Leesburg World Services Weekend 2024

May 28, 2024

For almost one year, the World Services Committee at the Leesburg Corps has been planning a very special weekend, while World Services are the focus, and when the congregation are invited to give sacrificially in the Annual World Services Ingathering. “Leesburg 24” needed Serious execution by the hard-working team, with much prayer, and with a great deal of excitement we welcomed the arrival of our special guests General André Cox (R), and Commissioner Silvia Cox to be our special leaders for the Leesburg Corps, Florida, World Services Weekend. If you thought it was a Congress, you weren’t far wrong as the 20th elected International Leaders of The Salvation Army were heavily engaged over a four-day period in every aspect of The Salvation Army’s presence and outreach in Lake & Sumter Counties.


There were many “firsts” recorded with the special weekend.


The initial “first” was an ecumenical event held in The Villages, a significant area of accountability for the Corps, acclaimed as the fastest-growing senior community in the nation. Held on a Thursday evening with a congregation of Seniors, the General got into lively discussion with Pastor James Armstrong-newly installed Lead Pastor of Live Oaks Community Church in the northwest area of The Villages. Pastor Armstrong skillfully fielded questions to General Cox about the beginnings of the Army and [his] own personal coming to faith. He was also asked as a European, about the slow demise of faith in Europe. Even the Live Oaks Praise & Worship team led a spirited rendition of General William Booth’s “Send the Fire”. Following a benediction given by Commissioner Silvia Cox, the crowd generously donated toward the Leesburg Corps World Services goal.


Civic leaders, other dignitaries, community partners, donors, and volunteers met midday Friday for the corps “first” Civic Luncheon, where the 2023 Impact Report was shared, and a speech from Advisory Board Chair Margarite McCartney who related an Angel Tree story that deeply affected her. Then followed a global glimpse of The Salvation Army across the world from General Cox. The theme of the event was Love in Action, and an appeal to finance children and teens resulted in enough donations and pledges to send several community youths to camp this year.


Over 150 gathered on Saturday evening in the corps gymnasium for the “first” International Celebration Supper. All proceeds from tickets sold went to the World Services goal. Approximately 75% of those in attendance were new to the Army, thanks to corps people who had invited neighbors and friends to support, including The Villages Friends of The Salvation Army. Jack Leon, one of the corps musicians cooked an Italian meal, including his grandmother’s secret sauce! Jack’s wife, Beth, had invited many local ethnic restaurants to donate a “taste” of their country’s food. Alongside the twelve participating foods was the name of the country and what The Salvation Army is currently involved in there. This made for an educational moment as those gathered learned so much about the Movement. A surprise item for General and Commissioner Cox, who have retired in Switzerland, was a proficient Swiss Alphorn player, Leisan VanSyckle. Leisan explained the construction of the 20 ft long instrument and played three Swiss melodies, one of which was used centuries ago to message neighboring villages in the Swiss Alps. Then, General & Commissioner Cox took everyone on a round-the-world visit to the five main Salvation Army Zones with emphasis on the unusual and significant, highlighting where God is clearly using The Salvation Army to reach many people with the gospel. Each continent visited demonstrated how The Salvation Army is saving lives, Spiritually and physically. To conclude the evening, the audience were treated to Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood’s performance of “The Sanctified Salvationist – Joe the Turk” with spectacle and flare. Nishan Der Garabedian was Armenian and eventually made his way to the West coast as a Salvation Army Captain. He had witnessed the power of God through early day Salvationists in London, England and although a shoemaker, Joe Garabed as he renamed himself surrendered his life to God and pioneered the life-changing work of The Salvation Army. Known for his eccentric mode of dress, and theatrical approach to evangelism, he also attracted the attention of the authorities. He was arrested 53 times, often for disturbing the peace. Colonel Hobgood captivated everyone with the enthusiasm and extraordinary flamboyance of this larger-than-life character who had found the Lord during a Salvation Army open-air service in the very early days of the Army.


The culmination of this “Mini Congress” for the Leesburg Corps, was the Holiness meeting on Pentecost Sunday morning. The General preached from Isaiah 52: 7-10 and urged the capacity congregation to not dwell on church attendance alone, but to share the gospel with all, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them in everyday life. Prior to his message, our final “first” was when General Cox enrolled six Junior Soldiers, five Adherents, and fourteen Senior soldiers all as members of the Leesburg Corps and nearby Bushnell Service Center. The Annual World Services Ingathering was held, with the corps Community Choir and Band participating. The latter premiering a new march written by Christopher Priest for the weekend- “Leesburg 24”. Lt. Colonels Kent and Melody Davis, Florida Divisional Leaders, supported.

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