by Lt. Colonel Marlene Chase
With banners and bright regalia they came, celebrating 130 years of multicultural ministry. Marching to the music of “God’s Soldier,” Salvationists waved the flags of 39 countries representing the ethnicity of the Rockford Temple, Ill., Corps.
They celebrated the ministry that began with a group of Scandinavian Salvationists who opened the work in 1892. Subsequently, a strong Hispanic ministry developed, and most recently the corps has welcomed a vibrant group of African soldiers and adherents. The three-day celebration, “From East to West…Celebrating the Body of Christ,” featured earnest prayers and inspiring worship with joyous music and dance.
“This is what heaven will look like,” said Commissioner John Ludiazo, who with Captain Daniel Diakanwa, participated in the celebration, including a panel discussion led by Dr. Bob Slack in which they shared the dynamic work of the Lord in Africa. A retired officer from the Congo, Commissioner John lives in Arizona, while Captain Daniel, also retired, is a private consultant on multicultural ministries and multicultural organizations in New York City.
Special guests Majors Myron and Nancy Wandling shared their experiences of serving in Rwanda, Zambia and Malawi. Their powerful preaching emphasized the need for a revival through the Holy Spirit’s power in personal living and an urgent commitment to winning the world for Christ.
Other guests included soloist Collins Mbesi and bandsmen from the Royal Oak, Mich., Corps. Joining the Rockford Temple Band, they presented soul-stirring music, largely written by African musicians. Salvationists from Sudan, Central Africa, Nigeria and the Congo shared their stories, testifying to God’s power. A Rockford community church provided musical selections along with participants from the Rockford and Royal Oak corps. Bandmaster William Himes acted as master of ceremonies for the Saturday evening concert which featured dance and timbrel groups, the Rockford Temple African Choir and the United Band. Among the meeting’s highlights was a 100th birthday honor for Major Elizabeth Mafuta Nkankala Mpungi, who served as a corps and divisional officer in Africa and has been a soldier at the Rockford Temple Corps for the last nine years. She is the mother of Miriam Leka, who with her husband, Abraham Leka, have been significant leaders of the African work in Rockford. An important segment in the concert was “Our Legacy,” a tribute to 130 years of Temple Corps ministry presented by Bandmaster Steve Sjögren.
With guests from points far and near, the weekend included much fellowship and feasting, including a Swedish pancake breakfast on Saturday hosted by Lt. Colonels Dan and Becky Sjögren and a “Taste of Africa.” Hispanic soldiers from Rockford Temple and Asian soldiers from Rockford Tabernacle also provided meals and snacks to weekend guests. A history exhibit prepared by the celebration committee was a key point of interest. After the final service of worship on Sunday morning, a cake reception followed with much rejoicing.
“Rockford has a rich heritage of faithfulness, ministry and welcoming others,” said Rockford Temple Corps Officers Majors Monty and Angie Wandling. “As we look to the future, we see this heritage continuing but with new ministry opportunities and new groups of people coming together with the same faithful spirit. We are working to celebrate our differences while at the same time celebrating our oneness in Christ.”