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Making the world a better place

National Mission Conference with Lyn Edge

23 November 2017
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‘People are social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual beings.’

Those words affirming The Salvation’s Army’s holistic theology and integrated practice framework, from national secretary for mission Colonel Lyn Edge, set the tone for the national mission conference from 8-10 November at the Gold Coast’s Crowne Plaza. One hundred delegates, officers and employees, gathered from all Australian states and territories to attend and participate.

Speaking to a large percentage of delegates, e-connect found common hopes for the conference: to network and form greater connections, to help cast future options for service delivery, to expand horizons see how others operate, and to recognise what people had in common because The Salvation Army as a whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Delegates also hoped they would gain a better understanding of how Australia One would impact services, and that The Salvation Army had the capacity and desire to make Australia a better place.

The theme of ‘Integrating mission – connecting to serve’ was enhanced by a moving and succinct ‘Welcome to country’ by Uncle Alan of the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Several acknowledgments of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who cared for the country for scores of thousands of years, enriched the conference thereafter.

‘This is the most overwhelming and exhilarating role of my life,’* Colonel Edge told delegates in her welcome, ‘and we have a chance to help shape The Salvation Army – not for the sake of The Salvation Army, but for the sake of those whom we serve. We do not exist for ourselves, but to serve a greater purpose.’

She thanked God, the Salvos and those present for ‘the space in which to wrestle with our nature and our identity… to think, to feel and to reflect. To be whole is to be integrated. As people we are connected to each other, to the planet and to God.

‘We are at our best when we are integrated with ourselves, with each other and with the world we live in,’ she added, citing Jesus Christ’s statement that he had come ‘that you may have life in all of its fullness’ (John 10:10).

Noting that mission is ‘a doing word’, the colonel said the Salvos’ theological framework for helping others was that they could ‘flourish’. ‘God’s intention is that we all have health, that we flourish and become the best versions of ourselves,’ she added, stating that the holistic Jewish concept of shalom requires ‘the active pursuit of what should be… we are called to try to make the world a better place, somehow.’

An Australia One update was delivered by Australia One program director Geoff Rickard.
Regarding Australia One (the merger of the Australia Eastern and Southern territories) and departmental design, Colonel Edge said ‘the dialogue is just beginning; we are integrating mission for holistic outcomes’. She added that the organisation recognised the importance of relationships as it wrestled with ‘how we measure, what we measure, what we mean by our design and function, and how centres on the ground connect with each other’.

Other significant presentations came and went, including an insightful after-dinner speech by national chief secretary Colonel Mark Campbell, resilience training by Leonie Stanfield, from Hudson Talent Management, and a communications summation from Major Neil Venables, Steve Speziali and Benjamin Moyes.

Contrasting morning devotional segments by Captain Jason Davies-Kildea and Major Graeme Craig helped delegates focus on The Salvation Army’s mission and purpose. The captain called all present to humility and reflection, noting that ‘colonisation is the original sin of our nation, and if we don’t take time to acknowledge that I don’t know how we can envisage a better future for our nation’.

Sharing his faith and growth on ‘a journey of misunderstandings’, the captain encouraged the delegates that to think, learn, work, serve and communicate, noting that ‘the end of the journey is never really the end’.

The major reflected on Colonel Edge’s references to human beings as being made in the image of God (imago Dei) and encouraged delegates to find joy in that experience. Some unexpectedly adroit dancing to several popular songs ensued.

One highlight included presentations of innovative programs and research projects

In six venues across the state, the Salvos in Tasmania do early intervention and postvention ‘Doorways to parenting’ programs, helping parents understand why their children are removed or may be removed and journeying with them to try to help them regain custody.

The Salvation Army in Tasmania are also partnering with academics to provide ongoing evidence-based, well-researched training modules, workshops and information sessions to change men’s behaviour, thereby aiming to reduce and eliminate Family and Domestic Violence.

Teaching men about the trauma and negative impact on their children – even in utero, with the chemicals of ‘fear and flight’ – is a significant motivator in changing how men live, think, feel and act.

The Salvation Army’ national ‘Safer in the Home’ service, in partnership with the company Protective Group, is helping protect women and children from Family & Domestic Violence by assessing homes though a security audit, and then introducing security upgrades and hi-tech protection. The service is accessing $3 million of federal funds over three years (it started in September 2016) and has so far helped 680 women and their children.

A report was given on the assistance rendered before, during and after Cyclone Debbie, which formed on 27 March and lasted 11 days on land. Fourteen people were killed, with a $2.4 billion hit to the economy.

The Salvos helped 6,856 people and served 6,000 meals. Their teams were active for 16 days, in 10 locations in Queensland and New South Wales. The Salvos gave out more than $1.5 million to cyclone survivors, $1.3 million of which was raised in an appeal to the public. The Salvos are still active, eight months' later, in Lismore, Bowen, Whitsundays, Mackey and Logan.

A ‘Q&A’ panel discussion featuring Lieut-Colonel Edge, Captain Stuart Glover, Major Jenny Begent, Dr Elli McGavin and Ms Natalee O’Brien covered a lot of ground, reassuring delegates that their work was valued and valuable.

Several innovations such as Salvos Legal and Salvo Funerals were mentioned, and Major Begent suggested that innovations happen at a grassroots level and, when recognised as good or best practice, become standard practice.

Discussing the need for clarity of communications when it comes to the Army’s social endeavours and The Salvation Army’s desire to share the Christian faith, Dr McGavin drew a line between proselytism and pursuit of spirituality on an invitational basis for Salvation Army clients.

‘For some people who come to us for help, it may be that their experience of faith or spirituality has been highly damaging,’ Dr McGavin explained.

‘We need to be very nuanced about what we have to offer, in our understanding of spirituality,’ she added. ‘It is a matter of thinking, “What are our drivers?” We come together as Salvation Army employees, members and officers around the principle of social justice and the holistic benefits of those we help.

‘We recognise that we are spiritual beings, and that our clients do better when provided with respectful opportunities to explore that aspect of their lives.’

Delegates left the conference encouraged, informed, and rested; they were invited to keep doing what they do, in the hope of helping build a better world.  
* Click here for an article discussing Colonel Edge’s origins
Click here for an article discussing the needs of Salvation Army clients
Click here for a discussion of The Salvation Army’s ethos