Heritage, in large part it’s what defines us. But as Salvationists our identity in Christ is even more central—and what makes us family. The Boundless Joy Anniversary Celebration this was replete with testimonies of the joy found in following Jesus and highlighted how God has used people to achieve great things in the territory’s 130 year history. Featuring Commissioners Kenneth G. and Jolene K. Hodder, Kenya West territorial leaders, the event also incorporated an international perspective and foreshadowed the International Congress.
A powerful keynote session focusing on God’s goodness opened with music by the Chicago Staff Band (CSB) which anchored the weekend and at the meeting’s end premiered Illumniate, a sparkling, complex composition written by Andrew Wainwright for the Congress a few weeks later. The territorial praise band The Singing Company also debuted a new song, “We will remember.” Other musical numbers included an exhilarating rendition of the gospel “The blood still works,” by TSA Madison Street Choir and a folksy “I look back and marvel at the goodness of God” (Alfveby) by Lt. Colonels Daniel and Rebecca Sjögren and Swedish friends.
The Sjögrens each shared their salvation experience as did a host of others throughout the evening, including 15-year-old Sean Voeller, Cadets Matthew Beatty and Rona Prado Mutcha, Colonel Paul Kim and Eliza Shirley’s great-grandchildren, Major Joyce Shiels and Captain Geoffrey Crowell.
“I’m glad I accepted Jesus, aren’t you?” echoed throughout the program, a preview of a main Congress session created by Major Steve Yoder who, dressed in a kilt, exclaimed he was a “mutt” and a “Swede wanna-be.” He, too, shared his testimony of accepting Christ at music camp as a 9-year-old with guidance from Bill Himes. “We’re all links in the chain,” he said, encouraging delegates to thank those who’ve been instrumental in their faith and to be that for others.
Ken Tregallas, Oak Creek Centennial, Wis., Corps sergeant-major, received the Certificate of Exceptional Service from Commissioner Paul R. Seiler, territorial commander, for his ministry and determination, which in recent years has included overcoming cancer. Synonymous with The Salvation Army in his community, Ken simply said, “It’s about others. We do what we can to help others. We do it for the Lord.”
An eloquent Commissioner Kenneth Hodder harnessed humor and tangible images to challenge delegates in a message titled, “Three-foot World,” a metaphor for the area where we each can have maximum impact for Christ. Citing learning and leadership as valuable, he advocated loving others as scripture commands us is even more powerful. “It’s not our gifts that will count in the end but our obedience,” he explained. A wave of “The Lord’s Prayer” in nearly a dozen languages gave a glimpse of Heaven.
Two perennial weekend favorites included the Walk/Run for World Services, in which more than 100 people participated, and the Resource Connection exhibit hall which featured a fascinating timeline aligning territorial events with broader Army and world history.
Boundless Partnerships—especially international—played out on Saturday morning. The five young adult summer mission teams (SMTs) and their ministry locations were highlighted and prayed for personally. For instance, Major Jim Garrington, who served with his wife in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down, talked about the Army in Europe and prayed for the Hungary team. A/Captain Ketsia Diaz, who saw the influence of SMTs when running a children’s home in Haiti with her late husband, Steve, prayed in Creole for the Caribbean team and Captains Jonathan and Catherine Fitzgerald who’ve been appointed to Jamaica. Central officers serving outside the territory who were present were recognized, including Colonels Merle and Dawn Heatwole, serving at National Headquarters, and the Chief of the Staff Commissioner William A. Roberts and Commissioner Nancy L. Roberts.
Envoys Merle and Cheryl Miller received the Certificate of Exceptional Service from the territorial commander for their 20 years of leadership to the life-transforming ministry of the Southeast Michigan Adult Rehabilitation Center.
Commissioner Jolene Hodder gave a moving message with riveting biblical and modern-day examples of those displaced, suggesting as Christians we are refugees. “In this life of faith, I believe we are all refugees journeying to our true home…but when and where we choose to be God’s people, we are home…When we give sacrificially of ourselves, we are home.” An astounding record $8.6 million for World Services/Self-Denial Ingathering was announced.
The celebration concluded with an evening of Boundless Praise, featuring the CSB and the Bill Booth Theater Company (BBTC), which will represent the territory at the Congress for which a theme chorus, “In Your Presence,” was written by Bandmaster William Himes and debuted that evening. In fact, the concert primarily showcased compositions and arrangements by Himes, including the challenging Caprice for Cornet played by Beth Cooper and the major work Aspects of Praise, the four movements of which were linked by BBTC presentations. Other impressive highlights included Shaun Thomas’ euphonium solo The Better World and Swing Low featuring Brett Tolcher on trombone.
Delegates not only embraced the music and drama but Commissioner Kenneth Hodder’s challenge, “What Makes Me Think.” Again connecting with his audience through personal experience, the commissioner drove home his point that if we give God whatever we have—however inadequate and imperfect—He will use it just as Jesus used two loaves and five fish to feed 5,000. “He did not call you to be a sensation, but He has called you to be a servant!” he exclaimed.
The meeting concluded with a salute to Bandmaster Himes who is retiring later this year. Introduced by his life-long friend, coworker and fellow bandsman Ron Shoults as an evangelist who has used music as a “hook” to reach others for Jesus, Himes was recognized for his 38 years of service which has influenced not only this territory but the world. After an extended standing ovation, Bandmaster Himes succinctly thanked those significant in his life and ministry: his family, staff, the Army and the CSB, BBTC and Singing Company. He concluded with sharing his life verse, Philippians 2:13 (LB), “For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants.” May it be so with each of us as we look to the future and our part in God’s Army.