The General and Commissioner Silvia Cox receive warm welcome ‘home’
The visit of General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women’s Ministries) to The Salvation Army’s Finland and Estonia Territory was a celebration of God’s blessings and an eagerly awaited homecoming to a couple who had served as territorial leaders from 2005-2008.
The congress theme, Mission to Serve, was demonstrated in practical ways during a visit to Alppikatu supported housing unit, Helsinki. Center manager Mr. Antti Martikainen’s welcome included an explanation of the center’s ‘housing first’ approach; residents have their own rental contracts and names on their letterboxes. The General focused upon this approach, reminding residents that their names are known to God and that they are uniquely known and loved. After being presented with souvenir ‘mission to serve’ aprons, the international leaders and the territorial leadership team served lunch before enjoying the meal with the 30 residents.
The homecoming theme continued at a reception hosted by the Helsinki International Rotary Club. The event provided an opportunity for the General – a former member of the club – to renew Rotary friendships. President Peter Tuominen highlighted the special partnership between Rotary and The Salvation Army worldwide, with their common goals of making a difference. The General spoke informatively about his life after leaving Finland and the path that resulted in his election as the 20th General. He reminded Rotarians and guests about The Salvation Army’s unique DNA – the essential fusion of both spiritual and social transformation.
The first public event of the visit was the commissioning of the two cadets of the Messengers of the Gospel Session. New Lieutenant Anna Vargas spoke of the journey that had brought her from Brazil to Finland, before Lieutenant Eliel Vargas presented his testimony through a song he had composed for the occasion. As seekers lined the mercy seat following the General’s address, he invited those called to officership to move forward and stand with him on the platform. It was a great encouragement to see young people respond and publically acknowledge God’s call.
The Rock Church – excavated from an outcrop in the heart of Helsinki – proved a remarkable venue for the evening celebration, which featured a specially convened congress brass band, choir and timbrel group. Young people from Vaasa presented a dramatic interpretation of Matthew 25.
To warm applause, the General presented the Hedvig von Haartman Award 2018 (named after The Salvation Army’s first leader in Finland) to former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen. A long-time supporter of The Salvation Army, Ms. Halonen – who served from 2000 to 2012 as the country’s first female premier – allowed her image to be used in a 2017 advertising campaign in which she posed as a homeless person. Territorial Commander Patrick Naud commented on the incredible success of the campaign and the huge interest the president’s poster had generated worldwide. In her acceptance speech, former president Halonen praised The Salvation Army’s social ministry and remarked on the continued and essential need for it to fulfill its mission.
During the final holiness meeting, in response to the General’s challenge to look forward and be Christ’s witnesses in the world today, many seekers went forward in public acts of prayer, before a spirited and enthusiastic ‘O Boundless Salvation!’ brought the visit to a joyful close.
Report by Lieut-Colonel Ced Hills
Photos from the visit can be downloaded from the IHQ Flickr stream: