Centenary celebrations for The Salvation Army in Cuba included the enrollment of 100 new soldiers, a fitting testament to the theme of the anniversary weekend, ‘How Great is God’. The August gathering of around 1,100 Salvationists and friends in Havana also marked the first overseas engagement for General Brian Peddle, who took office as The Salvation Army’s world leader earlier in the month.
Described by Cuban Salvationists as ‘blessed’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘challenging’, the celebrations were intended to testify to what God is doing in the here-and-now as well as give thanks for his faithfulness over 100 years of Christian ministry in the Caribbean island. Delegates travelled to the congress venue, the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ Temple in La Lisa, from every point in the island. Their hearts and voices were united in praise and worship, with musical accompaniment provided by the Panama Divisional Brass Band.
The General and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World President of Women’s Ministries) led a spiritual meeting for Cuba’s Salvation Army officers and cadets on the Friday morning, exhorting them to be aware of the ‘urgency of the message of the gospel’ in modern-day Cuba and to ‘walk with God in sincere obedience’. At the end of the meeting, the General was interviewed by the Latin American News Agency, in which he expressed his joy at being a participant in such an important celebration in Cuba.
A public meeting took place on Friday evening. The President of the Cuban Council of Churches presented the General with a traditional Cuban hat as an acknowledgement of the faithful work of the Army over 100 years. The strains of a 100-voice choir led fittingly to the mass enrolment of 100 new soldiers from across the country, including four medicine school students from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Saturday morning commenced with a march of witness through Havana’s streets, while the international leaders – accompanied by Latin America North territorial leaders Commissioners Tito and Martha Paredes – attended a fruitful meeting chaired by Mrs Caridad Diego Bello, the Head of the Office for Religious Affairs of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. The meeting with government officials was cordial, pleasant, helpful and productive – evidence of existing good relations and encouraging for future cooperation. All parties expressed their desire to work together for the purpose of improving living conditions of the Cuban people, both materially and spiritually.
Later, local Salvationists presented a varied sample of Cuban traditional culture in their continuing worship and thanksgiving. The General and Commissioner Peddle personally greeted comrades and friends and interacted with the crowds. Poetry and dance featured, as did the launch of a new book The Miracle of The Salvation Army in Cuba, which records key moments in a century of ministry from early Jamaican pioneers to the present time.
A holiness meeting on Sunday concluded the weekend, during which the General’s Bible message invited more than 1,000 congregants to meditate on the need to get closer to God, pray for purity of heart and to become the kind of person God wants us to be. This, said the General, will be the way in which the Army is ‘transformed into an effective force – when sharing the good news of the gospel with those around us’.