In this interview, Commissioner Silvia Cox shares her enthusiasm for Territorial Congress 2014, how she was called to officership and what her hopes are for The Salvation Army as a whole.
Tell us something about your background and calling.
My parents were missionary officers and I was born in Argentina—I think that's what makes me like warm weather! However, I don't remember too much about it because when I was three years old my dad was very ill and my parents had to return to Switzerland, but God spared him.
Together with my brother and sister, I grew up in Switzerland; I realize how fortunate I was to have such a good family background. I look upon Switzerland as my home because it was there that I went to school. When my parents were officers-in-charge of an institution in Geneva, I met my husband who was there to work and to learn French. He married the boss' daughter!
I was very young when I felt called to officership. I had heard a missionary officer speak about the work they were doing and for me it was quite clear: one day I would be an officer and a teacher and go to Africa. Years later, that's what happened.
I started teacher training in Geneva but stopped in the second year. Now I understand why—I think that if I had continued I might never have gone to the training college. Instead, I did a diploma in computing and, although I did not know it at the time, I was learning skills that I still use today. Our first appointment was to Morges, Switzerland; we had two corps appointments before going to Africa and from then on my ministry focused on territorial leadership, women's ministries and administration.
Is there someone who has had a major influence on your life and how has this helped to make you the person you are today?
When I was a teenager at Geneva 1, my corps officer, Captain Alice Sterck, took time to listen to me and to answer the thousands of questions that I had. She was a good example of a corps officer, wife and mother, and played a big part in my development, as did the prayers of my parents.
In your present role as World President of Women's Ministries you have already visited a number of countries. Are there some highlights that you can share—particularly related to women's ministries?
There are many. One example is the Worth program in Kenya West Territory where women who were once destitute are now providing for their families and communities. The program is all about empowering women by helping them to discover self-worth and by economic participation. Through Worth they are encouraged to generate savings, individually and in groups, by setting up village banks, by teaching themselves to read and write, by accessing training and by starting small businesses.
More than 14,400 women are now involved in Worth, which includes other denominations and faiths. Some women have given up prostitution and begging on the streets and some have started to take their children to school. Government intervention has resulted in many women being tested for HIV-AIDS. Lives have been changed in many ways and there is so much joy. Most importantly, 314 women have come to know Christ.
You will be travelling to Canada for the territorial congress this month. What will your role be at congress?
When we visit a territory, I share with the General in encouraging and motivating the soldiers and officers. I will also take part in the different meetings, sharing my testimony and the Word of God. I will take this opportunity to greet the officers and soldiers and to get to know some of them. I have a special interest in women and also children and families.
What do you hope Salvationists will take away from the weekend?
I hope that Salvationists will be renewed spiritually, and will renew their commitment to the mission. I also hope that they will enjoy the fellowship of being able to meet together for this celebration. I hope that God will move in people's lives and touch them in a special way. I pray that some may hear God's calling on their lives. I trust God and pray that he will do even more than we can think or imagine.
Why are events like the territorial congress important?
It is important to celebrate and be thankful for what the Lord has done. We are not always good at celebrating what the Lord has done. It is important to be encouraged by the Word of God, to get a renewed vision and see that we are not alone in our walk but are part of a big family. It is a good way to be inspired by what will be said and seen as we need to be both renewed and energized so that we can fulfil our calling to save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity.
Have you visited the Canada and Bermuda Territory before? What are your impressions?
I was in Canada in 2013 for the International Leaders Conference. The only visit we were able to enjoy was to Niagara Falls. This was impressive and I love the beauty of the falls. We know that this is a great country of incredible beauty and diversity. We hope that one day we will have the opportunity to explore much more.
When you were territorial president of women's ministries in the United Kingdom, you had a vision of Salvationists reading God's Word together and initiated the Bible-Reading Challenge. A change of appointment meant that you moved to IHQ before it was launched. Do you still have that same vision and, if so, how do you see it working out?
That vision is still there and it's shared with the General—it is something that is in our hearts. In 2015 there will be opportunity for the whole Salvation Army world to read through the New Testament in one year. IHQ Chaplain Major Pat Brown is meeting with a group who are arranging this initiative, which is linked with the international congress.
As we go around the world we share the importance of reading the whole of God's Word and hearing what it says. It sometimes seems that we have got things the wrong way round when we read just certain verses or commentaries, rather than starting with God's Word.
How do you balance the responsibilities of international leadership with those of wife, mother and grandmother?
Each is important for me and I wouldn't want one to suffer because of another. I think that I manage to balance each of these roles because I enjoy what I am doing and love the challenges. I think that it is important to spend time together, and I keep in almost daily contact with my family. I have never had too much of a problem between ministry and family because for me it is one thing—it's part of what I am—my ministry is also my family.
You lead a busy life, but do you have any hobbies or interests?
We both enjoy walking and do this whenever we can. I like reading—although I don't have too much time to read for relaxation. My other interests include photography and cooking, but again, at the moment, there is not much time to pursue these.
In recent years The Salvation Army has been facing transition. Are there some changes that you would like to see? Are there any things that you feel must never change?
I would like to see people valued more. We need to listen and focus on integrated mission by closer co-operation between our social and evangelical work so that we minister to the whole person and, through faith-based facilitation, learn how to build deeper relationships. A lot of other things will then automatically change.
I always want us to be one Army moving forward. We must never lose our mission to go to the lonely and the hurting and we must never lose the message of the transforming power of Jesus Christ that brings hope to a lost world.
This interview was conducted by Major Jane Kimberley from the February 22, 2014 issue of Salvationist (United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland), with additional questions from Salvationist (Canada and Bermuda Territory).