‘Champions of the Mission’ welcomed

by Robert Mitchell, Hugo Bravo, and Warren L. Maye

During an exciting gathering of Salvationists, the USA Eastern Territory welcomed a new session of cadets and provided prospective candidates a glimpse into what their future could hold as Salvation Army officers.

The weekend began Friday night at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) in Suffern, N.Y., with the public welcome to the Champions of the Mission 2023–2025 session of cadets.

The New York Staff Band Ensemble, Cadet Chorus, and UNBOUND provided enthusiastic and worshipful music.

Major Keith Maynor, the CFOT’s assistant training principal, presented the 18 Champions of the Mission, a session of 11 women and seven men. The cadets—12 of whom are first–generation Salvationists—came from Argentina, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and various towns and cities in the United States. They are on track to complete two years of training to become Salvation Army officers.

Maynor said the first two months had been challenging. “We have witnessed their perseverance in this short time. I say in faith, that the faculty, staff, officers, and employees believe with me that in 22 months, we will see another victory for the Champions of the Mission when they are commissioned.”

Commissioners William A. and G. Lorraine Bamford, who are retiring as territorial leaders at the end of the year, gave the charge to the session. Commissioner Lorraine Bamford read Ephesians 3, and Commissioner William Bamford called on the cadets to “keep their spiritual lives in shape for the journey ahead.”

“I pray that you would keep that in mind each day as you minister, as you think about what God has called you to do because of what He has done in your life,” he said. “Each day, you must be reminded to be conditionally holy. Your spiritual condition will be dependent on your daily workout.”

Commissioner Bamford urged the cadets to “love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” (Luke 10); to remember their calling and commitment; and to “stay in touch with Jesus—all the way.”

Lt. Colonel Patricia LaBossiere, the CFOT’s assistant training principal for community life, read Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:8 before her husband, Lt. Colonel James LaBossiere, the college’s training principal, delivered the message.

Using a video clip from the Band of Brothers television miniseries, LaBossiere shared how the men completed their D–Day mission.

“We’re talking tonight about mission,” he said. “Champions of the Mission, the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“We live in a world that desperately needs to know love, grace, salvation, holiness, and peace.”

Although the world is in chaos and needs to hear that message, LaBossiere said, the Church is unfortunately “less sure of its mission.” He recited The Salvation Army’s “strong” mission statement and said, “We need to hold tightly to the mission Christ has given us.”

LaBossiere said a 2018 Barna poll found that 51% of Christians don’t know what the Great Commission is.

“When Jesus says, ‘go and make disciples’ we need to respond to the mission.”

The audience eagerly anticipated attending the weekend’s seminar, and LaBossiere called them forward to the mercy seat for a time of commitment. As musicians played, the congregation sang “We’re an Army Fighting for a Glorious King.”

Cadet Jalicia Smalley shared her heartfelt testimony. She had attended the seminar twice before finally surrendering her life to God’s call. She arrived at CFOT just days after the death of her grandmother and soon found support.

Smalley told her audience, “I’m learning so much about myself and even more about God. This is just a step on the path that He’s designed for me. But let me ask you: What is the path that God has lit up for you? Where is He calling you to? Are you running from His call like I was?”

Living in community

Saturday’s Candidates Seminar began with Lt. Colonel James LaBossiere’s address to soldiers in the Watson gym. “Forty years ago, it was very different for cadets,” he said, reflecting on his own experience. “The foundation of working with people will never change, but the way we prepare you for ministry does, and thank God for that.”

The CFOT prepares cadets to serve as “Blood and Fire” officers. They learn lessons in academics, fundraising, hosting programs, and serving under the Army’s name. Cadets also learn the structure of officership, and how to develop a healthy view of authority.

“A cadet’s life, with their family and their session mates, is a full–time life. We learn to be in community here, so we can be in community as officers out there,” LaBossiere said.

“In 22 months, we’ll make the most of every opportunity. Don’t wonder how little you can do to get by. Instead ask, how hard can you work? How much can you learn about the Lord? How many cultures and communities can you meet?”

The roles of officers

Major Pam Maynor, director of Mission & Ministry Training, hosted a Q&A session with Captain Kimisha Marshall, personnel officer, and Lieutenant Dayeong Lee, co–pastor of the Brooklyn Bay Ridge Corps. They discussed some of the daily challenges and responsibilities that officers face.

