Leaders from The Salvation Army’s South Pacific and East Asia (SPEA) Zone appreciated the opportunity for spiritual retreat, development and the exchange of ideas on how to grow the Army when they met in conference in Rotorua from 21-26 February.
A special feature of this year’s Zonal Leaders Conference was the presence of General Linda Bond. The General is attending all five zonal conferences in her first 18 months in office.
‘Gaining from the experience of others was informative and helpful, and the General’s teaching was stimulating and inspirational,’ said Commissioner Don Bell, Territorial Commander of the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory, which hosted the conference. Forty per cent of the SPEA zone’s current leadership serve outside their home territories. Commissioner Bell said there was good discussion on how leaders could better support one another in The Salvation Army’s most culturally-diverse zone.
Under the title ‘Leadership in the 21st Century’, the Zonal Leaders Conference focused on the spiritual life of the 42 delegates and those they lead. Each day started with worship, Bible study and prayer, before the General delivered a keynote paper for that day. ‘Her teaching, based on biblical insights and her own vast experience as a leader, was forthright and thought-provoking,’ said Commissioner Alistair Herring, Zonal Secretary for the SPEA Zone.
Further papers were delivered by delegates, some focusing on cultural influences on the leadership of the countries within the zone. ‘Plenty of time was given to discussion and prayer, as leaders shared the opportunities and challenges currently being experienced in their areas of The Salvation Army’s work,’ said Commissioner Herring.
Major influences on the week’s discussions were the recently launched international vision for The Salvation Army—One Army, One Mission, One Message—along with the six principles contained in 'Right at the Heart', a book written by Commissioner Robert Street to support the international mission. 'Right at the Heart' reminds Salvationists that the love of God is The Salvation Army’s major resource and that they are to love one another as they take their caring ministry to the world.
On the conference’s last day, delegates, translators and support staff travelled to Hamilton to worship with Salvationists and friends at Hamilton City Corps.
The service began and concluded with stirring singing, accompanied by a combined band and music team. Sarah Robertson and Joanne Whitt shared their testimonies. Sarah spoke about the personal growth she had experienced after living through the Christchurch earthquakes, and Joanne told of her journey back to church after many years away.
General Bond took the chance to interact with the children. She was asked questions ranging from ‘Did you used to fight with your brothers and sisters?’ to ‘Do you think children really matter to God?’ Paul Gower presented the General with the word ‘Aroha’ (love), a gift made for her by the children (see above).
In her Bible address, the General called people to holiness, urging the congregation not to be content to stay where they were, but to go all out for Jesus. Holiness was about ‘lordship, love and liberty’, she said. The congregation was challenged to get rid of bitterness, to be free from religiosity and to be more like Jesus.