General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) joined more than 2,500 advisory organisation members, Salvation Army officers and employees from across the USA in Phoenix, Arizona for the largest-ever National Advisory Organizations Conference (NAOC). Under the theme 'Expect Change', delegates at the Phoenix Convention Center were given expert instruction and inspiration through plenary sessions and workshops that covered a vast array of Salvation Army programming, board development issues, use of social media, public relations and fundraising strategies.
Guest speakers included American football great Emmitt J. Smith, Dr Leith Anderson (President of the National Association of Evangelicals), Joel K. Manby (Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment) and Charlotte Jones-Anderson, Executive Vice-President of the Dallas Cowboys American football franchise.
Dr Bobby Lyle, a long-time advisory board member from Dallas, Texas was presented with The Salvation Army’s highest award for non-Salvationists, the Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service. Dr Lyle has given outstanding service to The Salvation Army's Dallas Metro Advisory Board and also to the National Advisory Board, in particular spearheading the board’s revitalisation by heading up the strategic planning initiative.
Recognition was also given to individuals and an institution whose efforts have benefited The Salvation Army and their local communities. Evangeline Booth Awards were presented to Emmitt J. Smith, Charlotte Jones-Anderson, Stan Richards (founder of The Richards Group), television host and actress Kathie Lee Gifford, and to Asbury University, with the award accepted by the president, Dr Sandra C. Gray.
The USA Western Territory's presentation on Saturday night featured musical forces as well as interpretive dance. In his challenge at the conclusion of the programme, the General explained: 'It was God who called The Salvation Army into being and entrusted it with a mission. We have seen so many [video] testimonies of God at work in people’s lives. God is intervening in the world, even amid the chaos, because he wants all to experience change and transformation. And God expects us to be part of the process – not spectators sitting by, watching things happen.'
The closing session of the NAOC transformed the convention centre from a meeting place to a holy place. Commissioner David Jeffrey (USA National Commander) opened the meeting with the words: 'God waits to break into our experience, to change our minds, our hearts, our ways – here and now.'
Bill Burke (National Advisory Board Chairman) shared his personal witness, speaking about how he came to faith in Christ and how he keeps spiritually fit.
Commissioner Silvia Cox, in her testimony, noted, 'I need the same transforming power as those who are addicted. The good news is also for us. We can access the same God, experience the same power. This is not something that we have only read about – we have seen it.'
Later the General gave the Bible message, asking: 'Never has there been a time when people were more engrossed with communicating, but who is really listening?' He continued: 'The virtual environment cannot replace looking someone in the eye, talking directly to them and knowing that they listen. God must also get frustrated with us because he keeps talking, but do we listen? ... He has spoken most clearly to us through Jesus. When God sent Jesus he gave us a clear example of how to order and live our lives.'
In the closing moments of the meeting it was evident that people were listening to God as many streamed to the mercy seat at the front of the auditorium.