General gives first state of the Army address
by Kevin Sims –
The state of The Salvation Army, internationally—according to General John Larsson— is ”amazingly good.” He affirmed in the first “State of the International Salvation Army address”—delivered at “An Evening With The General” at International Headquarters—that the world’s largest army is bigger than it’s ever been and still growing. The General also revealed that the 109 countries where The Salvation Army is currently at work could soon be 110 because the possibility of The Salvation Army expanding to Poland is currently being explored. Already, the General said, 100 people meet there every week.
The General gave a view of The Salvation Army around the world, beginning in Europe, which he described as the “new mission field.” He praised the resourcefulness of European Salvationists who often seem to have their “backs to the wall.” Particular mention was given to the expansion of Salvation Army work and influence in Eastern Europe.
Africa came next, described as the “wide open continent.” The General spoke of the spontaneous seeding of the Army to other countries, and mentioned the All Africa Congress to be held in Zimbabwe, where the vice president is a Salvationist.
Next, to China, where General Larsson spoke about the country’s 100 million Christians. The Salvation Army already has many projects in China but he said, “Our prayer is that we might be able to go into China in the fullness of what The Salvation Army is.” He also spoke positively about the Army’s new work in North Korea.
In paying tribute to the Salvationists of India, who often are denied opportunities because they are Christians, the General highlighted the mostly Christian state of Mizoram where, he said, the people are “born with a missionary gene.”
An address of this nature couldn’t avoid talking about the Indian Ocean tsunami, and the General confirmed that The Salvation Army was “in it for the long haul,” with work that will go on for many years. He also paid tribute to the efforts being made to combat the evil of human trafficking.
The International Year for Children and Youth was highlighted as an important focus for The Salvation Army, with evidence that there is a hunger among young Salvationists for the gospel.
“The Lord is renewing his Salvation Army,” concluded the General.
The evening began with visitors being given opportunity to look round the new IHQ at 101 Queen Victoria Street, including the parts usually off-limits to anyone except staff. Vision Brass, led by UK Salvationist Paul Sharman, provided music in Café 101 while those attending the event enjoyed refreshments and looked round a new exhibition showing The Salvation Army’s response to the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.
After moving to the meeting hall at ground level, visitors crowded into the building’s main entrance, where the usual meeting room had been expanded to cope with the demand for the event.
The General’s address was followed by a lively question-and-answer session which touched on issues such as The Salvation Army’s stance on gambling and drinking, regarding which the General affirmed that The Salvation Army was not changing its position. There was also a request that the classic Army literature regarding the sacraments should be made available to this generation.
Chief of the Staff Commissioner Israel L. Gaither led an epilogue which was preceded by a beautiful vocal solo, “Befriended,” sung by Kathryn Payne and accompanied on the guitar by Berni Georges – both IHQ staff members.
The Chief thanked God for the General and spoke about The Salvation Army’s need to follow the will of God. “I believe The Salvation Army is meant for divine greatness,” he said. ‘We’re not intended to be ordinary – we’re a chosen people with a chosen purpose for a chosen mission.”
The rousing singing of “A Wonderful Saviour” was followed by a concluding prayer by Commissioner Freda Larsson. Her statement to God that “We believe you are holding The Salvation Army in your hand,” seemed to sum up the thoughts and beliefs of all the people present, who counted it a privilege to have witnessed an historic evening.