Reflecting Jesus in sunny Sitka

Scenic fishing community hosts annual Alaska Congress.

by Jenni Ragland –

Delegates from every corps in the division traveled to the town of Sitka in April for The Salvation Army’s 2010 Alaska Congress. Sitka Corps Officers Captains Kevin and Tina Bottjen and their team welcomed them all, including special guests Commissioners Philip and Patricia Swyers, who enjoyed their final Alaska Congress as Western territorial leaders.

Sitka—a scenic fishing community—was once the capital of Russian America. In fact, it was the site of the ceremony in which the Russian flag was lowered and the U.S. flag raised after the U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867.

Commissioner Pat Swyers noted “the excitement as Salvationists gathered in the beautiful village of Sitka to worship, praise and fellowship together. The mountains were covered with snow but the the sun shown brightly throughout the weekend. We invited the Territorial Executive Council to join us and they provided an excllent band and songsters group under the leadership of Territorial Music Secretary Neil Smith. The March of Witness—with flags waving, bands playing and commitments made to the ministry of our Army—will long live in our hearts and minds as we pray God’s continued blessings upon His people.”

This year’s Congress theme—“Reflecting Jesus!”—is from 2 Corinthians 3:18: And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams welcomed delegates on behalf of the community, sharing his own personal connection with The Salvation Army in Petersburg, Alaska, where as a self-described “rag-tag” kid, he and his sister spent many hours attending the Army’s youth programs. His reflection was a vivid reminder of the significant influence of the Army in nurturing its young people.

Discipleship seminars offered instruction on reflecting Christ in difficult and challenging times, noting how God has uniquely shaped each individual for service. The annual Community Care Ministries (CCM) luncheon celebrated faithful service, recognizing both junior CCM members and those who had reached service milestones from five to 45 years.

During the annual Parade of Witness, Salvationists marched down Sitka’s Main Street as cheering supporters lined the sidewalks. The parade stopped traffic as it wound through town, ending in front of the convention center where many gathered to hear the gospel message. The annual Craft Bazaar and Southeast Bible Bowl playoffs further shared the ministry of The Salvation Army with the community.

The theme of the Sunday Holiness and Memorial Service, “Transformed by His Grace—Reflecting His Glory,” began with the traditional memorial service for those Salvationists and friends promoted to Glory in the past year. During the altar call following Swyers’ message, those people seeking renewal and healing surrounded the cross in the center of the room.

As delegates reflected on God’s blessings and accepted the challenge to reflect Jesus in their everyday lives, Commissioner Philip Swyers summed up the weekend, saying: “The Alaska Congress was an exhilarating experience as we shared enthusiasm for the mission of the Army with Alaskan Salvationists. The joy of soldiers and officers is contagious and we caught it yet, one more time.”

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