Thursday morning’s second session of Boundless 2015, ‘A Unified Army’, was a moving reminder that the Army expresses God’s love in practical ways – such as through emergency response, a hospital, a children’s home, by the digging of a village well, in the ministry of a rehabilitation centre.
The Amsterdam Staff Songsters set the scene for worship and reflection with ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’. They later combined with Phil Laeger and transMission for ‘Be a Hero’, calling Salvationists to live for others in a hurting world.
‘I have seen first-hand the results of bridges of love being built across the world,’ said session leader Captain Anne Westmoreland. She thanked those who gave time, treasure and talents to serve in partnership with God. ‘You are building bridges of love in your communities. Our ultimate mission is to win people to Jesus Christ – and this is often done through practical service.’
The colourful Paduan Suara Korps Palu singers from Indonesia proved serving God isn’t gloomy, with a contagiously joyful presentation of ‘O, Sifuni Mungo’ [‘All Men, All Creatures, Everybody, Praise the Lord!’]. The Hong Kong and Macau Praise Dancers reflected this same spirit, as did the talented Hallelujah Quartet from Russia, which sang about defeating doubts with the power of faith.
Bill Booth Theater Group explored the concept of bridge-building, noting the strength that comes from partnership.
Throughout the session, The Salvation Army’s work in communities with deep needs was highlighted in video reports and testimonials.
The O2 audience heard about the Sand Dam Project in Kenya where, in 2013, The Salvation Army worked in partnership with the community to build a dam that provides enough safe water for 1,000 people who previously travelled a long and dangerous path to collect often unhealthy water. Even children walked these long distances, instead of going to school.
Captain Moses Njagi said the local corps wanted to show their community ‘in a practical way, that God loves them and cares about the things that they care about – even water’. The Sand Dam Project has strengthened the local Tawa Corps, which has grown by more than 30 senior soldiers and 50 junior soldiers.
The Tekokatu Clinic in Paraguay, which began in 1998, educates young women about healthy pregnancies and the importance of childhood vaccinations. This has led to significantly higher maternal survival rates for mothers and fewer childbirth complications for babies. The clinic is now also providing education to combat domestic violence. Outcomes include women choosing to further their education, starting their own businesses and growing in self-esteem.
Major Gladys Barrios reported: ‘God has raised Clinic Tekokatu as a bridge of hope and love that offers physical and spiritual health to the community in the name of Jesus.’
Other stories of changed communities took the audience to a street hospital for drug users in Norway, where people were assured they were worthy of love even if others turned from them in fear or disgust; to a Salvation Army children’s home in Kandhamal, India, where – in 2008 – children were hidden in the jungle to escape anti-Christian violence before finding safety in a refugee camp; and to Qingquan Village in China’s Sichuan Province where, after a devastating magnitude eight earthquake in 2008, The Salvation Army partnered with residents to build two reservoirs to collect water in an area with dry soil.
Captain Diana MacDonald, Territorial Secretary for Personnel in Pakistan and with wide Salvation Army healthcare experience, reflected on Jesus’ contact with the Samaritan woman at the well, noting he treated her with respect and built a bridge across a cultural divide.
‘Building a bridge can be difficult, but not impossible,’ she said.
She recalled her own patience in reaching out to a grieving woman whose five-year-old son was killed in an earthquake on his first day in school. ‘I started building a bridge of loving care with her. After five months, I saw a smile on her face and I prayed with her.’
The captain challenged the congregation: ‘Are we building bridges of peace, love, care and reconciliation – without discrimination – wherever we are? The world has a deep spiritual need, so let’s show the compassionate face of Jesus Christ wherever we go.’