Leaders from across The Salvation Army’s South Pacific and East Asia (SPEA) Zone appreciated the opportunity for spiritual retreat, development and the exchange of ideas on how to grow the Army when they met in conference in Rotorua, New Zealand, with General Linda Bond in late February.
“Gaining from the experience of others was informative and helpful, and the General’s teaching was stimulating and inspirational,” said Commissioner Donald Bell, territorial commander of the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory, which hosted the conference. Forty percent of the SPEA Zone’s current leaders are serving outside their home territories. Commissioner Bell said there was good discussion on how leaders could better support one another in The Salvation Army’s most culturally-diverse zone.
Under the title “Leadership in the 21st Century” the Zonal Leaders Conference focused on the spiritual life of the 42 delegates and those they lead. Each day started with worship, Bible study and prayer, before the General delivered a keynote paper. “Her teaching, based on biblical insights and her own vast experience as a leader, was forthright and thought-provoking,” said Commissioner Alistair Herring, international secretary for the SPEA Zone (based at International Headquarters in London).
Further papers were delivered by delegates, some focusing on cultural influences on the leadership of the countries within the zone, one concerning women in leadership and another covering the six principles contained in Commissioner Robert Street’s book “Love – Right at the Heart.” “Plenty of time was given to discussion and prayer, as leaders shared the opportunities and challenges currently being experienced in their areas of The Salvation Army’s work,” Herring said.
The major influence on the week’s discussions was the recently launched international vision for The Salvation Army – One Army, One Mission, One Message.
On the conference’s last day, delegates, translators and support staff travelled to Hamilton to worship with Salvationists and friends at Hamilton City Corps. The service began and concluded with singing, accompanied by a combined band and music team. Sarah Robertson and Joanne Whitt shared testimonies. Sarah spoke about the personal growth she had experienced after living through the Christchurch earthquakes, and Joanne told of her journey back to church after many years away.
The General took the opportunity to interact with the children. She was asked questions ranging from “Did you fight with your brothers and sisters?” to “Do you think children really matter to God?” Paul Gower presented the General with the word “Aroha” (Maori for “Love”), a gift made for her by the children.
In her Bible address, the General called people to holiness, urging the congregation not to be content to stay where they were, but to go all out for Jesus. Holiness was about “lordship, love and liberty,” Bond said, challenging the congregation to get rid of bitterness, to be free from religiosity and to be more like Jesus.