The theme ‘A Caring Army’ marked session 4 at Boundless 2015, highlighting the compassion with which The Salvation Army serves humanity.
Xyloband LED wristbands worn by attendees lit across the arena as Salvationists from around the world sang together in their own language ‘How Great is Our God’ with the New York Staff Band, transmission, the Amsterdam Staff Songsters, the Indian Mizo singers and Ayoung Lee.
The session featured both individuals engaged in caring service and modern large-scale efforts to enact change, such as the #UpForSchool campaign that calls on world leaders to ensure every child attends primary school.
‘The Salvation Army has credibility when we speak the gospel illuminated by the ministry experience of people in communities, corps and centres around the world,’ said Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant, director of the International Social Justice Commission that advocates for human dignity and social justice for the world's poor and oppressed. More than six million people have signed the #UpForSchool petition that will be presented to world leaders at the United Nations this September. The colonel said the Army has facilitated more than 67,000 signatures and called on delegates to add theirs at sar.my/upforschool.
‘The challenge of social justice is to do something even when it's not your problem’, he said, noting that nearly 700,000 students attend 1,600 Salvation Army schools around the world. ‘God has given us an incredible opportunity to show his love by helping young lives grow in body, mind, soul and Christ-like relationships.’
Cadet Surpiono Da Conceao Lopez from the Indonesia Territory is one such life. At 11 years of age, his family placed him in an enemy convoy truck, which led him to a refugee camp in Indonesia and then a Salvation Army boy’s home. He accepted Christ there, and met his family again 10 years later, sharing Christ with them.
‘When I see the faithfulness of God in my life, it makes me confident of God’s faithfulness for the future’, he said. Previously a hairdresser, Supriono said he now gives haircuts as a way to witness in the streets, which is illegal in Indonesia. ‘This is how I can tell them my story of how God rescued me’.
April Foster from the USA Eastern Territory also grew up in a Salvation Army home. She has spent 29 years in service with the Army in various countries around the world.
‘I’ve learned an important lesson by living with people in very challenging circumstances,’ she said. ‘What we focus on makes all the difference … When we focus on what’s not right, what’s missing, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed. But when we focus on the strengths that people have … the dignity of every human being created in the image of God, then we begin to see a very different picture.
‘It doesn't mean the challenges are not there … But when we see each other as strong, as capable, as having gifts and talents, vision, wisdom, then so much more becomes possible for real transformation that is lasting,’ she said. ‘And that is the way God sees us.’
A creative arts team from the USA Eastern Territory presented three dramas throughout the session: depicting the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land, of William Booth’s opening of a match factory to provide fair wages and safe working conditions in the 19th century, and about the darkness that Christ pulls people from.
‘We want to be known as a caring Army, individuals and communities who understand God’s heartbeat and make his Kingdom a reality here on earth right now’, said Commissioner E. Jane Paone (Territorial President of Women’s Ministries, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary Territory) in the message. ‘Here we are, gathered together as a global Salvation Army to celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness. Each day, at a local level, and at an individual level, we are to show Christ’s love. He is the One on whom we depend completely, our source of love and light. He depends on us to act with compassion and justice.’
But who determines what is just, Commissioner Paone asked. ‘Somehow, we’re conscious of other people who oppress, yet unconscious of the ways in which we ourselves oppress. So rather than just thinking of “social justice” we need to remember God’s justice. It is a justice manifested and enacted in the Cross.
‘God so loved the world that he gave!’ she said. ‘He counts on our response.’
Musical performances included ‘The God Who Is’ by the Amsterdam Staff Songsters, ‘Psalm 91’ by the Mizo Singers with dance from the Hart Triplets, ‘Beauty for Brokenness’ by transMission with the Hart Triplets and Shaw Coleman, ‘Love is the Answer’ by Mannssambandet, ‘I’ll Fight’ by the New Zealand haka group, ‘Shine as the Light’ by the New York Staff Band, and ‘I Believe’ by Ayoung Lee.