by Joy Caro
“This must be what Heaven is like.” Saturday evening worship at the One Conference was so powerful that this is what I heard over and over, and this is what I felt.
Joining with other Salvationists who long to hear what God has to say, worshipping Him together, and growing in knowledge, faith and unity is why I try never to miss this conference. Though I’ve attended this biennial event four times, I’ve never heard the same thing twice. After each, I’ve gone home with a new perspective and awareness of cultural ministries. This year was no different.
The theme, “Gathering: God’s House of Prayer for All Nations,” set the tone for a deep and meaningful weekend. In the keynote session, Captain Bersabe Vera, who leads the territorial intercultural ministries department which puts on the conference, shared their two goals: that each delegate would leave a better leader, and that each delegate would be better equipped to build God’s Kingdom.
These goals were met during the weekend spent in praise, led by the band Of Dust, and in learning from a variety of speakers.
Friday night we heard from Rasool Berry, teaching pastor at The Bridge Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. “What does it mean to be Kingdom citizens?” he asked, walking us through Acts 6 and showing the steps we need to take when there are injustices to people who are different from us. He said that the disciples did three things: listened to complaints, admitted there was a problem and lamented, and supported those who were given the responsibility to solve it. This led to the gospel spreading and God’s Kingdom growing. It was a great start to the weekend.
Saturday morning, we heard from a panel of speakers, who each brought different perspectives to the weekend’s theme. Their presentation was followed by a discussion where they answered questions posed by the moderator, Lt. Kenesa Debela. They shared both personal and professional experiences in ministry as it related to cultural differences.
The rest of the morning delegates chose from a wide range of workshops. I attended Culturally Intelligent Leadership, led by Dr. Michelle Ami Reyes. One of my big takeaways from this session was the importance of communication and being aware of differences between the way I do or perceive things as opposed to someone else who is different from me. I also attended Trauma Informed Strategies taught by Elyse Dobney and Peggy McGee. This workshop focused on how trauma may look in different people and how we can support someone experiencing it without retraumatizing him or her.
Saturday evening’s dinner and program was my favorite part of the conference. The flavorful dinner was followed by a beautiful worship experience. Delegates were encouraged to wear clothing representing their own cultures, and the room was filled with stunning outfits and cultural pride. Of Dust led worship, and scripture was shared in eight languages. We were ministered to by a group from an Ethiopian Church who sang in their native language. While I didn’t understand the words, I sensed their connection to God. Throughout the evening we were led in worship by young people. Set the Atmosphere, a young people’s mime group from the Decatur, Ill., Corps, poured their heart into their performance and praised God who has given them talent and equipped them for service.
Susie Gamez, teaching pastor from Midtown Church, addressed hard and discouraging times in our lives when we want to give up. She encouraged us to be grounded in scripture and the knowledge of God and to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Susie taught from Genesis 22, the story of Abraham and the sacrifice God asked him to make. Aligned with God, Abraham was able to be obedient and surrender everything to God, knowing He would provide. We were challenged as well to align ourselves with God, surrender our all to Him and be obedient in what He asks.
The weekend concluded Sunday morning with a worship service that again incorporated different languages and forms of worship. Territorial Commander Commissioner Evie Diaz spoke from the Beatitudes, walking us through each verse and encouraging us to live in unity and peace. A time of prayer followed where delegates brought their needs to the Lord, sought strength for their ministry and responded to what He is calling them to do. What a beautiful gathering of people, a place of prayer and joyful worship. It was God’s house of prayer for all people, of all nations.
My ministry takeaway
Delegates share their One experience and how it enriches their lives and ministries.
It’s critical to listen, to learn from others
and to love people as they are because God
loves us all. When loving others through
Christ, there may be differences, and we
need to be OK with these differences.
—Major Marlys Anderson,
Corps Officer, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Attending the ONE Conference this year
has been a joy and true blessing. Commissioner
Evie Diaz challenged all of us boldly
during the final session regarding our Christian
living. We must live in unity, and we
must live out the fruit of the Holy Spirit
—Major Steve Kounthapanya,
Corps Officer, St. Paul, Minn.
Transformational ministry takes time. We
need to get to know each other intentionally,
and there needs to be a shift in our
thinking when it comes to other cultures. In
responding to people who are different
than us, there needs to be a level of cultural
self-awareness. When we welcome other
cultures and people who are different than
us, we are welcoming Jesus.
—Lt. Mario Bledsoe,
Corps Officer, Benton Harbor, Mich.
One of the speakers gave a detailed explanation
of the concept of hospitality as described
in the Bible. It emphasized the
importance of being gracious and welcoming
to guests, strangers and those in need.
They mentioned the New Testament uses
the word Philoxenia to refer to hospitality,
(Philos: love for a friend, Xenos: stranger)
which translates to “love of strangers.” This
reminded me, and I hope will remind others,
of the importance of opening our
hearts to migrants and refugees who come
to the United States, just as Christ would.
—Captain Jessica Martinez, Divisional Secretary,
North & Central Illinois Division.
One of the things I will carry with me and Joy Caro
was introduced on Friday night by Rasool
Berry. He spoke about moving from a
pseudo-community into chaos, emptiness
and finally into a true community. This development
makes space for things to get
messy as the Body of Christ moves toward a
deeper sense of unity.
—Cadet Allison Rodriguez,
College for Officer Training
We need to have the eyes, the mind, and
the ears “matched up” to what God is
doing. If not, it will create confusion. Commissioner
Evie Diaz spoke to everybody’s
heart and challenged us: Live in unity starting
today. Live out the fruit of the Spirit…
My prayer is to become a better leader and
get the mission accomplished better.
—Major Joaquin Rangel,
Corps Officer, Aurora, Ill.