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‘¡Soldados de Cristo!’ Hispanic Institute 2014

soldados“Soldados de Cristo!” (Soldiers of Christ!) said Major Chester Emmons in perfect Spanish as he welcomed delegates to the 2014 Hispanic Holiness Institute at the Crestview Conference Center at Territorial Headquarters. Delegates attending “El Instituto de Entrenamiento para Soldados” came from as close as Southern N.J. and as far away as Syracuse, N.Y. and Allentown, Pa., for a weekend where 27 people accepted the call to officership.

Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, territorial commander, spoke about the importance of training, and told a story about a friend’s son, whom he had learned belongs to the special operations unit known as the Navy SEALs.

“I asked him ‘what do SEALs do when they aren’t on missions?’” Swanson said. “And the answer he gave was pretty obvious. ‘They’re training, of course,’ he said. He stressed the importance of training in every position of service.

“We need to be trained as well, so that we are ready when the Lord calls on us,” said Swanson.

The delegated dined on traditional Latin American food, including empanadas and beef mofongo, followed by a group photo.

Major Federico Larrinaga, Hispanic Ministries director, then spoke about the many obstacles some delegates had encountered in trying to arrive at the Institute that evening, such as car problems, unexpected traffic, and sudden sickness. He said it was a sign that “el enemigo” was angry.

“The enemy thinks he can win, but he won’t, “ said Larrinaga. “Only God will win.”

Major Israel V. Acosta, divisional secretary and men’s fellowship secretary for the PENDEL Division, said, “Just as we praise God with prayer, we can praise Him with cymbals and guitars!” Acosta commenced a rousing musical performance, with song interpretations of Psalms 11 (Alabad a Jehova) and 138 (Haz Cambiado Mi Lamento).

On Saturday morning, Major Joy Emmons offered a devotional and encouraged everyone to be spiritually enriched today and always. “We cannot enjoy the gifts of God if we are resisting the gifts of God,” she said.

The day was filled with workshops. Major Giselle Acosta presented the first one, “Our identity as an Army.” She talked about the Army’s history, the meaning behind its traditions and customs, the lives of founders William and Catherine Booth, and the three “S’s”—“Soup, Soap, and Salvation.”

Captain Luis Merced, curriculum officer at the College for Officer Training, spoke about leadership and spiritual maturity. Salvationists then formed small groups and presented cases that tested their qualities as leaders. Merced’s presentation stressed that, rather than be a destination, spiritual maturity is a journey.

On Sunday, Colonels G. Lorraine and William A. Bamford, territorial secretary for women’s ministries and chief secretary respectively, said that understanding Spanish had been crucial to their calling as officers. Colonel Lorraine’s fluent Spanish (learned in Puerto Rico) came in handy in Chile. Colonel William said that his high school Spanish left much to be desired. “But my wife was always by my side, translating right next to me,” he said. “God is working—and using incomprehensible situations for His plan.”

Major Federico Larrinaga then led a prayer and encouraged everyone to approach the altar. “This is the moment to mend your relationship with God. We serve a Lord who is an expert in removing obstacles from our lives,” he said. Delegates prayed, wept silently, and embraced.

After the prayer, everyone gathered for a final luncheon. Larrinaga concluded the meal by suggesting that the Hispanic Holiness Institute become an annual event. This was undoubtedly good news to Maria Ramirez from Allentown, Pa. “Gathering here this weekend… has all been the work of God,” she said. “Everything about this event has been good!”

Colonel Lorraine Bamford said, “It was such an inspiration to see so many delegates respond to the Lord. God will use those people He calls. And He will equip them.”

by Hugo Bravo

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