25 June 2024

The Phoenix Citadel Dancers tell their story with ‘Agidigba’, an exuberant African dance, during the ‘Celebrate Our Stories!’ main session
(Photo by Joy Yi)

General Lyndon Buckingham and Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham made their first visit to the USA Western Territory for the 2024 Testify Congress on 14–16 June at the Pasadena Convention Center in California, at which the commissioning of the Defenders of Justice took place. 

During the event, which challenged some 3,400 people to ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Peter 3:15), the General enrolled 177 new junior and senior soldiers in the first main session, and territorial leaders Commissioners Douglas and Colleen Riley ordained and commissioned 14 officers.

‘God, the Holy Spirit, is on the move in The Salvation Army and here is the proof,’ the General said, and he shared a four-part formula for the movement: connect with God, share the good news, demonstrate care and concern, and pursue holiness.

‘We are not satisfied merely telling people about God’s love,’ he continued. ‘We bring love and hope, and joy and promise – and grace, copious amounts of grace.’

Cadets worship during the commencement service at the 2024 Testify Congress
Cadets worship during the commencement service at the 2024 Testify Congress (photo by John Docter)

Amazing grace leading to transformation

The following day, simultaneous kids’, men’s and women’s rallies featured, respectively, an orange mascot telling the gospel story, an interview-style conversation with Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham, and an NBA-themed free-throw contest and message from Chief of the Staff Commissioner Edward Hill.

The 13th annual ENCORE! Territorial Music and Arts Celebration highlighted the creativity of 500 young people, while 28 other young people competed in Bible Bowl, a competition capping a year of Scripture memorisation.

‘The story of Jesus is absolutely timeless and changeless,’ Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham said, in the second main session, noting that there is no one way that God reaches people. ‘But his protection, his guidance, his patience, his unconditional love and his amazing grace leading to transformation are the common theme. When we share God’s grace, a little piece of the world is changed.’

On 16 June, morning and afternoon sessions focused on holy living and a send-off to tell the world. The General first urged attendees to embrace their identity in Christ, referencing Colossians 3:12-17.

‘Don’t listen to what the world says about you,’ he said. ‘Understand this: You are holy. You are chosen. And you are dearly loved. This is who you are in Christ Jesus.’

He called on believers to ‘throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles’ (Hebrews 12:1). Hundreds responded at the mercy seat.

The General enrolled 177 new Salvation Army soldiers during the congress
The General enrolled 177 new Salvation Army soldiers during the congress (photo by Joy Yi)

Equipped, prepared and ready

Later, the new lieutenants received their first appointments. The General also presented the William Booth Award to Doug and Donna Erlandson, and Exceptional Service Awards to Debi Leighton and Brigadier Vivian Rodriguera.

‘We’re equipped. We’re prepared. We’re ready,’ Commissioner Douglas Riley said. ‘Just think if each one of us went out of this place and shared our testimony with one person – three thousand people would hear the gospel today.’ 

USA Western Territory

Tags: Americas and Caribbean, The General, News