In interviews with Editor-in-Chief Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee when the Army’s international leaders visited USA National Headquarters this spring, General André Cox discusses the need to stand firm, resist current trends and celebrate what the Army is and can be. Commissioner Sylvia Cox, World President of Women’s Ministries, adds her thoughts on God’s provision and how the Army needs to support women today.
War Cry: What comforted you most during your recent illness?
André Cox: I had so many indications from people all over the world that they were regularly praying for me. That was certainly a great comfort. The initial diagnosis came as a complete shock, as it would do to anyone else. You know these things can happen, but you don’t anticipate them personally. Although it’s been a difficult journey with it’s ups and downs for me and for Silvia, we felt that there really was power in prayer and that sustained us. That I had access to good medical care was comforting and I am grateful to the surgeon and doctors who’ve been helping me through this. Even they talk of a remarkable recovery. I can only attribute that to the power of prayer because I am today pain free, under no medication and, apart from regular monitoring, getting on with my life.
WC: How should Salvationists handle the increasing persecution aimed at Christians throughout the world?
AC: We need to sit down and think very carefully where we place our faith, because sometimes when things are going very well we take things for granted. Perhaps we forget just how dependent we are upon God’s grace every day of our lives. It’s time for Christians to sit down and reflect on those spiritual realities. We need to cling to the promises in Scripture. God has plans for us and we are secure in His hands.
There are quite horrendous stories that are highlighted in the media of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East. They are a reminder that to follow Christ can come at a cost. We need to be aware of where the true value of the Kingdom is. We should cherish the eternal values and the fact that eternal life is promised to us, as these are important in keeping us faithful. It’s not the time to hide our light under a bushel. We’ve got to be ready to stand firm and be counted.
WC: What message do Salvationists most need to hear?
AC: Everywhere I go, whatever culture, whatever country, even the most economically challenged places, people aspire to possess material things. While we all enjoy the benefits of modern living, we shouldn’t focus our hearts and our minds on material things. We talk about the value of the Kingdom of God but we also are quite happy pursuing material things. There is a danger. In some places society is driving us to being successful, promoting the need for a good education, a good job or the apartment we live in or the amount of money we have. I see that permeating virtually every society and that’s a worrying trend. The seduction of the prosperity gospel that teaches that if we contribute financially to the work of God then automatically we’ll be blessed with material wealth. There is a real danger in that and we should not allow ourselves to be seduced by the passing values of this world.
WC: What excites you the most about the Army reaching its 150th year?
AC: We’ve got a lot to look forward to this year at the congress in London. I don’t want this to be just an opportunity for us to pat ourselves on the back and rejoice about the great things that we’ve got. This is to be a time when we pause to reflect and thank God for what He’s done in the Army because it’s not us, it’s Him.
There are a lot of things that we can celebrate. Around the world lives are being transformed in all sorts of programs, not only the sophisticated programs of social institutions but through corps. There is the faithful witness of people in so many of our corps who are there to receive people who come with varying needs. People are truly being touched by God’s presence through faithful ministry and corps programs. William Booth, though he may possibly raise his eyebrows at one or two things he sees in the Army today, would be pleased to see that we are still responding and can respond rapidly to human need. We still do it because of our compassion and the love of Christ that compels us to do it. We haven’t moved from that. We need to focus on that; not pat ourselves on the back but celebrate what God is doing in the present. We should also think and listen and create space so that God can show us what He wants to do in the future.
WC: What’s next for The Salvation Army?
AC: I have a hope and vision for the work in our corps. In this 150th year it is a great opportunity for us to look at what we can be doing to contribute to wider society. It’s not enough to have our buildings available for music rehearsals on a weeknight or maybe for Sunday worship; there are so many other things that we could be doing. One of the things I love in the States are the Kroc Centers I’ve been to where people from the community are welcomed in and connect, perhaps at a very basic or material level. These are places where the doors are open every day! But through this contact they begin a journey of faith.
My hope is that our corps will become agents for delivery of social services in some way so that there is much greater integrated mission. We don’t have a worshipping community and a serving community. We do both. If we only deliver part of the mission in a social institution it’s not The Salvation Army. If we’re only a worshipping community and a corps, then we’re not The Salvation Army. There needs to be a much more integrated approach. I see that as being a signicant way forward for the growth of our corps in the future.
WC: Is there anything else you would like to add?
AC: Boundless will see 16,000 Salvationists gathering from all over the world. I hope that this will be a congress which will have an immediate impact in the spiritual life of the Army. I hope that this one will be a celebration of the wide variety of cultures, uniforms, national costumes. It will just be a foretaste of what Heaven will be, because they shall come from the East, they will come from the West and we shall all sit down in the Kingdom of God. We will have a visual representation of that.
A Time to Build Women Up
War Cry: What sustained you during your husband’s illness?
Sylvia Cox: We were preparing to go to Finland when we heard the news. As you can imagine it was quite a shock. But the Lord is still very good. The next morning as we were reading the Word together, the passage was in Jeremiah 31, and when I read verse 28, “But now I will watch over you to build you up and make you strong, says the Lord,” it was like if the Lord was speaking directly to us through that verse. When later on I doubted about the future, that Bible verse comforted me. That, coupled with the prayer of people, helped me a lot. We received so many encouraging messages saying that people were praying for us. Between what God gave us at that specific moment and the prayer of people was enough to sustain me during those days.
WC: What concerns you most about women in The Salvation Army?
SC: For women in general, I am greatly concerned about sexual violence, abuse and domestic violence. I am also concerned about the erosion of family life and the loneliness of some women. In the Army, we are not always successful in connecting with working women, with young women or single parents. We seem to be very comfortable among ourselves and we don’t reach out enough. The opportunities to work with women are there, but we don’t always see them or take advantage of them. Also, we are not sufficiently valuing the contribution of women.
WC: What gives you the most encouragement about women in The Salvation Army?
SC: When I read or hear the stories of women who found the Lord through the Women’s Ministry I am greatly encouraged. Lately I was reading the annual reports and I was heartened by the accounts about women who have found Christ through our programs. It is also encouraging to see that when we give the opportunity to our women to develop and use their gifts we do see change and transformation in their lives, their families and their communities. Through skills training many women can put food on the table. They can support their families, their children. All this is a great encouragement.
WC: From your worldwide travels, what image or images come to mind?
SC: The best image which comes to my mind is the rainbow, because it has a lot of different colors. It is a picture of the “One Army.”
In some places the color is vibrant and there is a lot of life. Other places are darker, there’s not so much life; nonetheless it’s still part of the rainbow and when you look at a rainbow with those different shades of color, it’s beautiful.
WC: What’s exciting to you about the Salvation Army’s 150th anniversary?
SC: There is a lot that excites me about the 150th. First, it is a way to thank the Lord, because He has kept us, blessed us, the Army is still growing, and a lot of miracles still happen. It will also be wonderful to meet people from all around the world, and worship together. We are praying for an outpouring of His Spirit at the congress. So I am looking forward to see what the Lord is going to do and I am waiting with expectation to see how the Lord is going to work in the lives of many people.
WC: What is it that you love so much about this appointment?
SC: I love to travel and to discover how the Army works in numerous different cultures. It gives me the possibility and privilege to share the Word of God with countless people. I love meeting the women around the world and learning about what they are doing, their joys and challenges. I have discovered scores of marvelous, hardworking women who love and serve the Lord.
My position allows me to have some influence and I am very thankful and humble at this responsibility.