The USA Western Territory hosted the 2017 International Conference of Leaders (ICL) in a practical way on the morning of Sunday 5 November when delegates were received by 21 corps (churches) across the Southern California Division.
The ICL is held every three to five years to provide a cross-cultural forum for the General to meet with leaders from the 59 territories and commands to discuss matters of importance to the Army. The movement's diversity was well illustrated by the corps visited, with Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese and Laotian cultures represented.
USA Western territorial leaders Commissioners Kenneth G. and Jolene K. Hodder accompanied General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women’s Ministries) to Long Beach Citadel Corps where the General enrolled two new senior soldiers.
'It’s great to be here to encourage you in this step of faith,' he said. 'Today, you don’t become members of a church, you become soldiers in God’s Army.'
Commissioner Silvia Cox read from 1 Peter 2:9-10, imploring all to declare the praises of Christ, who calls people out of darkness. 'What Peter is telling us reminds us of who we are if we accept Jesus as our Saviour,' she said. 'As we accept him, we become one holy nation. We’ve been given a common citizenship.' The commissioner, who was born in Argentina and has citizenship in three different countries, encouraged worshippers that 'citizenship of Heaven is the best one to have'.
The Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Brian Peddle) and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World Secretary of Women's Ministries) visited Bell Lighthouse Corps – about two miles south-east of downtown Los Angeles – accompanied by USA National leaders Commissioners David and Sharron Hudson. Unbeknown to the organisers, the ministry at Bell Lighthouse had started when the Hudsons were corps officers in Huntington Park and the Bell Shelter was under the supervision of the corps. Commissioner David Hudson recalled: ‘On the first night one person attended. Today the Bell Shelter has grown, developed and now has its own corps.’ The Bible message was given by Commissioner Rosalie Peddle.
At each of the corps that were visited, one of the leaders gave a testimony while another preached. It was surely a unique experience for one division to have leaders from around the world preaching at 21 corps on one day.
On Sunday afternoon a public meeting held at Los Angeles Central Corps brought together more than 1,000 Salvationists, officers, cadets and friends to welcome the ICL delegates and for a rally focused on mobilisation in The Salvation Army in the areas of youth, ministry, diversity, and worship and service.
The meeting featured music by the territorial youth band, which appropriately played 'All the Nations', and the territorial staff songsters. Concentration and joy were evident through Torrance Singing Company's 'I’ll Stand for Christ', and the fourth contribution was a Korean fan dance to 'Amazing Grace' that brought colour and vibrancy to the meeting.
'Share Change' video testimonies highlighted Salvation Army ministry through a youth sailing club in Portland, Oregon; a lunch programme for agricultural workers in central California; and a Korean senior college in Phoenix, Arizona. ICL delegates from the Switzerland, Austria and Hungary, Kenya East, India Northern and Korea Territories prayed during the service in their native languages.
In his message, the General acknowledged living in a world adrift, a world of fake news and alternative facts. 'We might be tempted to think the situations we are facing are unique, and no one has faced the challenges we face today,' he said. 'The fact of the matter is that people of every generation have faced great trials and difficulties ... The reality is that God can still touch and transform lives, and if he can do so one life at a time he can do it in a community, in our nations and in the world.'
He challenged the congregation not to focus on their weakness or incapacity to change the world, but to look up with eyes of faith to the God who can and will change the world. 'Isaiah reminded the people of his day and reminds us,' he said, 'that God wants a relationship with you and with me. God wants to bless, but it depends on us opening our hearts to him.'
Moments of reflection followed the General’s address in which many people knelt at the mercy seat.
Finally, the territorial staff sections, Torrance Singing Company and Korean fan dance group combined in a final item to send the congregation into the evening with the message resounding that ‘We are an Army’ mobilised by God.