Candidates Seminar 2018: Be available!

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Friday

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

—Isaiah 6:8.

 Colonel Paula S. Johnson, Territorial Secretary for women’s ministries, kicked off the 2018 Candidates Seminar on Friday by challenging a gym full of would-be officers with the story of Peter’s call to follow Jesus.

The short-fused Peter was included in a short video called “The March of the Unqualified” that accompanied Johnson’s remarks. While Peter wasn’t perfect, he made himself available to be used by God in the biblical account from Luke 5:1-11.

Jesus asked Peter to get in his boat so that he would have his full attention; Jesus also asked him to row out a bit from the shore so that He could have a deeper relationship; Jesus blessed Peter’s faith and obedience with a great catch of fish.

“This weekend we ask you to consider: What is that you need to make available so that Christ can use you for His purposes and for His glory?” Johnson said.

“Do you need a boat? Do you need God to capture your full and undivided attention? Do you need to allow Him to be the full focus of your life? Is God calling you to push out further, to go deeper with Him, to follow and trust Him in obedience to what He is calling you to do?

“Are you ready to cast your nets, leave everything behind, and follow Him? Are you ready to trust Him with all of your tomorrows knowing that it will be different because of your obedience?”

Johnson said we can only be obedient when we totally surrender to God. The meeting closed appropriately with the singing of Phil Laeger’s “I Surrender” as delegates came forward to be prayed over.

“We simply say, ‘Lord, I surrender all. I surrender everything to you,’” Johnson said before leading the audience in the singing of “I Surrender.”

The Candidates Seminar—with its theme of “Available”—was held at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) in Suffern, N.Y.

Major Linda Lopez, the territory’s assistant candidates secretary, called the CFOT a “very special place” in her welcome and urged the delegates to listen for the voice of God over the weekend.

“Just be alert because it’s certain God will be speaking,” she said. “God has great things in store.”

Most of the delegates to the Candidates Seminar had just settled in after arriving Friday from all over the territory.

The night also featured performances by the CFOT worship and drama teams and a time of prayer from Psalm 98 and Philippians 1:9-10, led by Colonel Janet Munn, the CFOT principal.

The Candidates Seminar, which gives prospective officers a chance to hear God’s call on their lives and also to learn more about officership, continues Saturday and Sunday at the CFOT. Commissioner William A. Bamford, territorial commander, will speak at Sunday’s holiness meeting.

By Robert Mitchell

 

Saturday

Round Robin 2018 Recap

At the Candidates Seminar Round Robin sessions on Saturday, Salvation Army officers shared their own experiences and lessons they have learned serving as corps officers. Different topics were covered, from the importance of maintaining a balance between family and ministry, to how to keep your own connection with the Gospel strong.

Lts. Diabel and Cristina Valdes, corps officers at the Camden Kroc Center, spoke about the changes that happen to families from the Cadet Training School to running their own corps.

“Life in the CFOT is unique,” said Lt. Diabel. “Enjoy every moment, because at training, you will have access to help for you and your family that you may not ever see as an officer.”

“Cristina and I also wanted our cadet experience to be realistic as to how it would be as officers. If they told us the day ended at 3 pm, we continued working and serving for hours after that, because as corps officers, we knew our day would never end at 3 pm.”

The Lieutenants also talked about the joy that their three girls felt when their parents became officers. They loved being part of ministry, they said, because their mom and dad loved it too.

“Remember that your family is your first ministry,” Lt. Diabel said. “The book of Timothy warns that to not provide for your family and give them attention is a sin worse than being a non-believer.”

“I never used a planner before I became an officer,” said Lt. Cristina. “But I began to use one to organize my schedule and make time for each member of my family, as well as the ministry. Your planner will save your life.”

God Qualifies Us

Lt. Colonel Ruth Stoneburner spoke to the candidates about the expectations of an officer, saying that even after two years of training, there are cadets that wrestle with the idea that God has called him or her to be officers.

“I have served 18 years as an officer in 5 different corps, handling duties that I was not always trained or prepared for,” said Lt. Colonel Stoneburner. “Was I qualified for every role I took on? No. But God calls on us, and He qualifies us.”

