Western territorial leaders attend back to back congresses
(l-r) Commissioners Doreen and David Edwards, Commissioners Nikiwe Shipe and Tadeous Shipe (far right) greet Zambian President Dr. F.T.J. Chiluba at the Zambia and Malawi Territory Millennial Congress.
Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards, western territorial leaders, returned recently from a two-week trip to the African continent, where they were special guests at the Southern Africa Territory Millennial Congress and the Zambia and Malawi Territory Millennial Congress.
While in Africa, they dedicated the Malawi regional headquarters, viewed Salvation Army programs, visited Western officers on overseas assignment, and spoke at officer’s councils. In Zambia, they met with U. S. Ambassador David Dunn, who is from Pasadena, Calif.
New Frontier Managing Editor Sue Schumann Warner accompanied the Edwards, to photograph and report on the trip and to report on the Army’s work in those countries.
The journey was filled with emotion, both in respect to the nature of the Army’s work in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the impact of the people and the land.
“As part of the African diaspora, the continent of Africa holds a special place in the hearts of my wife and I,” said Edwards as he brought greetings from the Western Territory to delegates on the opening night of the Southern Africa Territory Congress. “We may have been born somewhere else, but our roots most definitely are in Africa.”
Southern Africa Congress
An exposition hall on the outskirts of Johannesburg was transformed into a holy place during the Southern Africa Millennial Congress, “Forward…Simunye!” attended by nearly 4,000 Salvationists from throughout the territory, including a 10-member delegation from Mozambique. Many delegates had traveled up to 15 hours in small buses crowded to capacity.
The International Staff Songsters, under the leadership of Captain Peter Ayling, provided special music throughout the weekend. It was the final stop for the 35-member group, which had been on a 10-day singing tour of South Africa.
While English was the primary language spoken during meetings, significant portions of worship, singing, and testifying were expressed in a number of the 11 languages spoken in the territory. Army youth made a valuable and enthusiastic contribution through drama, song and dance.
The Zulu word, ‘simunye,’ meaning ‘together’ was the watchword for the congress, as the territory celebrated the oneness of Salvationists of every ethnic background. The ability to gather together, in less than a decade after the end of apartheid, was meaningful. In years past, worshipping together would have been unlawful.
“We are called to be a salvation people,” said Territorial Commander Commissioner Israel Gaither as he addressed delegates the first night. “This is our time with God as one people to receive a vision of who we are. This is our time for restoration, renewal, and revitalization.”
The Army’s work in Johannesburg was noted by the mayor of the local southern council, Ms. Nandi Mayathula-Khoza. She expressed appreciation for the Salvation Army’s role throughout the years as a church, and especially for its spiritual emphasis. “That which you do is well appreciated by us,” she said. “As a government we couldn’t cope with poverty in our community without your contribution to a better life. The Salvation Army has demonstrated that it is a reliable partner. Your mission brings hope with compassion to thousands of people on a daily basis.”
Commissioner Doreen Edwards spoke to more than 300 during Saturday’s Senior Rally. Relating warmly to the audience, she encouraged those present to use their spiritual gifts and to look to the future. “We are celebrating one God and one people this weekend,” she said. “Look up! Not to recapture the past but to be used by God as he chooses. We are one body. We must work together. I believe the best is yet to come in South Africa.”
The commissioning of the Southern Africa Territorial Band highlighted the afternoon’s festival of music. Prince Lengoasa, well-known South African jazz musician and son of Salvation Army officers, was commissioned as bandmaster. Gaither challenged and charged the band to “to emphasize evangelism, to introduce men and women, boys and girls, to the Kingdom.”
Setting the stage for the remainder of the congress, Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards addressed the crowd on Saturday night following clips of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech shown on a large screen. Standing together at the podium, they spoke about vision and having a passion for vision, for the lost, for mission, culminating in a call to officership. “Are you available to God?” Edwards asked. “Make yourself available, whatever he calls you to do.” Scores responded.
Edwards’ message on race and reconciliation Sunday morning, based on Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 6:1-6 began a work that continues even now. Speaking strongly on the need for believers to break down barriers, Edwards spoke from experiences in his own life in the Caribbean. “Prejudices run deeply, cultural or otherwise. The early church had strong prejudices,” he stated. “In Jesus Christ, reconciliation is possible. The cross reconciles us to God but also to each other; it makes us one people.”
He added, “It is presumptuous of me to talk to South Africans about reconciliation. You have taught the world. You are still in the throes of that exercise.” For reconciliation to happen, he noted, “Someone has to take the first step and say ‘I’m sorry. I was wrong’.”
Reports indicate that the Holy Spirit worked in the days following the congress; Salvationists of different ethnic backgrounds approached each other, confessing and apologizing for attitudes and behavior. “People met, expressed their hurts and anger, and pain and confusion,” said one soldier. “…many hard things were said; many hard things were received; misunderstandings were cleared up; confessions were made; apologies were given and received.”
A 10-member delegation from Mozambique also travelled to the Con-gress, led by Divisional Commanders Majors Rob and Judy Holley. The group of two soldiers, two cadets (from the Army’s training college in Mozambique) and six officers valued the opportunity to join with others from the territory.
Malawi Regional Headquarters Dedicated
Traveling next to Malawi, the Edwards joined officers and staff at the new Malawi Regional Headquarters in Blantyre to dedicate the building, which is due to be completed soon, to the glory of God and work of the Army.
“Through the generosity of the Western Territory, the building is under construction,” said Regional Commander Major Malcolm Forster to those gathered in the courtyard in front of the building. “It is fitting that our guests are with us today.”
As Edwards dedicated the building, he stated “In the USA West we want to see ourselves as partners in mission with you. We are working together with God –not just together, but together in God.”
Commissioner Doreen Edwards prayed for the furtherance of the Army’s work in Malawi, for the leaders who will occupy the building, and for all the officers “in that part of the vineyard.”
Zambia and Malawi Territorial Congress
The Zambia and Malawi Millennium Congress, “Forward with Christ,” opened on a mild spring evening, as thousands gathered under the stars at the Agricultural and Commercial Society of Zambia showgrounds in Lusaka. Many had traveled a number of days by public transport to get there; most camped at the site, bringing bedrolls and food which was cooked over open fires in a field.
Rejoicing–in enthusiastic, rhythmic song and dance–was the standard, with each of the eight divisions/districts bringing a presentation.
Commissioner Doreen Edwards brought greetings to the crowd, stating it was good to be back in Zambia (they had been there four years ago for special meetings). “God is at work in Zambia, and we give him the praise and glory.”
Commissioner David Edwards addressed the delegates, speaking on Exodus 14:15, exhorting them to go forward in their Christian walk. “Move! Go forward! We pine after the past…but God always wants his people to look to the future.” He reminded them that God will “take your hand and walk with you. He’s a God like that.”
By the next night, more Salvationists had arrived, and delegates crowded the grassy field. One hundred and fifty arrived by trucks from the Mazabuka Division, home to Chikankata Mission, having spent four hours on the road in a trip that normally takes two hours.
The evening was filled with music and drama as songsters, bands, timbrelists, and vocal groups provided polished and poised performances.
Saturday morning’s ecumenical assembly featured as special guest the President of Zambia, Dr. F.T.J. Chiluba, who, as a fellow believer in Christ, expressed appreciation for The Salvation Army’s work in Zambia. He also gave the Army a gift of $10 million kwachas ($3,000 U.S.).