God Provides Congress Victories
Lined Mercy Seats Reveal God’s Working
by Robert Docter –
Yes! We REALLY had a Congress.
More than 8,250 registered delegates and hundreds of day pass attendees gathered in Long Beach, Calif., and felt the inspiration and challenge of dynamic messages from General Paul A. Rader, Mrs. General Kay F. Rader, Commis-sioner Peter H. Chang and other Victory Congress leaders.
The “victory” came from God. His spirit moved throughout services in the spoken word, within periods of fellowship, in the drama and spectacle of stage presentations, and in the power of the highly diverse music as it communicated forcefully to all age groups.
Chang, in reviewing the Congress stated: “What a marvelous occasion it was when we all came together in prayer expecting His blessing. God was honored throughout each meeting, and we were greatly encouraged by the effort of the comrades throughout the Territory evidenced at the Congress. What a great joy and encouragement it was to fellowship with delegates and to see the over 1,600 new soldiers sworn in as we realize that our Lord has honored us under the banner of People Count! during these past three years. We praise his name for all he has done through the Congress. It is now our duty to carry on with this great Salvation war. Let us press on, greatly encouraged, with God’s task at hand.”
The Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center venue proved to be an excellent choice as it provided auditoriums, arenas, conference rooms, space for day care, food service capability, available hotels, overflow access to video screens and an inspiring visual setting just across the lagoon from the liner Queen Mary. As the size of the registration continued to expand, events were shifted to different areas of the complex able to accommodate the crowd. Convention Center ushers managed audience admission to various events in a polite but firm manner. The “delegate pin” depicting the Congress logo was sufficient to gain admission to any event so crowds moved quickly and easily to available seating. The overflow rooms each had excellent video connections with main events and also provided “live” coordination to stimulate a greater sense of involvement.
Even prior to the opening of the Congress, many participated in the Victory University offerings. Major Dale Hill, V.U. coordinator, described the event like this: “The obvious spiritual victory exemplified in word and action by the keynote session speaker, Joni Eareckson Tada, set the tone for a renewed resolve and determination to experience personal “victory in Christ” in the hearts and lives of the delegates. Thirty years as a quadriplegic, confined physically in a wheelchair, Joni is by no means captive to infirmity in her heart and mind. She soars in spiritual ecstasy and unlimited freedom. The eight afternoon workshops reinforced the assurance of continuing victory for those who remain in Christ. Dr. Chuck Miller examined the spiritual requirements for a successful union with Christ. Commissioner Will Pratt (R) communicated the formula for the daily Christian walk; Dr. Raymond and Mrs. Anne Ortlund built a case for spiritual victory in relationships; and Dr. Jack Anderson moderated a panel of faith-tested Salvationists that offered assurance of the grace of God that lifts and sustains in life’s’ tragic occurrence.”
The settings of each presentation were quite dramatic. Excellent sound and lighting capability and multiple video screens brought everyone into close contact with even single speakers. The Friday night “Great Victory Rally” immediately revealed the scope of the crowd and elevated the expectancy of surprise and drama in all future Congress events.
The arena was packed as Christian “country” singer Ed Pollock provided some preliminary music along with the Concord Band under the direction of Richard Spicer. Pollock, a Salvationist, really “lit up the crowd” with his contemporary vocal offerings accompanied by his band. Then, along with the Los Angeles Harbor Light Center Choir, they presented Amazing Grace. Following greetings by Mrs. General Kay Rader and a presentation by the Concord Band, the audience was inspired by a personal testimony from Joni Eareckson Tada. Tada had brought the key note to the Friday “Victory University” workshops. The United Singing Companies, led by B/M Ivor Bosanko, provided their contribution prior to “prayer in many languages” offered by selected representative from the mission field and other ethnic ministries while Ms. Nadia Murahovskay of Russia provided a beautiful violin arrangement of the memorable melody I’ll Not Turn Back. A very unique visual presentation of scripture was presented by the Red Shield Ballet Troupe.