“Officership is a calling, not a job. It is not about if your parents were officers, or if your friends want to be officers. It’s you surrendering yourself to proclaim the Gospel in the name of God.”

Stoneburner confessed that she herself is an introvert, and sitting at a desk handling paperwork was something that she was always comfortable doing. “But the Lord did not call me to do just that.”

She shared a memory of her time working at a corps near an ARC, and seeing the beneficiaries coming to service to worship.

“What a beautiful experience to get to know each of these people, going through recovery, and even seeing some of them become soldiers,” she said. “Every Sunday I came home from service, tired but thinking, ‘Today, God has blessed me.’ ”

The Job of a Pastor

Major David Antill, secretary for pastoral care, explained that an officer’s role as pastor is more than just preaching.

“Preaching is great; it’s one of my favorite things to do as a pastor! But as officers you will clean, you will cook, you will comfort in time of need, you will collect money, and you will drive vans. And all that falls under pastoral care, because all that is part of taking care of your flock.”

Major Antill spoke about how as Christ’s apostles preached and were saving souls, their responsibilities to watch over those souls grew as did the ministry.

“When people are saved, they want to come together with others who are saved. They want to have meetings, but that requires planning and organizing. Who will attend? Where will it be? Who will set the rules and guidelines?”

In the early Christian church, Major Antill explained, you might have been shunned from society for worshipping God. If you were young and healthy, you might have survived, but what if you were old or sick?

“Now the apostles had a new job: to take care of those people. They needed food, money, and resources, and someone who would collect and keep track of those resources.”

All these responsibilities are part of pastoral care, said Major Antill. “The role of bookkeeper, cook, and cleaner are all roles of pastoral ministry.”

Community Leaders

“When someone says you are a good face for the community, it’s a wonderful compliment”, Major George Polarek said. “It means that people know you, remember you, and you have listened to the community’s needs.”

The importance of the officer being a good community leader, Major Polarek explained, is that it puts you at the front seat of those great stories and testimonies that will touch your heart, and that is where the role of the Army grows.

He shared a story of an elderly Pennsylvania woman that asked the Army for a favor. She loved fishing, and she simply wanted someone to help her every Sunday to get on her boat and give her a push, and when she was done fishing, to come back and help her dismount from her boat.

“That little act of kindness that we provided meant so much to her,” said Major Polarek. Years later, when the woman died, she left a generous donation to the corps as a thank you.

In another corps in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Army learned that folks were being kicked out of the local shelter at 6 am in the morning. The corps was ready with breakfast sandwiches for each of them at 7.

“When the Army meets those needs, the community notices,” said Major Polarek.

“In different communities, I’ve visited clubs of football fans and clubs of folks that enjoy hunting, and I come in the name of The Salvation Army. Whoever those folks were, whatever the reason was they gathered, they needed Jesus in their lives.”

“I’m a firm believer of sitting at the table and listening. As an officer, it’s your job to learn where people sit.”

Your Own Devotionals

As a Salvationist’s role in the Army grows, says Lt. Colonel Patricia LaBossiere, so should their own spiritual lives. This means not just to learn more about the Word of God, but find new ways to learn and pray.

“The best devotional plan is the plan you can commit to,” said Lt Colonel LaBossiere. “If I said to myself, I will wake up at 4 am and read 10 chapters of the Bible every morning, pray for an hour, and then read another chapter…. I would be setting myself up for failure.”

“For years I read the bible cover to cover, until I realized I was burning myself out. The process was becoming stale for me. But then I started using a chronological bible, and read the Word in a different light. When I read about the life of King David, it immediately posted his Psalms as he was writing and living them, and as Saul was trying to kill him. It was a new way of experiencing his thoughts and his life.”

The Round Robin attendees shared their own ways of doing devotionals, such as journaling when reading, praying along with a phone app, and having bible study and prayer sessions with their children on the way to school.

If you are ever at a loss for how to pray, Lt Colonel LaBossiere said, all you need is your hand.

