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IT was the welcome and dedication meeting for General Linda Bond but the focus throughout was on Jesus Christ. From the opening song, led by the Chief of the Staff Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, to the closing prayer from Commissioner Freda Larsson - Jesus was lifted up. On Sunday 17 April 2011 the Lancaster Hotel London conference room became a place of praise, prayer, challenge and inspiration as the General urged Salvationists to eagerly accept the flow of God's grace that leads to freedom from bondage, and to take hold of the fullness of power offered by the Holy Spirit.After reading Jesus' statements recorded in John 7:37-39 - ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit...' - General Bond outlined its cultural context, dramatically reiterated Jesus' words and rhetorically challenged the congregation. ‘Who doesn't want this living water? We all want it don't we? It is the Holy Spirit.'She passionately stated that, ‘We must not be content to play at being Army. It cannot be business as usual. What corps doesn't want revival? What corps doesn't want to be free of bondage and division? What corps doesn't want the Spirit of unity or the gifts of the Spirit?' The General declared war on mediocrity within the Army's ranks. She asked, ‘Who would not want the fullness of power of the Holy Spirit and who would want to be a mediocre Christian? Mediocrity is a sin for us. We cannot be content with mediocrity in our Christian living when the fullness of Jesus' power is available through the Holy Spirit.'General Bond said that Jesus instructed us to ‘Be filled with the Holy Spirit because the power of the Holy Spirit readies us for battle against evil. Regularly I put on the whole armour of God and when I have symbolically put it on then I can stand firm against the devil in the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘The world is fractured and needs the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot keep the Army moving forward in our own steam. We need the Holy Spirit,' she added.Following the General's message the mercy seat was quickly filled to overflowing as people responded to her call for everyone to drink of the living water of Jesus - the Holy Spirit.Earlier in the meeting, when outlining her vision for the Army to be Spirit-filled, relevant, united and moving forward, taking the message of Jesus Christ to a hurting world, General Bond emphatically proclaimed her allegiance to him. ‘I want to spend all my time as General standing for Jesus Christ. I never want to be ashamed of Jesus and I want The Salvation Army to always stand for Christ.'As the General challenged Salvationists worldwide to reach out to the lost and hurting, she said that the Army had been given as a gift to the whole world, ‘We were never made to stay within four walls. We must move out to change the world with the transforming message of Jesus.' The General's vision was echoed by Cadet Christianne Zünd when she represented all Salvationists in welcoming General Bond. The cadet said, ‘As Salvationists all over the world have followed your election and read your inspiring testimony in Salvation Army papers, it has become evident that you are absolutely committed to living a life of praise, thanksgiving, obedience and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ. You are passionate about Jesus, Salvation Army mission, teaching, prayer, holiness and serving people. We love that. ‘After the welcome meeting to the High Council [and before General Bond's election as General] you were asked what you were looking for in a General. Your answer was: "I wish the new General to be unafraid to take risks, to inspire us, to make us proud - a General who is a true Salvationist, who follows the mission with great focus and who loves to be with people." Surely this is the General we now have in you.‘I know I speak on behalf of thousands of Salvationists when I say that we commit ourselves to continue to pray for you,' affirmed Cadet Zünd. During a moving moment of dedication for General Bond, Retired General John Larsson said that there is no installation ceremony for a General as ‘that is the privilege of the High Council - but ours is the privilege of sharing in this moment of of dedication'. He then prayed, thanking God for raising up and sustaining The Salvation Army and for calling and preparing, in every generation, the leaders the Army needs. ‘Thank you for General Linda Bond and the grace you have given her. Thank you for her gifts, her vision and for her willingness to accept the call of leadership when it came through the High Council. We pray that she will know your presence every day. Lord, as we think of the incessant demands placed on her as General please keep her strong, well and safe. Give her health of body, wisdom, courage and resilience of mind. Refresh her with your living water. May your joy be her strength and your peace her special gift.'Scripture was significantly used throughout the meeting with the Chief of the Staff reading from Hebrews 12, the World President of Women's Ministries Commissioner Sue Swanson presenting John 7:37-44 and Cadet Zünd quoting Romans 1:8 and from Psalm 119. The International Staff Songsters and the International Staff Band provided excellent music support, four delegates from the current session of the International College for Officers prayed and Major Daniel Dasari was the Army flag bearer. The live web streaming of the welcome and dedication meeting was watched in 35 countries with all continents represented. A recording can be seen at http://sar.my/welcome on the International Headquarters website.
Report by Lieut-Colonel Laurie RobertsonPhotos by Paul Harmer
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