General Cox Visits the Southeast

General Andre Cox visited a corner of the USA South as March gave way to April, stopping in Augusta, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida, and joining celebrations of different kinds in both cities.

He helped The Salvation Army in Augusta celebrate its 125th anniversary of work there and throughout the Georgia Division, and traveled to the Florida Division to join in another celebration – that of the officer careers of Commissioners Steve and Judy Hedgren, who retired from active service.

Joined by Commissioner Silvia Cox, world president of women’s ministries, The Salvation Army’s international leader addressed the Doing the Most Good annual dinner in Augusta, speaking to the Army’s friends and supporters about the hope that is available to a despairing world through Jesus Christ. The dinner was hosted by The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, which also conducted a midday tour of the facility for the international leaders.

Major Charles Powell, Georgia divisional commander, was the tour guide for the Coxes, and he led them through the five-year-old center’s state-of-the-art workout area, aquatics center, performing arts auditorium/chapel and other facilities that have attracted a membership of some 3,100 Augustans. As the General concluded the tour, he paused to field a few questions from the local media and told them he liked the center’s location in the heart of a lower-income community in a historically significant part of the city, situated beside the old Augusta Canal and Sibley Mill/Confederate Powderworks.

“We’re an integral part of this community, and that’s important,” General Cox said. “And what is more important is that we’re giving people hope.”

Following the tour, Major Powell shared with the General that the Kroc center recently held an awards ceremony for the boys involved in the center’s basketball program, and that at the conclusion of that program, 13 young men made decisions for Christ. General Cox replied that scenarios such as that show the Army at its best as it transitions its social outreach into its spiritual ministry.  He said he suspects that the Army, internally, sometimes frets too much about whether the public regards the organization as a church. But the beauty of The Salvation Army, he said, is the entrée that its social outreach provides for a spiritual conversation.

“This is what we’ve been entrusted by God to do,” he told Major Powell.

That thought was still with him as he began his address to the gathering of Army supporters that evening. “Some people wonder if we’re a church,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful when you can’t tell. God is in such places as these, and we’ve seen the evidence of that today.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr., presented proclamations for a Salvation Army Day in the city as well as a Salvation Army Week as the Augusta Command marks its 125th anniversary. The annual dinner ended with the presentation of the Doing the Most Good Award to Ed Zeigler, a member of the Augusta Advisory Board since 1959.

The international leaders, accompanied by Commissioners Don and Debi Bell and Lt. Colonels William and Debra Mockabee from territorial headquarters, were welcomed to Tampa by Florida divisional leaders Colonels Ken and Paula Johnson. They attended a Friday evening dinner celebrating the Hedgrens’ career spanning five decades, and on Saturday General and Commissioner Cox conducted the ceremony of retirement in a service led by former Florida divisional commander, Lt. Colonel Vern Jewett.

On Sunday, the Tampa Corps and corps officers Lieutenants Ben and Annie Bridges welcomed the Coxes and the guests from THQ at the holiness meeting as Commissioner Silvia Cox brought the message and the General shared his personal testimony. The Florida Division, like Georgia, is celebrating 125 years of Salvation Army work in the state, and on Sunday evening, Florida Salvationists were ready to celebrate with the international leaders at a soldiers rally at the Tampa Corps.

The gathering was themed “A Godly Heritage … From Generation to Generation,” and it served as the kickoff of the division’s anniversary celebration. The divisional commander was joined by Divisional Corps Sergeant-Major Dan Hagar and representative Junior Soldiers in welcoming the international leaders, and Commissioner Cox delivered the message.