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New cadets welcomed, 9/11 remembered

September 11, 2020—Reconciliation was the theme of this year’s Welcome to Cadets event held at the USA Eastern Territory’s College for Officer Training (CFOT) in Suffern, N.Y. In the midst of social and political crises across the nation as well as health challenges of pandemic proportions, The Salvation Army nonetheless marched 26 new cadets forward to deliver God’s message to the world.

Even before they gallantly entered the ceremonial hall, Commissioner William A. Bamford III, territorial commander, said to them, “Messengers of Reconciliation, you have arrived at the CFOT as a new session of cadets. But you must embrace the responsibility to share the reconciliation that can take place in one’s life through Jesus Christ.”

His voice touched a small and socially–distanced audience in the room. He also stirred a vast number of viewers via livestream. Bamford’s  presentation included a moment of silence in remembrance of the lives lost during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (see sidebar).

Bamford concluded, “As a Messenger of Reconciliation, you are needed now more than ever.  We know of reconciliation that needs to be seen in our world today. I believe it was by divine inspiration that your session name was chosen for this particular season of life.”

The New York Staff Band ensemble provided preliminary music as well as a selection entitled “Christ Is All.” The band UNBOUND led worship. During the time of commitment, they rendered “And Now My Lifesong Sings.”

Colonels Philip J. and Deslea A. Maxwell, chief secretary and territorial secretary for Women’s Ministries respectively, echoed Commissioner William Bamford’s call for reconciliation. In her thoughtful testimony, Colonel Deslea  Maxwell said, “I’m quite excited about this session name and I look forward to seeing what God is going to speak into your lives and do through you as you embrace this name and all that it means. It is a name that will be yours for the rest of your lives.”

Colonel Philip Maxwell said, “Yours is the responsibility to be the channel that speaks to a fractionalized and marginalized world and to invite them into a loving, dynamic, and restorative relationship with the heavenly father.” As an example of reconciliation in the Bible, he referenced the parable of the Prodigal Son and renamed it, “The running father” to highlight how it was the boy’s father, representing God’s response to mankind’s rebellion, who came running to reconcile a deeply broken relationship.

The livestream also included a session video, which carefully accentuated the dramatic entrance of the Messengers of Reconciliation. Prerecorded testimonies from Cadets JoeQuetta S. Sorrells and Cameron J. DeMatteo offered further insight into why Major Shaun P. Belanger, candidates’ secretary, called the session,  “A diverse group of fine soldiers who have responded to God’s call for each of their lives.”


The blessing of diversity

While presenting the new cadets, Belanger shared some revealing statistics about them. “There are 26 cadets in this session with an average age of 33. The average age at their conversion was 15. Exactly 21 cadets gave their life to Jesus at a Salvation Army–related ministry. There are four single male cadets, five single female cadets, and nine couples, including one officer spouse. There are 16 children accompanying their parents here at the CFOT.

“We have citizens representing the United States, Zimbabwe, South Korea, the Dominican Republic, and Canada. Four languages are included in this session. They are English, Spanish, Korean, and Shona.

“The cadets have had many job experiences: stay–at–home mom, thrift store manager, customer service agent, youth ministry coordinator, receptionist, bakery manager, education manager, shelter aide, and health aide.

“There are 16 first–generation Salvationists, two 2nd–generation Salvationists, three 3rd–generation Salvationists, three 4th–generation Salvationists, one 5th –generation Salvationist, and one 6th –generation Salvationist.”

Belanger concluded, “This is a diverse group of fine soldiers who have responded to God’s call for each of their lives. They have responded to the Lord and I am pleased to call them Messengers of Reconciliation. God bless you!”

Testimony: Cadet JoeQuetta S. Sorrells

My mother has been a pastor all my life. So, I was raised in church. I didn’t really know Christ; I knew of Him, but I didn’t know Him personally.

Five years ago, my cousin suddenly passed away. In the course of that time, the Holy Spirit asked me, “Are you ready to be next? What are you doing?  Are you ready?”

My answer was “no.” I was running and playing and doing what I wanted to do. So, in the course of that weekend, I gave my life to Christ; I wanted that personal relationship with Him. After that, I went to school and I became a medical assistant.

One day, Lieutenant Miguel came in. He needed a flu shot. We were just talking about Jesus. Then the lieutenant  told me he had a position as administrative assistant at The Salvation Army. After being thrown into the Army world and its programs, I just fell in love with it.

During my life’s journey, I’ve battled with rebellion, insecurity, disobedience to my parents, and with the partying  lifestyle. But when I look back through it now, I really see that God never left me alone. I always knew that there was something more. I always knew that He was calling me to something bigger than myself.

I think Messengers of Reconciliation is a unique name for a session, specially in this day and time. There’s so many people who, like myself, are raised in church, but who don’t really have that personal connection to God. So, saying that we can come back home to Christ is an amazing message.

Testimony: Cadet Cameron J. DeMatteo

I grew up going to The Salvation Army my whole life. My dad thought that was important in our lives. I’m kind of like a basic Salvation Army kid. I’ve just been going to the programs and doing that since as long as I can remember.

Then one day, I heard a distinct voice. It happened at a Youth Councils event. They did the usual altar call and I just felt God on my heart. I heard Him speak to me and say, “This is what you need to do; this is what my plan is for you.”

When I finally answered and accepted Him, everything since that moment fell into place and I’m here now. I can just tell that He is still here with me.

There’s a lot of stuff in my childhood with my parents and family that wasn’t always good. Sometimes, I didn’t know if I would be living with my family. Nonetheless, I believe100 percent that God was there.

I mean, it all makes sense if I add everything up and look back to where I was. It all had such a huge impact on me and shaped me into who I am now. I can just see the full story of how God used that to make me stronger, to build me up, to build the character in me, and to use that to eventually call me into the ministry.

I think it’s crazy how the name “Messengers of Reconciliation” was chosen for this session because I see all the stuff going on in the world. I see how much reconciliation this world needs and how much Jesus is needed. I think it’s important for us to be the Messengers of Reconciliation. We are here to bring Christ to people when they need Him the most.

by Warren L. Maye


Believers session served on 9/11
On this day 19 years ago, cadets of the Believers session were pressed into service at Ground Zero. Because of the attacks, only 300 people attended their welcome meeting, which was relocated away from New York City to the–then School for Officer Training in Suffern, N.Y. However, Captain Mark Tillsley, training principal, said, “Perhaps in reality, this is the best–attended welcome in history because thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of people have been lifting up the Believers session in prayer this week .” They witnessed the horror, compassion, camaraderie, and determination that many Salvationists felt while serving on the front lines of need. During that unprecedented time in American history, many officers, soldiers, employees, and volunteers of The Salvation Army brought spiritual healing and practical help to first responders and grieving families.
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