East welcomes 47 ‘Messengers of Light’
Celebrates ‘Mission partnership’
September 5, 2014—Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, territorial commander, addressed a vast audience in the historic Centennial Memorial Temple (CMT) in New York. They had come to this highly anticipated meeting to welcome 47 cadets of the “Messengers of Light” session of the College for Officer Training (CFOT). But the audience also learned of a unique “partnership” between the Redeemer Presbyterian Church and The Salvation Army.
“To say that we have a special speaker would be an understatement,” said Swanson. “Dr. Timothy J. Keller is one of the most influential Christian leaders in America today.”
Swanson described Dr. Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York, as a “prolific author whose book titles frequently show up on The New York Times bestsellers list.” Keller is also chair of “City to City,” the Redeemer program that has helped start 250 churches in cities worldwide.
“Every Sunday, right here in Centennial Memorial Temple, at least a thousand people from the Redeemer church hold a worship service and hear the word of God preached,” said Swanson. “In turn, Redeemer is supportive of the services and ministry of The Salvation Army through their volunteerism and other tangible contributions. We have been called to come together and to serve cities across this territory and the country,” Swanson said. “It’s a partnership!”
The CFOT Cadet Chorus; instrumental music from the New York Staff Band (NYSB), under the able direction of Deputy Bandmaster Gordon Ward (Bandmaster Ronald Waiksnoris was in the Republic of Congo); and choral selections led by Dorothy Gates set a thoughtful tone for worship and for contemplating Dr. Keller’s reflective message.
“I have always been amazed that The Salvation Army has managed to stay on message for almost 150 years,” said Keller. “You’re still about what you were about when you started!”
Keller, whose theme for the evening was the great spiritual awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries, pointed out how The Salvation Army emerged from the Wesleyan holiness revival movement. He encouraged the new cadets and seasoned officers to keep the awakening alive. “You’ve got to continue to be in the process of rediscovering it, and reacquiring it!” he said.
Just moments after Keller and the territorial officer cabinet had mounted the stage, these new cadets had, with much fanfare, marched into CMT, following their respective divisional leaders. Exuberant music by the NYSB and shouts of “hallelujah!” from the audience had accompanied them.
Kellers words fell on attentive ears. In a very real sense, these men and women in blue entered as messengers of light who are called to launch a spiritual revival. (See “Cadet Testimonies.”)
Bring down ‘fire’
Keller framed his message by using an example found in 1 Kings 18: 30–39, when God consumed Elijah’s water–soaked altar of wood and stone with His divine fire. Equating such a fire with spiritual revival, Keller said, “But before we see the fire, we must build an ‘altar.’”
Keller said that, just as Elijah built an altar upon which God could demonstrate His divine power, there are four “instruments” needed to build a spiritual awakening.
- Recovery of the gospel of grace, which reminds us that God’s unmerited favor saves us, rather than our “good” works.
- Comprehensive balance of word and deed. When the fire of spiritual awakening is high, both one’s soul and one’s lifestyle are redeemed.
- Creativity. Spiritual awakenings happen differently each time.
- Extraordinary prayer is the one common denominator that undergirds all awakenings—pray for the “fire” to come down!
“There are four marks of a spiritual awakening,” said Keller.
- Nominal Christians (people who thought they were living a fulfilled Christian life) say they’ve been converted.
- Sleepy Christians wake up. What they know in principle they now actually feel and experience as the love of God.
- Unbelieving people observe the love and are attracted to it and are converted. The Christian community grows.
- The awakening leads to a movement toward social justice, societal change, and healing.
Keller concluded by saying, “And in times of spiritual awakenings, churches work together!”
The meeting concluded with Commissioner E. Sue Swanson, territorial president of women’s ministries, asking, “Where are you in this story?” Many people responded by praying fervently at the mercy seat for His “fire to come down.”
by Warren L. Maye
‘Messengers of Light’ share testimonies
Lilia G. Soria’s personal awakening happened at age 16 when she accepted the Lord as her Savior. Years later, she married David R. Soria, and as soldiers of the Templo De Queens, N.Y., Corps, they heard God’s call to become Salvation Army officers.
For Ingrid Moreno of the Brooklyn (Bushwick), N.Y., Corps, the awakening began when she heard God’s voice say, ‘I claim you, I want you, I’ve been calling out to you for a very long time.’ Today, Moreno says with great confidence, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!’
Kendacy Barnes of New Rochelle, N.Y., has been learning humility, compassion, and commitment to the Lord’s work. ‘Even as I embark on this journey to become an officer, He will strengthen me!’ she says.
Lilybeth Ciriaco of the New York Temple Corps said that one day she felt the Lord wake her up at 6 a.m. and call her to prayer. She heard Him say specifically, ‘I need you to be a Salvation Army officer!’ Today, she says, ‘There is nothing else that I could do that would satisfy His will for my life.’
— taken from a Greater New York
Division video presentation