by Pili Martinez –
One of the distinctive features about the international Salvation Army is that we know how to celebrate! And for the Panama Temple Corps that meant no small celebration as they marked 100 years of service. People from around the world came together to rejoice in the memories and accomplishments, and to look forward to the bright and optimistic future of The Salvation Army in Panama.
The weekend was filled with excitement and music brought by the Bermuda Band and the Devotions in Motion group visiting from Atlanta, Georgia. One of the highlights was the Divisional Folkloric Group, their beautiful costumes and dances expressing their love for their country and the traditions they hold so dear to their hearts.
The special guest was Major Allan Wiltshire (R) from the Southern Territory. Wiltshire was the first Panamanian divisional commander to serve in his own country. During his message, he reminded the congregation to be beneficiaries of the past, present and future. “We are on the shoulders of people who prepared the way with sweat, blood and tears, leaving their heritage for the next generation. As we turn 100 years old, do not feel like second class citizens, but trust that the same God that brought life, will bring the fire of the Holy Spirit.”
Lt. Colonel Donald Bell, U.S. West chief secretary, also attended the celebration and announced that the Western Territory will finance the construction of the new divisional headquarters and school for the blind in Panama. That same day, the British Ambassador in Panama donated $16,000 for the renovation of various Salvation Army programs.
Western Territory Service Corps members Michael O’Brien, Violet Arteaga, Bud Dickinson, Annie Liang and Jessica McCaw joined in the celebrations.
One of the characteristics of the Panama Temple Corps is that it has been the mother corps for various other ministries in Panama and Costa Rica. The Rio Abajo Corps is one–– made up of mostly third and fourth generation Salvationists, the children and grandchildren of Temple soldiers.
Panama is a small division of the Latin America North Territory with five corps in total, but with great fire for the Lord and the salvation of their people. This was demonstrated by 94-year-old Corps Sergeant Major and founding member, Mrs. Odessa Marshall Nesfield, who gave her testimony of faith to the new senior soldiers and junior soldiers enrolled by Major Doug Danielson, chief secretary for the Latin America North Territory.
“Panama, bridge of the world, heart of the universe” is the slogan for the country, reminding people of the amazing man-made canal. The Salvation Army in Panama will continue to be the bridge for people who are eager to find the heart of Jesus Christ.