Commissioning 2020: Wrap-up
We’re all messengers
Lt. Colonel E. David Kelly, principal of the College for Officer Training (CFOT), recalls notifying members of the Messengers of the Kingdom session that their commissioning would be anything but typical.
Kelly explained that because of COVID-19, no friends or family could attend the commissioning events, which usually feature plenty of pomp and circumstance. Kelly said most of the events would be virtual.
“For just a brief time, there were emojis of tears and then within a minute or two, there was post after post saying things like, ‘I’ll go in the strength of the Lord’ and ‘I’m in His hands’ and ‘God will have the victory.’ Honestly, it was one of the most amazing displays of faithfulness and determination I’ve ever seen,” Kelly said.
The 2018–2020 Messengers of the Kingdom session continued to soldier on by kicking off commissioning weekend with a prerecorded virtual event on June 13 called “Celebration of the Kingdom.” The evening featured praise and worship—and a challenge from Kelly.
One of the more unique elements was a performance by the Messengers of the Kingdom Family Virtual Choir and another by the Messengers of the Kingdom Creative Arts Team. Several performances and a video honored former cadet Jeff Jenkins, who died in 2019.
Cadet David J. LaBossiere was recognized as the session valedictorian and also appeared in an Order of the Silver Star video also featuring cadets Bassey Archibong and Irseris Agosto Santos.
LaBossiere, a son of Lt. Colonels James and Patricia LaBossiere, referred to a Progressive Insurance commercial that says the company can’t stop you from becoming your parents.
“Now this implies that becoming like your parents is a bad thing, but for me, nothing could be further from the truth,” LaBossiere said. “You have excellently modeled how to be an officer and a parent at the same time.”
Archibong thanked his mother for showing “unconditional love” and raising him “in the way of the Lord.”
Santos said despite being separated from her mother during officer training, “I can feel your love and affection in every phone call or text.”
The service also included Commissioner William Bamford III, territorial commander, conferring on the cadets an associate degree in applied science.
“The prayer of my heart is that what you have gained in knowledge, training, and experience will now be put to work in the extension of God’s Kingdom,” Bamford said. “Be certain that you are a messenger of the Kingdom.
“The certificate you will receive will mean nothing unless all that you have gained is put to work for God’s work.”
Kelly urged the cadets, who became ordained pastors and Salvation Army officers the next day, to “pay closer attention to the work of God inside you.”
“You have no message to share with others if you don’t first look after His work inside your own heart and your own mind,” Kelly said. “It won’t matter what outward skills and talents you bring to officership if that message isn’t first and primarily growing from within.
“He is the vine and we are the branches. So be very sure that you do the hard work of continuing to cultivate the community of God. Without Him and the Spirit’s ongoing work, you can do nothing for your people, at least nothing that will last.”
Kelly said his young granddaughters can often be messy and “you know where they’ve been” in the house. The evidence is everywhere. He said the same thing happened when Jesus sent out His disciples. They never left a city unchanged.
“Messengers of the Kingdom, please be true to your name,” Kelly said. “Promise me—better yet, promise God that every place you go, people will see the evidence that you have been there.”
The CFOT principal also had a message for the Eastern Territory.
“We will not reach our full potential until every one of us takes seriously our own responsibility to be a messenger of the Kingdom, so filled with the Kingdom of God inside us that it leaks out onto everything and everyone around us,” he said.
“I love their name Messengers of the Kingdom. But shame on us if we think it is only their responsibility to live up to that name. Messengers of the Kingdom? We all share that name. We all share that calling. That is not a responsibility solely for this session of cadets. It is not a responsibility solely of officers. It is not a responsibility of only those in uniform. The Army is broader than that and we need everybody to be a messenger of the Kingdom and if we all live up to it, everywhere we go, and everyone we touch, will know that people of God have been serving faithfully in their community.”
Kelly said the “pause” caused by COVID-19 has given the territory time to reflect on what The Salvation Army can be in the future.
“I’m energized about what that future might be,” he said. “I believe The Salvation Army will come back renewed and invigorated and a huge part of that rebirth is the promise and the command that we are all called by God to be messengers of His Kingdom.”
by Robert Mitchell
June 14, 2020—“This is a surprise for the Messengers of the Kingdom,” said Commissioner William W. Bamford III, territorial commander. “We have a family Zoom call on the screen right now!” Smartphones, laptops, iPads, desktop computers and other communication devices were lit with faces of Salvation Army families, each appearing in neatly arranged and colorful image boxes.
Intimacy permeated the entire online experience. Despite being separated geographically by cities, states, and even continents, the Messengers of the Kingdom session and their families still celebrated a milestone ordination, commissioning, and appointment service event. Close ups of every cadet’s face revealed the excitement and emotion in their eyes, smiles, and hearts. Shouts of joy reverberated throughout the College for Officer Training auditorium from the socially distanced cadets. Their voices registered through speaker systems and earbuds to hundreds of viewers in their homes.
“We want to extend a warm welcome to family members who are a part of worship this morning,” Bamford continued. “Modern technology allows us to bring them together from around the country and even the world!”
