by Lt. Blake Fewell
Among the memorable moments for cadets in their training experience toward becoming Salvation Army officers is the public welcome of their session. The Messengers of Grace, 24 cadets strong with nearly as many children, will fondly remember their session’s welcome as they were enthusiastically encouraged by 400 soldiers, officers and friends who turned out for the meeting at the Chicago, Ill., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.
Introducing the session, Captain Kelly Hanton, territorial candidates’ secretary, cited that 18 are first-generation Salvationists, the majority have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and as a whole they represent at least six countries. “Each, by God’s grace, has stepped forward into full obedience and has surrendered to the calling God has placed on their lives,” she summarized.
In response, College for Officer Training (CFOT) Principal Major Brian Davis, said, “I believe when we look at the Messengers of Grace we see part of the beautiful tapestry of this territory.” He acknowledged Major Tricia Taube, who until recently was the candidates’ secretary and had processed their cases; the role those in the audience played by embodying grace, and most importantly God’s work.
Before Cadet Shannon Cabrera was entrusted with the session flag, Territorial Commander Commissioner Brad Bailey challenged the Messengers of Grace to take it to the streets in practical ministry. Other highlights included a moving vocal rendition of “Amazing Grace” by the Chicago Staff Band and the inspiring testimony of Cadet Katherine Reid, who came to the Army as a client in Pathway of Hope. “Here on out and after, it’s just being intentional in joining Jesus in His work of loving people, of loving God, and serving them both in every way that He sets before me,” she concluded. In his message, Commissioner Bailey charged the cadets and everyone assembled to be proclaimers, promoters, pronouncers and practitioners of God’s great grace.
Following the welcome, 70 delegates descended on the CFOT campus for the 730 Weekend, which affords those interested in becoming officers the opportunity to experience life as a cadet and learn more about the candidate process. Like cadets, delegates woke early Saturday to begin the day with morning details (cleaning assignments that help keep the campus in good shape and reduce costs). As many things at the college, details are a learning opportunity for cadets in how to keep their future corps clean if there is no custodian.
Later everyone joined for morning prayers, an opportunity for cadets to be spiritually fed throughout the week, led that day by Cadet Nate Woodard, a member of the Messengers of the Kingdom session.
Delegates also had the opportunity to experience Bible and doctrine classes with their cadet hosts. Education is a significant part of the training program, and cadets spend much of their free time reading, writing and studying for their classes. This is coupled with practical ministry opportunities through visits to corps, adult rehabilitation centers and other ministry centers.
Though training is a time to be challenged and grow, there are also times for fun. Delegates bonded with others from their division during a live-action CLUE mystery game in historic Booth Manor which, in Salvation Army fashion, featured items such as a red Christmas kettle, timbrel and black high-heeled shoe.
During the worship services on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, Captain Kelly Hanton and Captain Caleb Senn, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., corps officer, encouraged delegates to say “yes” to God’s calling on their lives and to be obedient to go wherever He may lead them.
Delegate Mikal Mathews from the Indiana Division concluded, “This weekend helped me know that people are there to support me in my walk. I was challenged to live my faith even more than I have before, to be more obedient and to be willing to spread the gospel to everyone around me without hesitation.”