Crowds of more than 7,000 people gathered at a temporary pandal (meeting hall) outside The Salvation Army’s secondary school in Kowdiar, Kerala, as General André Cox presented the Bible message at a united holiness meeting. With the venue overflowing, the international leader offered his own seat on the platform to an 80-year-old woman who had made a three-hour journey from Cherukole to join in prayer and worship. The General encouraged all Salvation Army officers present to give up their seats, exemplifying the servant leadership evidenced by Jesus in the gospels.
The congregation – formed of Salvationists, friends and special guests from the length and breadth of Kerala – responded to the General’s actions with applause and tears of appreciation. The words of Dr John Syamkutty OF (‘a great message of sacrifice’), Salvation Army Founder William Booth (‘Others’) and Jesus (‘your leader should be like a servant’, Luke 22:26 Contemporary English Version) were redolent, and the exhortation of the apostle Paul to ‘be imitators of God’ (Ephesians 5:1 New King James Version) took on fresh meaning.
Led by Territorial Commander Commissioner Samuel Charan, invited dignitaries included Mr Palode Ravi, Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Kerala, Mr K. Muraleedharan, Member of Legislative Assembly, The Most Reverend Dr M. Soosa Pakiam, Archbishop of Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, Rt Rev Dr Gabriel Mar Gregorios from Malankara Orthodox Church, Rt Rev A. Dharmaraj Rasalam, the Bishop of South Kerala, Rt Rev Dr Thomas Mar Timotheos Episcopa, President of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association and Rev Mathew Skariah, the Auxiliary Secretary from the Bible Society of India.
The holiness meeting was part of a five-day visit by the international leaders to the India South Western Territory. At a women’s rally, Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women’s Ministries) challenged the congregation to ‘go into the community and witness among them for Jesus Christ’. The General, meanwhile, urged young Salvationists to meet human needs without discrimination through ‘consistent prayer and hope’. To this end, the General’s private secretary, Captain David Williamson, shared his own testimony of God’s work in his life and encouraged young people to come forward and commit to a life of serving Jesus.
A march of witness processed for miles throughout the city of Thiruvananthapuram, with thousands of people of all ages taking part. The General took the salute, amid the strains of indigenous musical instruments, enthusiastic shouts of ‘hallelujah’ and a colourful array of banners, flags, traditional dress and cultural items.
Each of the territory’s 333 corps had taken part in a ‘365 days – Territory on Its Knees’ prayer initiative in the year preceding the General’s visit. All involved felt that God had indeed showered his blessing upon India South Western during this special time of renewal, rejuvenation and recommitment.