General Brian Peddle, international leader of The Salvation Army also appeared on screen from London, England. He sensitively described the challenging world facing the new lieutenants. However, the General passionately reminded them of the Kingdom they represent. “A Kingdom of hope for now and for eternity, liberation and transformation, peace for the heart and soul, grace and mercy, unconditional and inexhaustible love, truth that shatters lies where God reigns supreme, light that triumphs over darkness, and victory in Christ!”
A holy confidence
Lt. Colonel David E. Kelly, training principal, said of the session members’ skills and abilities, “Theirs is a holy confidence in the God who has called them into ministry and equipped them for service. This session arrived at the College for Officer training believing that they could make an impact in every community to which they are appointed,” he said.
“They are convinced that they have a vision for the Army that will resonate with the next generation. They are convinced that the mission of the Army still matters in the world, perhaps now more than ever. They are convinced that a culture of equality and social justice is not only compatible with Scripture but required by it and we are convinced of that too. They are convinced that if the word of God is preached boldly and lived rightly that lives will be transformed, and we are convinced of that too.”
Kelly concluded by saying, “I am honored to present these cadets and to confirm that they are ready for commissioning as the Messengers of the Kingdom.”
Colonel Philip J. Maxwell, chief secretary, quoted Hebrews 11:1 and then led the session in declaring their 11 Tenants of Faith. “Messengers of the Kingdom session,” he said, “You stand on the threshold of a whole new life; a future where you will come to see God’s power, experience God’s presence, and rest in God’s promise. The extent to which you will realize God’s purpose for your life is directly aligned to the depth of the beliefs upon which you stand and the sincerity of the promises you will make this day.”
Ordination and Commissioning
The program began with a heartfelt video presentation depicting selected session members reacting to video greetings received from family members. Despite the social distancing, there was nonetheless deep intimacy expressed in those conversations.
“I love you.” “I’m very happy.” “I bless you with all my heart, honey!” These were just some of the tearful remarks. “I was not expecting that,” said Lieutenant Nereus Mogaria. “That made me feel excited; it made me feel great. I love my family so much!”
“It’s encouraging,” said Lieutenant Ismael Ortiz. [My mom] said that I overcame a lot of obstacles to get here and I know those prayers from her, and my family have really helped,” he said. “I want to do what God has called me to do, which is save souls through the ministry of The Salvation Army. My teen years were rough, and I felt low. I know there are other teenagers now who feel that way. I feel called to help teens who also feel lost.”
A tearful Lieutenant Kiara shared her reaction. “I want everyone to know the worth that God has in them,” she said. “There is something in every single person that He has created. He wants them to be part of His Kingdom.”
Taking a knee for God
“We must make the invisible Kingdom visible by living in such a way that we bear witness to the reality of the kingship of Christ,” said the territorial commander, alluding to a quote by theologian John Calvin. “We do this by living in such a way that we bear witness to the reality of the kingship of Christ in our jobs, our families, and our schools. God, in Christ is king over every one of those areas of life.”
Bamford reflected on Luke chapter 17, saying, “The Kingdom of God is within you. Christlike living must be seen in this world even greater today than at any other time in our history.” Bamford reminded his audience of the Apostle Paul’s encounter with Christ and subsequent transformation in Acts 9. “His life was fulfilled when God called him from that day forward. I hope that you who are watching have encountered Christ!”
“It’s a phrase we’ve all heard, but I use it this morning with great reverence,” continued Bamford. “Maybe we need to go on bended knee and sing, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me; take control of me.’ May that happen as we come before the Lord.”
Lieutenant Mereus Mogaria, session speaker, offered a powerful and thought–provoking word when he said, “Messengers of the Kingdom, I challenge you to prioritize and keep the promises that we’ve made to God; the promises to proclaim the gospel of Jesus to bind ourselves to Him to love and serve Him all the days of our lives to be purposeful in winning souls and making the Salvation of others of priority in our lives.
“We are to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and be friends to those who have no friends in order to maintain the doctrines and the principles of The Salvation Army. This is done by God’s grace and we need to do it all in the strength of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Family, we are the Messengers of the Kingdom,” Mogaria concluded. “May we all remember the promises that God has given us and keep Him our priority!”
Lieutenant David James LaBossiere received The Commissioners Award, which recognizes a cadet who, during the course of his or her training, excelled in the areas of academics, leadership, attitude, field work, and spiritual influence and is recommended by the College for Officer Training.
Lt. Colonels Abraham D. and Louise H. Johnson (R), were admitted to the Order of the Founder (O.F.), the highest honor that The Salvation Army can bestow upon a member. This award is rarely given and as recipients, the Johnsons receive special status and a place in history for having modeled the values and ideals that exemplify true Salvationism during their 86 years of combined active service as officers. (see link below)
by Warren L. Maye
Other Commissioning Content:MOK Appointments Flickr Photo Album – Commissioning 2020 Flickr Photo Album – Behind the Scenes Flickr Photo Album – Messengers of the Kingdom Johnson – Order of the Founder