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Nov25FriThe Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Sue Swanson minister to the South America West Territory and United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland November 25, 2011
Salvationists and friends in Bolivia were invigorated and inspired by the visit of the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Barry C. Swanson) and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women's Ministries). The Salvation Army's work in Bolivia – part of the South America West Territory – comprises the Bolivia Central and Bolivia Altiplano Divisions. The visit was the first ever by a Chief of the Staff to the Central Division and the first for many years to the Altiplano Division.
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The Swansons began their visit in the Altiplano Division. They were shown around day care centres that provide assistance to children and teenagers from vulnerable areas of La Paz. They also travelled out of the city to the historic community of Tiahuanaco – where the people speak Aymara – to see the work of a Salvation Army community centre.
Home league members from Tiahuanaco had prepared a large framework featuring coloured aguayos – pieces of cloth used in traditional communities – to demonstrate the joy they felt in being visited by the commissioners. Commissioner Sue Swanson spent time with the home league in the small room where it meets every week.
Back in La Paz, the visitors went to Achachicala and El Tejar Centres, each of which provides programmes for 350 children and teenagers.
In a united meeting the Swansons and territorial leaders Commissioners Jorge and Adelina Ferreira witnessed local Salvationists worshipping in a style which combined traditional Salvation Army music with native shapes and rhythms.
It was a special occasion for the Huajara Outpost from Oruro, which received a new flag from the territorial leaders, recognising the upgrading to corps status.
In his Bible message the Chief of the Staff challenged every Salvationist to preach the gospel. Many people went to the mercy seat at the end of what had become a night of joy and victory.
A brass band, officers and soldiers were waiting at Jorge Wilsterman Airport, Cochabamba, to welcome the Chief, Commissioner Sue Swanson and the territorial leaders to the Bolivia Central Division.
At an officers meeting the Chief explained with conviction the thinking behind the recently launched International Vision – One Army, One Mission, One Message.
In a TV interview later in the day, the visitors took the opportunity to speak about the work of The Salvation Army in Bolivia and throughout the world. It turned out that one of the interviewers had been born in The Salvation Army's Harry Williams Hospital.
The hospital was the focus of attention the next day, when medical staff, Salvation Army soldiers, patients, community members, construction professionals and a representative of SEDES – the government agency which oversees health provision hospitals – gathered for the dedication to God and official opening of a new building.
It was made clear that, just as a building needs good foundations, so the work at the Harry Williams Hospital needs to keep God as its foundation, with the staff being even more important than the building. After the prayer of dedication and ribbon cutting, everyone had the opportunity to tour the new facilities.
A Saturday evening festival showcased some of the talents of the division's Salvationists. Presentations of Christian dance, timbrels, mime, Christian folk and brass band music attracted the attention of people passing by. A programme for children, with the message 'Hear and Obey' ran at the same time as the festival. Children were given balloons and Salvation Army flags.
The Lord's presence was felt from the first moment of the Sunday morning holiness meeting. Praise and worship choruses gave way to the sound of a brass band for the entrance of flags representing corps and centres from across the division. The forest of flags prepared the way for the entry of divisional and territorial leaders. Finally, the international visitors made their entrance, receiving a joyous reception from Salvationists and friends.
Enthusiastic dance items were presented by Catalina Booth Kindergarten and the divisional timbrel brigade.
The Chief of the Staff's Bible message touched the hearts of the congregation, with many people moving forward to pray at the mercy set.
The meeting finished with flags waving and paper streamers flying as Salvationists and friends showed their happiness and thanksgiving to God.
Report by Major Aida Cáceres de Alí and Major Gloria Flores
Spirit of Remembrance and Thanksgiving at Kettering Anniversary Celebrations
Remembrance and thanksgiving were threads woven seamlessly into the fabric of 127th corps anniversary celebrations at Kettering Corps, in the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland. The occasion, coinciding with Remembrance Sunday in the UK, was richly enhanced by the spiritual and visionary ministry of the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Barry C. Swanson) and Commissioner Sue Swanson (World President of Women's Ministries).
Their clear, concise Bible messages were received readily and responded to positively – and not just by those who, by the close of the weekend, had knelt at the mercy seat or stood in public recognition of Christ's love and supreme sacrifice for them.
A busy schedule began with a reception at the mayor's parlour, where the Chief and World President, divisional leaders Lieut-Colonels Mike and Wendy Caffull, corps officers Major Paul and Lorna Doust and corps representatives were welcomed by the Mayor of Kettering (Councillor Margaret Talbot). Also present was the mayor's chaplain, Major Richard Cook (corps officer at nearby Rothwell).
Hospitality was to be reciprocated when the mayor and her consort were welcomed to the Army during both the Saturday evening celebration festival and Sunday morning meeting.
The festival featured quality contributions from senior and junior music sections, including the home league singers – whose item was of particular pleasure to their World President. She said God had often used music to grab her attention. Recounting an amusing incident from a music camp in America – where she played cymbals – she taught the spiritual lesson of keeping an eye on 'the conductor' and following his lead.
After the band's rendition of 'Shine as the Light', the Chief expounded on verses from John's Gospel and urged: 'We must bring God's presence into dark and dead environments.'
Having returned recently from Bolivia, the second-in-command of the Army's work worldwide also told the congregation of a new project started by Salvationists in Yauri Chambi, La Paz, to provide a clean, drinking water system for their isolated community. A thanksgiving offering midway through the festival raised nearly £300 towards the project. Proceeds from the corps's community carol services in December will also support the scheme.
'Thank you, Lord, for all your goodness through the years of yesterday' – words of Sunday morning's opening song – led into prayers for God's help as the corps sought to be 'building on what has gone before and moving forward in ways that are relevant'. The inclusion of 'One Life to Live' by the singing company enhanced the prayer period.
In his Bible message the Chief called on individuals and nations: 'Let go of selfish, earthly things and turn to spiritual, everlasting blessings.' Then, as 11 o'clock approached, the band played 'Nimrod' as a prelude to the congregation observing two minutes' silence. Retired Bandmaster Michael Barratt played 'The Last Post' and 'Reveille' – as he has for the past 50 years.
He repeated that role during the afternoon remembrance service at the town's war memorial where the Chief laid the corps poppy wreath. The commissioners then joined the corps officers and band to head a march of councillors, clergy, community groups and services representatives around the town.
The playing of 'Montreal Citadel' by the band – with Commissioner Sue Swanson 'starring' on cymbals! – gave a sparkling start to the evening meeting, in which testimony brought challenge and blessing.
Having known the pain and heartache of a broken home while in her teens, Sheila Barratt was to experience 'a wonderful, wonderful day … when Jesus I met'. She said she now knows 'the healing, comfort and closeness of the Lord'. Geoff Lewis, a car mechanic, told of challenging times in his workaday witness and shared some spiritual insights that come through his job.
As he stood alongside the Chief to receive his bandsman's commission – presented by a former Bb bass player in the Chicago Staff Band to the youngest tuba player in the corps band – Jonathan Marsh was a visible testimony to talents being dedicated to God. Earlier, in an account of the Army's worldwide witness, the Chief told how inspired he has been to see the dedication, passion and faithfulness of Salvationists in such places as Africa, Korea, Germany and Japan.
The commissioners also sang their testimony as they introduced a chorus to the congregation – 'When I remember that he died for me I will never go back'. It was appropriate to Commissioner Sue Swanson's ensuing Bible message in which she emphasised God's covenant to all generations.
The spirited singing of 'I'll go in the strength of the Lord' as a concluding anniversary anthem was a fitting act of corporate witness to faith and commitment.
Report by Major Trevor Howes