Living in the Spirit

Commissioning calls Salvationists to be firmly rooted, grow in godliness and bear fruit

Imagine what God can do. Here. In this moment. In this territory. His Spirit flowing freely through us as Resurrection and Pentecost people, yielding fruitful lives and ministries. Nearly 900 delegates pondered and prayed about these things during the commissioning weekend, June 8-9, in Milwaukee. The theme of the Fruit of the Spirit ran through the meetings like a stream from music to messages, carrying delegates from one item to the next and nourishing them along the way.

During the first session, heartfelt praise was led by the Territorial Worship Collective. An adorable United Singing Company gave a staccato proclamation of the fruits, following a flawless recitation of Galatians 5:22-25 by 14-year-old Noah Smith. A Bill Booth Theater Company sketch inconspicuously got to the heart of the theme.

The Central Territorial Staff Songsters captivated delegates with “O Worship the King” and “Far Above All,” accompanied by the Chicago Staff Band, which also played rousing marches during the Parade of Session Flags and gave excellent support to the whole weekend.

A captivating World Services Ingathering video showed how the $10.9 million given by the Central Territory is being used around the globe, and Summer Mission Teams were joyfully dedicated in prayer. Throughout the weekend delegates had the opportunity to contribute to a roof project for the Kenya East Territory. More than $5,000 was given!

Salvationists Ricardo Cardenas and Jesse Links each gave a powerful testimony to the reality of a Spirit-filled life.

Ricardo talked of his transformation as he walked in the Spirit and how it revolutionized his priorities and marriage.

Jesse, who’d battled addiction, cried out to God when possibly facing a life sentence in jail. A merciful judge gave him the chance to get the help he desperately needed, and Jesse checked himself into the Harbor Light’s detox program, then the Indianapolis Adult Rehabilitation Center where he found Christ.

Delegates also were moved. And they were touched to see their territorial commander, who thanked Salvationists for their prayer support, encouragement and faithfulness during her health journey, before diving into a rich and inspiring two-part message.

“We are called to be free! I love the hope and opportunity that is offered to us in those words,” Commissioner Evie Diaz said, speaking from Galatians Chapter 5. “How can we be free? The way is clear…Freedom comes not from doing our own thing, but in being filled, being led, being guided and directed by the Holy Spirit in us…no longer being controlled by selfish desires and sinful nature.”

Toward the conclusion of her message, she proclaimed, “So here it is Central Territory, I believe that God wants to do this new thing now! I believe that Jesus wants to use us, this Salvation Army, to bring His word of hope, to live out and preach this message of new life to our world.”

She continued, “I believe this is a vision of what our territory can be: a people and communities with an abundance of fruit, restored spaces, people needing and receiving the living water of Jesus, people knowing His healing and provision in their lives, and communities transformed as lives are changed.”

Delegates then shared what they would take home and prayed with each other.

Earlier, Saturday held opportunities for fellowship and service that ranged from the Silver Star brunch to Trade Central, a concert by the CTSS, and informal get-togethers with friends and session mates.

Delegates could join in a variety of service projects around Milwaukee. An ice cream social was on the menu at the Emergency Lodge, and a neighborhood outreach at the Milwaukee West Corps distributed 150 sack lunches with information about corps programs and an invitation to Sunday worship.

“Being a new person in Christ changed everything for me,” Jesse said choking up with emotion.

The Sunday morning ordination and commissioning service continued the theme of fruitful lives. Training Principal Major John Pook shared the “Defenders of Justice” session had “far surpassed what we ever thought they could do at CFOT.” He recounted their compassionate service to migrants in Chicago.

“God is going to do a great work through them,” Major John said.

Session speaker Cadet Julie Reed concurred, telling her session mates, “You are already a people of action, and each corps that is receiving you is so lucky. They are in good hands.”

The territorial commander addressed the session, saying that with the gifts and abilities God had given them they could be considered superheroes of sorts. “But beware, you don’t go from here in your own strength or even your own superpower,” she said. “You are not enough on your own…You go because of His amazing power over and in you.”

Each session member was ordained and commissioned. Then a beautiful rendition of “Rock of Ages” by Captain Grant Holloway brought many of them—as well as audience members— to tears.

Chief Secretary Colonel Steven Howard spoke from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10. Using the hook of good versus excellent chocolate, he maintained that when we do things in our own power or for our own recognition, it’s a cheap imitation. The Fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, patience, kindness, selfcontrol— comes not because of our works but because the Holy Spirit is working in us.

“We must allow God’s Holy Spirit to work in us to change us,” he said before a time of response where many people came to the altar and gathered in prayer.

The mood turned celebratory as the “Defenders of Justice” returned to the stage with their families as Major Johanna Pook enthusiastically read where each would serve. The crowd roared after each announcement, and the new lieutenants and captains were joyfully greeted and congratulated by their new divisional leaders. Lts. Ashley Tellez and Kasleen Velasquez from the Latin America North Territory were warmly embraced by their territorial leaders Commissioners Merle and Dawn Heatwole, who earlier had ordained and commissioned them.

The weekend concluded with Major John Pook giving a benediction from Ephesians: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work
within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.”

View more photos at the gallery here.




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