Harbor Light Center to explain where we were and what we were seeing as we drove through some of the hardest streets of Los Angeles.
After the driving tour, my bus headed back to Harbor Light. We shared a worship service with the residents of Safe Harbor and Harbor Light, and were completely awed at their enthusiasm toward a God that had saved them from the streets, some just days before.
We listened to the Harbor Light Gospel choir sing “Jesus is my help, my help” with a fervor that I could not match. It was truly an amazing service–we sang together, heard testimonies of what God had done in peoples’ lives, and listened to the Word of God. What else matters?
By far, the most amazing part of the night was the fellowship time we shared after the service. We heard stories of peoples’ lives, and how The Salvation Army had saved them. This was the reality I had never seen before. I spoke with one woman who was recovering from a suicide attempt, as well as addiction, who said, “I guess God wants something with me, if he saved me.” We were able to pray with her and let her know that God has a plan for us all.
This is what being a Salvationist is all about: hands-on action for those in need. The delegates at eXtreme ’99 were able to experience exactly what the Army is meant to be–an Army of believers reaching the lost through Christ’s love.