Salvation Army’s world leader thanks people of Ireland for support in beating cancer

published on 7 Mar 2015

The world leader of The Salvation Army has thanked Salvationists and friends of the Christian church and charity for their support in his battle with cancer.

Speaking at the biggest ever gathering of Salvationists this weekend in Belfast, General André Cox said the support and prayers gave him the courage and determination to fight the disease.

The General was last week given the all-clear from lung cancer – and his appearance at The Salvation Army’s Ireland divisional congress is his first public engagement since his surgery.

General Cox said: “The support from Ireland Division and indeed around the world has been overwhelming and humbling.

“People have been writing to my wife Commissioner Silvia and I assuring us that we are the subject of daily prayer. And I can assure you we have sensed this.

“When faced with cancer I was told I'd mostly likely be dead in 18 months if I did nothing. At that point I was no longer the General of The Salvation Army but André Cox standing before his maker.

“It's been a difficult journey, in and out of waiting rooms and undergoing a painful operation. After my surgery I was on a ward with 12 other men in a similar position. To them I was just a human being. I wore no uniform and had no rank.

“My own doctors have been amazed by my recovery and I owe them a debt of thanks. Just two weeks after my surgery they said my progress was remarkable. I believe that recovery is attributable to prayer. It'll be two months post-op this weekend and I am looking forward to thanking people there personally for their prayers.”

The church and charity is celebrating 135 years of mission work in Ireland this year and to mark the milestone, around 700 Salvationists and supporters of The Salvation Army have gathered in the city this weekend.

The General said, “I think William Booth would be most proud of the joy in the work we do in Ireland. The people have a unique spirt. Booth, as he did in many places, sent single women to start the Army’s work in Ireland. He would be delighted to see how work has grown in 135 years.”

Asked about the challenges facing The Salvation Army in Ireland, General Cox said

“One challenge is operating in a world that has become so materialistic. For many people it’s about what they can get, whether that’s the latest gadgets or holiday. There is nothing wrong with that per say but it's the constant grinding pursuit of these things.  I think many people have lost a spirit of joy, which fuels secularism.”

Commenting on the relevance of The Salvation Army in society today, the General said,

“We are only relevant if we remain true to our calling. For too long we relied on the professionalism of our social services work. But at a corps level we are coming back to our roots of helping vulnerable and disadvantaged people, and not just turning up to listen to the band. That’s something Booth would be pleased with.

I sometimes ask if we can still respond in the way William Booth wanted us to. Have we lost our focus on our original mission? But then I see great examples of the Army responding to a particular need in a community. For example, the night shelter we opened at short notice in Dublin just before Christmas at the city council’s request is still helping to deal with homelessness in the city there. That's the kind of work in which our reputation is forged.”

The General has witnessed another great example of The Salvation Army’s ability to reach out across communities.

Major Elwyn Harries leader of The Salvation Army in Ireland, said, “The congress choir this year, will bring together people from all walks of life including musicians, service users, volunteers, Salvationists and friends. It is a great symbol of unity and commitment to work with each other and integrate the fabric of society through sharing the gospel and reaching out to others without judgement.”

On Sunday March 8, the General will lead a morning worship service at the Spires, followed by a March of Witness through the city centre in the afternoon. The final celebration will take place in the Spires following the March of Witness.