It is a long time since the last edition of our newsletter was sent out. We have to apologise for this, although there are good reasons.For the first couple of months of 2016 Steve has been in London. This was an amazing experience as he got to spend time with officers from around the world at The Salvation Army’s International College for Officers.
Of course this meant that Gillian was holding the fort in Georgia whilst Steve was away.Since being in Georgia it seems that we are always going to different places and getting involved in new experiences. But as we think on that we are grateful that we serve a God who is constant and never changing.
An old Salvation Army chorus echoes the words of Hebrews 13:8 when it reminds us that ‘He’s the same today as yesterday, my great unchanging friend’. It is this friend whom we serve, wherever we are in the world. And it is our service of Jesus that we want to reflect upon as we think back over these past few months in Georgia.
Youth Leaders weekend
One weekend late in January saw a group of young leaders from the Georgia Region take to snowy Bakuriani for a weekend of teaching and reflection on the place they have within the future of The Salvation Army in Georgia.
A number of seminars were held, led by various people. Subjects such as holiness, discipleship, reading the Bible, amongst others were covered over the course of the weekend. In addition to the time spent in the classroom there was opportunity to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Georgian mountains.
It was a shame that a couple of the young people from Batumi were unable to make the journey. This was because unusually heavy snowfall at the Black Sea resort meant that they were stranded and unable to make the journey to the mountains.
The Bible School which commenced in the autumn has restarted for three further days of study in the spring.
Continuing to explore something of the richness of Salvation Army doctrine up to twenty five people have met at Tbilisi Central corps hall and considered Jesus, his life, death, resurrection and ascension as well as the condition that we find ourselves in.
The Bible School will now take a break for a few months before recommencing in the autumn.
Over the past few months we have continued the process of setting up working groups in order to consider some of the work we carry out across Georgia.
One of these, the mission group has met for the first time. This group, which was made up of officers as well as other people who attend our corps, considered what mission means and then began the process of exploring how this can be applied to the context of working in Georgia.
One of the other groups has also been thinking through how we can respond to the many requests we have for help. We have been in a position to respond positively to some of these, but in these days, we are having to make sure that we prioritise the help we can give. This working party is trying to establish criteria in order to make our help as effective as it can be.
In recent months we have tried to continue to develop links with other agencies at work in Georgia.
For a number of years the US charity ‘Vision for the Children International’ has supported the work with children in Didi Digomi. Following a visit by their chairman and founder Chris Green and a couple of his trustees last autumn, they have pledged to support the After School club in Didi Digomi for one more day per week.
They were also so impressed by the work amongst young people in Ponichala, they have donated lap tops to help the children and older people who gather in Ponichala.
Within the last couple of weeks, Steve has also spent a day with representatives from ‘Kom over en Help’, a Dutch Christian charity who are interested in establishing partnerships in Georgia. They spent several hours touring Tbilisi, and joined the corps at Samgori on one of their homeless feeding runs.
The early months of 2016 have seen reviews taking place throughout Georgia. Each corps was invited to reflect upon the past year and put plans in place for the next twelve months.
These sessions, which often lasted for several hours, gave opportunity for some honest reflection on what have been challenging years for The Salvation Army here.
However, in the midst of the challenges there are opportunities for further service and we pray for more ways in which we can be the people God has called us to be as we endeavor to bring his Kingdom into this part of the world.
At the conclusion of reviewing each of the eight centres in Georgia, the work of The Salvation Army across Georgia was then considered by Colonels Rodney and Wendy Walters as they travelled from Moldova to conduct the annual review from Territorial Headquarters.
Visit of Territorial Leaders
The visit of the Territorial Leaders to conduct the review was spread over a number of days. As part of their visit they led an Officer’s Spiritual Day. This was held at Ponichala corps hall, which gave the leaders their first opportunity to view the newest property which we are using in Georgia.
In the run up to Easter this spiritual day reminded officers of the importance of remaining focused on Jesus, and particularly to look at the cross.
On the following day, eighty five people met at Tbilisi Central hall for a Regional meeting. Once again we focused upon our preparation for the Easter event.
In the TC’s message he reminded each of us present of the importance of taking courage to share the good news of Jesus. In so doing, we gained an insight into the courage of Colonel Rodney as he informed us that he once made a bungee jump, only being supported by a strong elastic rope attached to his ankles.
Sometime it might feel that we are only just attached to God, but we still have to take a leap of faith trusting him that he will be with us as we seek to share his message.
Lunch with the Prime Minster
OK, so it wasn’t a quiet lunch with the Prime Minister of Georgia, but Gillian and Captain SopoBakhtadze were able to share a lunch with other representatives of AmCham on the occasion of a speech by Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
Lagodekhi camp facilities
The condition of our camp facilities at Lagodekhi seems to have captured the imagination of many people
The hall at Lagodekhi is situated in Megobroba Street (Friendship Street) and has a large plot of land to the rear. In fact it is 160m long. It has been used for many years as a camp facility, but it is in great need of repair and upgrading
Many people have taken to raise money in order to upgrade the facilities so that they can be brought up to a reasonable standard. In this way our hope is that corps folk, and families from the city may be able to enjoy a few days holiday in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains as well as improving the facility for the camps which our corps often arrange.
We have been very impressed with one young boy from Bromley corps in the United Kingdom. Matthew inspired his friends to join him on a bike ride to raise money to improve the facilities at Lagodekhi. Together they clocked up 100 km. Matthew’s venture is part of the support Bromley corps are giving to Lagodekhi corps through the ‘Bridge Project’. Bromley Corps hope to bike, swim, walk or run the miles from Bromley to Lagodekhi.
We are so grateful for all the support we have received to date.
Visit of The General
Only once before in the history of The Salvation Army in Georgia has a serving General paid us a visit.
So, it is with great excitement that we can confirm that on 1 June, 2016, after much planning, we eagerly anticipate the visit of General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox
Planned maintenance work at Tbilisi Airport has meant that this is truly a flying visit, but the day they will spend in Tbilisi will have a packed agenda.
The General and Commissioner will lead two officers’ meetings at Samgori corps during the day. They will then be the special guests at a public meeting to be held at Beteli Baptist Centre in Didi Digomi at 7pm that evening.
We are looking forward to a great day together and an opportunity for us all to be encouraged by the visit from our international leaders.
If you are able to come along to this great occasion, please put the date in your diary and plan to be there to welcome The General and to celebrate with him what God is doing, and what God will do in Georgia.
The last few months have seen some developments in our attempts to be more visible to the users of social media.
Unfortunately we have discovered that Georgia is most definitely not a Twitter society. Consequently our Twitter feed is being allowed to slowly run itself down.
But, our developing website is slowly becoming tri-lingual. If you are interested in can be found at www.salvationarmy.ge
Most encouragingly has been the engagement with the regional Facebook page since its launch in November 2015. Searching on Facebook for KhsnisArmiaGeorgia will take you to our page which is gaining an encouraging number of views.
The post which has reached the greatest number was a montage of photos showing the Samgori homeless run in action, with a reach of 4211. This was a little higher than the post which was reporting a Georgian newspapers reference to us as a ‘satanic cult’ (4090 reach). Thanks to some good work here in Georgia this article was retracted with a feature on the work of The Salvation Army in Georgia in a subsequent issue of the paper.
So, we thank you for your interest in the work of The Salvation Army in Georgia. If you pray, we encourage you to continue praying to the unchanging God, that his Kingdom continues to grow here, just as it does wherever you are.
God bless you,
Steve & Gillian