My Interview with Nelson Mandela (What I would have liked to ask)

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You know those hypothetical conversations?  Those moments when you imagine what you would say, how you would feel, and how you might interact?  I imagine myself having the distinct honor of interviewing Nelson Mandela, Madiba himself.  Yesterday he passed away at the age of 95.  Twenty seven of those years he lived in prison because of his stand against apartheid.  

I imagine myself being able to sit down with this great and humble man and just taking in his presence.  You know how that is?  When you are in the room with a person who is famous and you just don’t have the right words to express how much they have meant to you, how they have impacted your life, and you are better for having known just a little bit about them…yeah that’s the emotion I have as I enter the room where Nelson Mandela is sitting.  He looks out the window as I find my seat.  Light catches his irises and there is a deep sense of knowing, a deep sense of wisdom.  I’m not placing Madiba on a pedestal here, I just have a deep respect for this man who brokered freedom for the majority of South Africa.  He had his flaws, the ANC party certainly wasn’t above death threats and bombings, but the man, not the party sits before me.  

I have some notes scribbled down on a small spiraled note book in my hand.  I have to clear my throat in order to work up the strength to ask my first round of questions.  I feel immensely intimidated.  Despite his humility, I feel as if I am unworthy to have this opportunity to talk with him.  How does one act in the presence of greatness?  Again, one who has endured so much and accomplished much more, how does one find the adequate words to speak to such a person?   He smiles a reassuring smile, one that encourages me and without words says “It is alright, I understand.”  

In my mind we have a conversation, he is gentle and soft spoken, yet behind his words he is as strong as a lion in the veld.  We laugh together as the tension breaks…and I shed some tears in his re-telling of history.  In my mind this interview reshapes my understanding of South Africa.  In my mind my childhood as a missionary kid in South Africa is altered.  I didn’t fathom the severity of apartheid rule until just now…I knew it to be horrific and wrong as  a child yet never understood its severity.  

But now as unity is prayed for, as we all mourn in Madiba’s passing…a great man has passed from the shadow of this earth and in his wake we are left hoping that tomorrow will be better because of his impact on our yesterdays.  Sleep well Madiba, I pray one day to be able to sit down with you in Eternity and finally have that interview that I have rehearsed in my mind.  Words cannot express how deeply you have impacted me, nor the vacancy your passing has left in the lives of South Africa and others around the world.   

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” ― Nelson Mandela

 

1st Official Interview of General Andre’ Cox:

A DISCIPLE OF JESUS

The newly elected international leader General André Cox spoke with Major Jane Kimberley at the conclusion of the 2013 High Council

General Cox speaking to Major Jane Kimberley

How do you feel after just being elected as the 20th General?

I feel an immense sense of privilege and awe because of the responsibility that goes with the role.
I also have a sense of peace. I have never identified myself by either rank or role, I am who God made me to be and I am growing into the person he wants me to be. A General or anyone else is but a disciple of Jesus and I think that gives me comfort because it’s not all on my shoulders. 

The Army belongs to God, it’s not mine. I have a role to play, but I was called to proclaim the gospel and I will do just that.

High Council at prayerWhat impression stands out for you from the 2013 High Council?

We were all in one accord in a peaceful, secluded and very holy place. From the moment we started the pre-High Council conference we sensed that this was right. We were not rushed and knew that God’s hand was upon us. It was good to be in his presence.
This was the third High Council that I had attended and perhaps the one that I cherish the most because of the sense of God’s presence. The prayer fellowship was phenomenal.
 

What will be the main challenges you face as General?

General Cox speaking with Major Jane KimberleyMultiple challenges impact The Salvation Army’s global mission, including poverty, social exclusion, social injustice, the increasing gap between the rich and poor, sexual exploitation, human trafficking and lack of respect for the things of God. When faced with secularism and materialism we need to rediscover our confidence in the divine inspiration and authority of God’s word.

I believe The Salvation Army must continue to have a strong bias for the poor and the marginalised. There is a lot more that we can be doing in mobilising our corps. For too long we have relied upon institutional social care. Many problems today demand that we are fully engaged in the communities in which we serve and not serving ourselves and sitting in comfort. We need to pay more than lip service to things we believe and truly live out the values we proclaim. Belief and actions should go hand in hand.

My vision is that as an Army we will be fully mobilised and committed to the calling God has given us. We are a covenanted people, we have all signed a covenant and I would like to see us live up to that.

How important in your opinion is the Army’s relationship with other churches and other faiths?

The links with others are very important. We need to recognise that we all belong to the same family. In the Christian churches we have a strong bond and can learn from each other. We don’t have to compare ourselves with any other because God has given us a specific calling as The Salvation Army. We need to feel secure in our own faith and we don’t need to be judgmental about other people. I have seen evidence in projects and development work of people of different faiths working together in harmony for the common good.

One of the challenges of an international Salvation Army is diversity. The office of the General is vital in holding that together. How do you find unity in diversity?

Diversity needs to be celebrated. We shouldn’t see that as a problem. There are so many things that bind us together as The Salvation Army, including belief in the Bible, faith in Jesus, doctrines, the mercy seat, 24-hour prayer, uniforms and orders and regulations. I am a great believer and supporter of the internationalism of the Army, believing this to be one of our greatest strengths. The High Council met as a group of many different cultures all drawn to the light of God through Jesus Christ his son. I hope that we can celebrate our differences because the things that bind us together are far stronger than the things that separate us. Having lived in different cultures, I have learnt that no one has ‘the’ right answer and that there are many right answers.

What role does your family play in your life?

They keep me sane I would think! We are very proud of our children and have four grandchildren – two born within the last five weeks. One of our priorities, when we get a moment, will be to go and spend some time with them. Our family is very important to us; we thank God for the blessing. My mother, sister, brother and his family live in the UK but our children are all in Switzerland. We shall soon have a mountain holiday!

Who has influenced you most over the years in your personal development?

In my recent journey General Linda Bond has been a real example of courage and faith and that has spoken to me strongly.

I have had the privilege of considering General John Larsson as a fatherly figure. He first appointed us to territorial leadership in Finland and he has always been a good and steadying influence.

In my early years of officership General Eva Burrows was a real inspiration to me and helped me to aspire to do something greater in my spiritual development.

What about the International Vision?

I am grateful to my predecessor General Linda Bond for her visionary leadership, for her submission to the will of God and for the fact that she inspired our International Vision of One Army, One Mission, One Messageand that must continue. A change of General does not change that focus.

Major Jane Kimberley is Editor of the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland’s ‘Salvationist’ publication

-Via IHQ Website: http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/news/interview060813

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