13 New Senior Soldiers Join the Fight in Wilkes-Barre

By Robert Mitchell

It was the Christmas season and Lieutenant Ismael Ortiz of The Salvation Army in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., asked people coming for help if anyone wanted prayer. Many willingly took the prayer and then later asked if they could help volunteer.

“Many of them just never left,” Lieutenant Ismael said. “They didn’t know we were a church, but they started coming for services after they found out.”

On March 5, some of those same people were among 13 senior soldiers enrolled by Lt. Colonels Janet and Larry Ashcraft, the divisional commanders in The Salvation Army’s Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division.

“It was an amazing atmosphere of love, grace, and what the Lord is doing in our community,” Lieutenant Ismael said. “My adrenaline was pumping.”

Lieutenant Ismael said the enrollments were a blessing and encouragement to Wilkes-Barre’s longtime corps members, who also saw six junior soldiers enrolled a week later on March 12.

“It really is a blessing to see new people coming into our corps,” said Major Sharon Cupp, who is doing post-retirement service in Wilkes-Barre. “It’s really been booming the last three months.”

The Ashcrafts, along with Ismael and his wife, Irseris Ortiz, led the March 5 soldier enrollment. Major Larry Ashcraft said he and his wife considered it a privilege to be on hand and perform the enrollments.

“A soldier enrollment is amongst the most sacred moments in the tradition of this great movement known as The Salvation Army,” he said. “It is a time of covenant. It is a time where people make that covenant in response to a call of God on their lives.”

Lt. Colonel Larry said the soldiers had “claimed the blood of Jesus Christ as their salvation,” as each one lined up on stage. They then knelt at the mercy seat for prayer before signing their soldier covenant.

Next, Lt. Colonel Larry had a bit to say about the new Salvation Army soldier uniforms, which he urged them to wear with “humility” and “dignity.”

“This is not a suit you just wear on Sunday,” he said. “It’s not a choir robe. It doesn’t get you saved or make you a Salvationist. It is another symbol of servanthood—first to Jesus Christ, then to suffering humanity.”

The uniform, Lt. Colonel Larry said, would not only identify them as Salvation Army soldiers, “but more importantly, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Once the formalities were over, Lt. Colonel Janet announced to the applause, “Congregation, people of God, these are your newest soldiers.”