“Look at each of your fingers, and organize your prayers like this: For your thumb, the finger closest to you, pray for the people closest in your lives. For the index finger, pray for your teachers and those who educate us. For your middle finger, the strongest finger, pray for your world leaders, so that they may make wise decisions. For your ring finger, which might be your weakest finger, pray for those who need the most help, the sickest and the weakest of us.”

“And for your pinkie,” said Lt Colonel LaBossiere, “say a prayer for yourself.”

By Hugo Bravo

Sunday

Seminar delegates hear God’s voice

February 4, 2018—The Candidates Seminar concluded today at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) with a heartfelt testimony from Cadet Ling I. Porchetti and a powerful message by Commissioner William A. Bamford, territorial commander. He concluded the holiness meeting with a solemn altar call and challenging invitation to officership.

Attendees went home feeling encouraged, energized, and intentional about exploring the possibilities of serving God through The Salvation Army.

As evidenced by the numbers of millennials present, the Army’s future is in the hands of its young men and women, many of whom have come to the United States as immigrants.

Never say ‘never’

“I would have never thought I would become a Christian, and I would have never thought that I would go to college,” said Cadet Porchetti. With her voice breaking and eyes filled with tears, she shared her testimony. “I would have never thought I would have found the love of my life in church (CFOT); I would have never thought that I would become a Salvation Army officer; and I would have never thought that, in losing my dreams, I would find my purpose.”

Porchetti, who as a high school senior, had given up her college savings to support her immigrant family, concluded, “Here I am today, just five months away from being commissioned an officer…. God’s plans are better than ours!”

Hear God’s voice

“This weekend, what have you been hearing from God?” asked Commissioner Bamford. “Are you listening to Him?” Bamford addressed his questions to everyone in the CFOT gym—turned sanctuary.

To illustrate how God calls us repeatedly before He gets our full attention, Bamford cited the Prophet Ezekiel and to other biblical heroes. “About 90 times, God referred to Ezekiel as ‘the son of man’ because God was calling him to do something—and would equip him. “God said, ‘listen to what I say to you!’”

To describe his own call to officership, Bamford held up a small ceramic bowl and asked, “Does anyone know what this is? It’s a mortar and pestle!”

As he gently placed the old–fashioned pill grinder down, he told how God had called him from being a pharmacist to becoming a Salvation Army officer.

Seminar delegates are moved

Darner Montilla, originally from the Dominican Republic, immigrated with his family to the United States from the St. Croix Corps in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They now reside in New Jersey. Darner was moved spiritually by the worship. “It just touched my heart,” he said. “I could see everyone around was crying to the Lord. It was just amazing. It was a beautiful experience!”

Carlos Montilla was pleasantly surprised. “I came with no expectations. This was my first time in the CFOT,” he said. “I loved getting together with people who shared the same feelings, and to talk about our God. It made me feel loved by the Holy Spirit. Everyone should experience this at least one time in their lives.”

Sahory Montilla said, “This was a blessed opportunity to feel the Lord. We had an awesome time to worship with our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. It’s a blessing to be around people who have the same thoughts and feelings. I believe this week was a good one—it went beyond my expectations!”

Brandon McClain recently moved from the Southern Territory and is now attending the Jersey City, N.J. Corps. “Seeing young people who have the passion to lead other people is what I loved about this weekend,” he said. “Being around other people who have the same feelings is amazing and cannot be duplicated.”

Cadet reflections

Cadet Pierre Neekenson Fils–Aime said, “I really enjoyed this weekend because at least 60 percent were young people, 40 percent older adults. Everyone was engaged and on time. They were really interested in knowing more about The Salvation Army, God, and what to expect when they come to the college. There was such a great response to the call to officership. It was such a blessing!”

Cadet Miguel Barriera said when he first felt the call, he struggled with surrendering all of himself to God. But at the seminar in 2015, he felt ready. “Although I didn’t go up to the platform, I thought, maybe this is the time. When I got home, I expressed my desire to my parents. They started the paperwork and, as they say, ‘the rest is history!’”

by Warren Maye

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