“The Holy Spirit helps me with my calling,” said Marshall. “I am constantly reminded that Christ’s ministry wasn’t easy. His motivation, obedience, and faithfulness to His calling keeps me motivated to pursue mine.”

Lee talked about the challenge of balancing child care and running a corps. She admitted that she was relieved when school restarted, noting that running summer day camps and making time for her own children was difficult. “Prepare in advance for the summer and know that your routine gets more stable when your children return to school. If the Lord is calling you to this ministry, He will help you make time for your family and yourself,” she said.

“Taking a sabbath for yourself is extremely important, especially if you’re a single officer like I am,” agreed Marshall. “Some people might think you have all the time in the world.” The amount of administrative work that comes with running a corps surprised her, she said.

Lee talked about the veterans ministry at her corps. She had never worked with veterans before, but now it’s a cherished ministry. “It’s an honor to have opportunities to thank them for their service,” she said.

Marshall also talked about the moving of officers to new corps. Maynor agreed that the moving of officers could be heartbreaking, recalling how hurt she felt after one painful move. But Maynor said such experiences should not stop any pastor from creating deep roots at the corps where they serve.

Summer opportunities

At the Suffern, N.Y., Crowne Plaza hotel, only minutes away from the CFOT, Majors Antonio and Jennifer Rosamilia spoke about summer service opportunities for Salvationists as auxiliary captains, envoys, or corps ministry assistants. The Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) and Old Orchard Beach camp ministries were also mentioned.

“Encourage all young adults to take part in Hands On [mission trips], especially if they were born in America,” said Major Antonio Rosamilia, who showed videos of young Salvationists serving in Costa Rica, Greece, and Uruguay. “They come back stronger than when they left.”

Salvation Army summer camps are active year–round and have many ways to serve, he explained. When the camps are closed after summer, they are hiring staff, getting certificates for new activities, and planning the next camp season.

Listen to Jesus!

The weekend concluded with a Sunday morning holiness meeting that offered worshipful singing, instrumental music, dancers, dramatists, heartfelt prayer, a gripping testimony, a challenging message, and the call to officership from the territorial commander. An inclusive prayer spoken in English, Korean, Spanish, and Creole further spotlighted the diversity of the room.

During a moving testimony, Cadet Thomas Perez of the Defenders of Justice session (class of 2022–2024) described how his seemingly stellar experience as a young Salvationist at the corps belied his family’s struggles at home and his acts of rebellion toward God. “Just because I grew up in The Salvation Army doesn’t mean that I lead an easy life,” he said.

For example, at age 13, Perez witnessed a traumatic confrontation between his parents that led to their separation and ultimate divorce. He vividly recalled those dark days and said, “This really hit me hard, and I rebelled against any and everything I thought was right, including God.” His spiritual excursion resulted in his “faking the funk,” pretending to enjoy The Salvation Army’s myriad ministries from Star Lake Camp to Sunday holiness meeting. All the while, he was engaged in a New York street gang that threatened to destroy his life despite his becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT).

One night as he slept, he heard a voice. “It was so clear,” remembered Perez. The voice asked him, “Will they know Me?” Eventually, it became clear him that “they” were his children and “Me” was the Lord Jesus, to whom Perez recommitted his life. “I went from an EMT to a cadet at the CFOT. I’m still in the business of saving lives!”

Too many calls?

“I’m not responding!” said Commissioner William A. Bamford, territorial commander, at the beginning of his sermon. He was referring to the reaction many of us have to the overwhelming number of sales calls that keep our phones ringing. “Maybe we answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a ‘give me more details,’ or complete silence,” Bamford said. He reminded everyone that even new technologies designed to help us cancel the noise can fail to give us lasting peace.

“But did you know that God is going to interrupt you in the middle of your busy day so that He might speak to you and you alone?” the Commissioner asked.

Referring to Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus boldly calls His disciples to become fishers of men, Bamford continued, “God calls, God speaks, and God looks to ordinary people to do His work. And He speaks with authority.”

Using poignant visual aids on a big screen behind him, Commissioner Bamford said, “We need you to step out. God is seeking ordinary people who are willing to listen to His voice.”

In response, many people joined Commissioner Bamford on the platform. With outstretched arms, he said to them and to the audience, “William Booth wanted to save the world. I believe we can do it because the world needs The Salvation Army!”