Following musical presentations by the Pasadena Tabernacle Songsters, led by William Flinn, Rader spoke in a warm, friendly yet challenging manner from a small platform in the middle of the arena. He concluded his comments by inviting Mrs. Rader to join him, along with the 1,600 or so new soldiers to be enrolled. As the soldiers came to surround them on the floor of the arena, the stage on which they were standing was transformed into a star. The area around the star was lit with brilliant red spots from above. A blue border enclosed the red, and a representation of the Army flag became evident. Wearing summer uniforms with the Army flag on their shoulders, the new soldiers verbalized their commitments to Army doctrines led by both Raders.
Rader then provided opportunities for others to commit to God and hundreds streamed down to kneel and pray. The ARC Command had brought in over a thousand for this meeting, and they were very evident in maroon shirts. Many of these joined others as a sign of consecration and commitment.
The staging of Christus Victor by Joy Webb Saturday evening was absolutely “state of the art”. Presented almost as a theater-in-the-round, with no proscenium or curtain, lighting and staging were critical. The orchestra and chorus were seated in front of the stage between two long finger-like ramps which provided entrance and exit capabilities as well as separate staging areas. The lighting was provided from a grid on top of the stage area and from large spotlights at the rear of the arena. During the performance, four of the lighting standards slowly lowered and changed the mood and nature of the angle of the lighting in a dramatic way.
In song and drama, cast from the corps of cadets from the College for Officer Training, the content revealed the triumphant victory of Christ himself as well as Army heroes of this century.
CFOT principal, Major Terry Griffin, stated “The Great Victory Congress is now history, however, it’s impact will be emblazoned on the hearts and minds of the cadets and officers of CFOT for a long time. The cadets came away from the Congress with the spirit evident in Christus Victor. Christ is Victorious, and through Him we can have victory in every aspect of our lives.”
Sunday brought special times of consecration and inspiration. The morning service focused on the corps of cadets as the Messengers of God’s Love session were ordained as ministers of the gospel and commissioned as Salvation Army lieutenants. Once again, Rader used the opportunity as a challenge to all to accept the cause of Christ through his grace and love. Many were moved and came forward to pray both in the Terrace Theater and in the overflow rooms.
Sunday afternoon celebrated the service of a number of individuals for their dedication and commitments to God and the Army. Among them were Commissioners Peter H. and Grace E. Chang to whom Rader presented retirement certificates after 37 years of service. Special music also inspired as Captain John Purdell, playing the role of William Booth on a soap box, sang New Lives for Old; Jennifer and Sarah Ray provided a special arrangement of God Help the Outcasts; and Songster Jenny Clark of Great Britain sang I am the Candle as session flags from former years were brought forward and posted. Cadet Lisa Smith, Songster Barbara Allen and Captain Anelene Trimmer presented Because You Said with a trumpet obligato provided by B/M David Longoria. The message was brought by Mrs. General Kay Rader. Once again, the mercy seat was lined with seekers.
The Sunday evening service, transferred to the Arena, centered on the initial appointments of the “Messengers” to the field. As always, great excitement flooded through the arena as Griffin presented the session to the Army’s international and territorial leaders. Rader provided them with the charge to be faithful to their calling, and Chang called them forward to receive their first appointments. The “Founders Song” O Boundless Salvation, led by the National Commander, Commissioner Robert A. Watson, ended the service and the public meetings of the Congress.
Concluding a highly successful event such as this required the diligence and patience of some outstanding people behind the scenes. Coordinators for each event, sound and recording crews led by Evan Williams, event directors, stage hands, ushers, participants all are to be highly commended. Additionally, those who provided child care for parents did an outstanding job.
Mostly, however, the Congress Coordinators, Captains Ken and Jolene Hodder, deserve special recognition. Hodder stated: “I have been privileged to coordinate the Great Victory Congress. God is richly blessing the Army, and the opportunity to work with so many fine people on an event such as this is one that I will never forget.” At the conclusion of the weekend Hodder learned he had been so successful with this Congress that he was destined to have the privilege of doing another one in his appointment to Atlanta as coordinator of the International Congress to be held there in the year 2000.