Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains (named after the clouds that often hang on the mountain tops and drift into the valleys), Lake Junaluska in North Carolina, USA, has been the home of the USA Southern Territory Bible Conference for decades. Attending this annual gathering, held in the shadow of the distinctive illuminated hilltop cross, is a premiere event in the territory's annual calendar and has become a family tradition passed on through generations.
This year the theme for the conference was 'A Better Sacrifice' and speakers included the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Brian Peddle) and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World Secretary for Women's Ministries), Colonels Richard and Janet Munn (USA Eastern Territory) and Dr John Oswalt (Asbury Theological Seminary).
Bible study, children’s and youth tracks as well as child care and recreation activities (all led by Salvation Army officers) have been developed. On a typical day, breakfast can be enjoyed looking out over the lake, followed by morning sessions for all ages. Lunch taken by a rushing stream can be worked off by hiking or perhaps white-water rafting. After stunning sunsets form a perfect backdrop for dinner, delegates can move into evening sessions as diverse as a Christian bluegrass band or a testimony meeting by 'redeemed men' from adult rehabilitation centres.
Each speaker was given his or her specific topic related to the conference theme. The Chief of the Staff and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle reflected on the Atonement as recorded in both the Old and New Testaments.
Referring to The Salvation Army's sixth doctrine and Genesis chapter 3, the Chief set the scene for his and Commissioner Rosalie’s five presentations delivered during the week. They emphasised God’s intention 'to enter on to the stage of our lives to lead us by his grace every day'. Referring to Genesis 3:8 as the first recorded instance of the game 'hide and seek' – when Adam and Eve hid from God – the Chief of the Staff reminded his audience that 'God does not play games!' but that he has a gift for everyone '… the greatest gift of all: atonement'.
In subsequent sessions the Chief spoke about the 'dismal story of the brokenness of Adam and Eve' and 'their transition from peace to guilt; and paradise to corruption'. He shared that he was not a person who longed for the ‘good old days’, but spoke of being confident in the future, claiming security through God's words recorded in Isaiah 43:19: 'Behold, I will create a new thing.'
As the Bible conference drew to a close the Chief of the Staff cautioned the audience that the greatest tragedy would be to leave the event without allowing God to do what he wants to do in each delegate.