IMPACT 150*: ‘Why are you here?’
“I love you,” said Commissioner Barry C. Swanson to 323 Candidates Seminar delegates. All morning, their exuberant voices had filled the College for Officer Training (CFOT) gymnasium. But at that moment, you could have heard a pin drop. To break their contemplative silence, Swanson told a joke—and the room erupted into laughter.
That’s how the territorial commander began his heart–moving holiness meeting message. It was the third and final day of activities, which began February 6 with a concert at Centennial Memorial Temple in Manhattan on Friday night, and continued in Suffern, N.Y., on Saturday with CFOT site visits and workshops.
And after sharing a few riveting modern–day stories about people who had emerged from spiritual transformation, Swanson examined the Old Testament account of how, through Elijah, Elisha had also discovered his true purpose in life.
Swanson then challenged his audience by asking, “Why are you here?” and encouraged them to seek the answer.
His appeal for delegates to embrace opportunities in The Salvation Army to become officers (pastors) or employees or volunteers created a buzz. His words inspired many people to pray and to be counted among the delegates who eventually stood on and in front of the platform, declaring their commitment to service.
Why they came
Anthony and Krystal Johnson had driven nine hours from Rockland, Maine, to attend. Anthony said it “definitely looks like we will become officers.”
“[The seminar] definitely answered a lot of questions that I’ve had about officership,” Anthony said. “It has opened my eyes. I just have to pray more and see where the Lord wants me to go.”
Krystal called the weekend enlightening. “This experience has shown me exactly what the other side of The Salvation Army is like,” she said. “The Spirit’s definitely been moving in me.”
Shane Westfall, who also attends the corps in Rockland, Maine, said for years he has been thinking about becoming an officer and that the weekend helped make up his mind.
“More than likely, I’m going to become an officer,” he said.
In writing about the seminar, other delegates expressed similar reasons for attending. “We have had a calling for many years,” wrote someone from the Northeastern Ohio (NEOSA) Division. “We agreed that, this weekend, we would follow our calling and make the trip to CFOT. This has been confirmation that it is time to stop procrastinating and to follow God’s will and the plans He has for our lives. I know doors will be opened. The time for us to go ‘all in’ is now.”
Another person from New Jersey wrote, “Before this seminar, I had many questions. Now, I’m fully aware of the training school process and of my calling to officership.”
A satisfied delegate penned, “I came here feeling that attending officer school would be pushed on us. Rather, I felt pushed toward God. I enjoyed the seminar and feel I’ve found my place.”
“I saw The Salvation Army as never before,” said a delegate from the Southwest Ohio, Northeast Kentucky Division. “I believe God continues His calling on my life to be an officer, to fight evil, and to do what is right.”
“This seminar confirmed The Salvation Army as my church and the divine means for me to live out my faith in love to others for the glory of God,” said a delegate from the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division. “I am confidently and prayerfully moving toward officership.”
“I am so grateful to have had this opportunity,” wrote a man recovering from addiction. “It speaks loud for The Salvation Army to have invited us from the Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARC) to seek God’s will in our lives.”
What happens now?
Today at the Cleveland West Park Corps, delegates are putting their faith in action by holding one another accountable for the commitments they made at the seminar. “We are networking and supporting each other spiritually,” said Cameron Helmick. He, Nicauya and Latia Ware, Joann Helmick, and Cheryl Lewis meet at the corps to implement their support plan. “We meet at our corps and even sometimes at our homes,” said Cameron. “We are going to do this through complete dedication and commitment to assuring one another that we are serving God.”
Jacklyn Brewer, an accepted candidate for the Joyful Intercessors session, said Commissioner Swanson’s message on Elijah and Elisha strengthened her confidence to expand her comfort zone; to meet and talk with new people; to be at peace with leaving her corps family in Massilon, Ohio, to attend CFOT; and to continue to grow into a deeper relationship with the Lord. “I know that only with His strength will I be able to accomplish all that is before me,” said Brewer.
by Warren L. Maye
— Robert Mitchell contributed to this article.
* Impact 150 is the Eastern Territory Salvation Army’s initiative to have 100 new cadets (students) join the “Joyful Intercessors” session this year at its College for Officer Training in Suffern, N.Y.