Five countries, three languages, one territory – taking time to be still

For the first time in almost five years, most officers from across the five nations of the Eastern Europe Territory (EET) gathered in north-eastern Romania for a three-day retreat.

The theme of the retreat, held in the city of Iasi, was: ‘Be still and know that I am God’, from Psalm 46:10.

“We worshipped, shared God’s Word, cried, laughed and celebrated each other – it can’t get much better than that, and we are blessed beyond measure,” said Australian officer Colonel Cheralynne Pethybridge, Eastern Europe Territorial Leader.

There were many special moments throughout the three days.

One of these came during the concluding time of worship and devotions when divisional leaders from Moldova and Bulgaria shared some words of thanks and farewell, on behalf of the EET, to Colonels Cheralynne and Kelvin Pethybridge, who have led the territory for over five years and will take up new appointments at International Headquarters in January 2024.

“It was such a blessing to gather all the officers from Eastern Europe Territory together,” said Kelvin, Territorial Commander. “There is something very special when officers gather together in worship but these days have been filled with the Holy Spirit’s presence. It was a time to ‘be still, and know’ that God is with us in every circumstance.”

The presence of the Ukrainian male officers, who were able to leave the country for the first time since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, was a definite highlight. (Due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, men aged between 18 and 60 are unable to leave the country except under certain circumstances or with specific permissions in place.) Seeing the men worship, participate in the sessions and relax with their colleagues and families, brought joy to everyone.

Kelvin also affirmed Majors Konstantin and Irina Shvab as the divisional leaders in Ukraine. Again, due to the war, Kelvin had been unable to travel to Ukraine to officially install the leaders. After the affirmation, all the officers surrounded the Shvabs and other Ukrainian officers in a moving time of prayer.

Heartfelt prayer, in multiple languages with translations, was also a feature of the daily worship times. On one occasion, the delegates formed small groups with their EET officer training session mates to pray for the territory and for each other. It was a powerful time of connection.

The morning sessions focused on scriptures around the theme, with activities and interactions to illustrate the teachings. Group work around the theme of resilience took up the late morning and early afternoon sessions. The final meeting was a general question and answer session around issues raised in the discussions.

“It was wonderful to relax with our colleagues and leaders and discuss important topics,” said one Ukrainian officer. “It’s difficult for us, though, as we are still thinking about what is happening at home.”

Another officer shared her thoughts on the retreat experience. “Just to be together, to learn from each other and have useful discussions was a great opportunity.”

Cheralynne said the past few weeks had been full of joy and hope for The Salvation Army Eastern Europe Territory.

“We’ve celebrated 30 years of Salvation Army ministry in Georgia, the official launch of The Salvation Army in Bulgaria and, whilst we were unable to celebrate publicly, 30 years ministering in The Salvation Army in Ukraine.

“During these weeks, new senior and junior soldiers and adherent members have been enrolled in Ukraine, Georgia, Bulgaria and Moldova.” 


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