Despite constraints on the celebration due to the ongoing pandemic, the Messengers of Reconciliation session received a warm welcome from the territory and were supported virtually as the meeting was livestreamed.
Though having to wear face masks and sit socially distanced across the platform, the new cadets showed determination to pursue their calling to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to a fractured, hurting world.
Indeed, from opening comments by Colonel Steve Howard, chief secretary, to a choral scripture reading by cadets and the Central Territorial Staff Songsters’ upbeat video presentation of “May we be one,” the service amplified Paul’s entreaty in 2 Corinthians 5:18.
“The world likes to apply labels, likes to identify people by certain markers. Jesus came to say that in the Kingdom, all are united in Him, in one body,” said Major Brian Davis, College for Officer Training (CFOT) principal, addressing the session. “It will not all rest on you. God will provide all you need. What you provide is a surrendered heart and willing hands.”
The session flag was entrusted to standard bearer Cadet Melissa Bledsoe who posted it to a beautiful rendition of “In my life, Lord” played by a Chicago Staff Band ensemble which provided live music for the event.
She and her husband, Cadet Mario, who entered the CFOT from the Chicago, Ill., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, shared in a video testimony their experiences of accepting Christ as their Savior, joining The Salvation Army, and their decision to follow God’s call.
“This was the exact time that God wanted us to be here,” said Cadet Melissa. “Especially being people of color, I think that sometimes we feel that we don’t have a place in the Army. Know that there is a place for you. We need the whole entire body of Christ. You don’t have to have it all together, you don’t have to look or act a certain way in order for God to call you into this Army.”
Territorial leaders Commissioners Brad and Heidi Bailey affirmed the new cadets in their calling. Commissioner Heidi dedicated the session back to the Lord, releasing them for equipping and training, praying that they will remain in Christ, live as one and stand firm in their calling. In a compelling message, Commissioner Brad reminded the cadets and all Salvationists that they are called to the forefront of reconciliation and encouraged them to engage the world around them.
“One of the most exciting privileges as believers is to bridge the gap between an awesomely wonderous relational God who likes to engage with us, wants to engage with us, and the millions of men and women, boys and girls, who are isolated and disenfranchised not only by sin but by circumstances and conditions,” proclaimed the territorial commander.
He urged them to remember God’s plan from the beginning was to reconcile the world to Himself and their privilege in joining Him in this mission. “You are part of a great continuum in the plan of Almighty God,” he said. “As a result of God’s gift of reconciliation there’s potential for change from a state of hostility and fragmentation and division to one of harmony and fellowship. God invites you and me to join Him in this ministry of reconciliation.”
Twenty-two cadets comprise the Messengers of Reconciliation session, representing eight divisions, 12 corps and two Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers. Two are fourth generation Salvationists, 17 are first-generation Salvationists, and 11 accepted Christ at The Salvation Army. A third of the session are single cadets. The session’s families have 13 children among them.
All of the cadets, as stated by Captain AJ Zimmerman, assistant territorial candidates’ secretary, are called by God to be Messengers of Reconciliation at a time when civil unrest, political upheaval and racial tensions magnify the urgent need for believers to reach out with the ministry of reconciliation.