Brigade 2 visits ARC
Syracuse, NY—When cadets from the College for Officer Training (CFOT) go on a spring campaign, the assignment is usually to a Salvation Army corps.
This year, the 10 cadets of Brigade 2 spent a week at the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), and came away as blessed as the beneficiaries.
“Every morning when we walked in, [the beneficiaries] greeted us,” says Cadet Gene Spence. “I think that’s the best thing we’ve seen.”
Spence said that the relaxed, informal fellowship was invaluable, whether playing video games with them or simply watching the NCAA basketball tournament.
“They’ve opened up to us and we’ve opened up to them,” he says.
Major Robert Miga, the ARC’s administrator, said the cadets had a busy week, leading devotions and counseling beneficiaries. They also worked in the ARC’s warehouse and family store, driving trucks, hanging clothes, and doing everything a beneficiary would do.
Miga said the cadets took part in a “Strikepoint” integrated mission initiative designed to connect the corps with the ARC. While a television played videos inside the store, the cadets offered tracts to shoppers to let them know that the Army is a church.
“In our thrift stores, we have thousands of people shopping and they’re not Christians,” Miga says. “They don’t even have church homes.”
The cadets also helped organize a “Salvation Army History Night” and a rally of several ARCs from upstate New York. However, it was the counseling and spending time with the beneficiaries that touched each cadet the most.
“We gave them feedback and spiritual advice,” says Cadet Barri Vazquez–Brandon. “I just love seeing change and the fact that people are searching. Being here, they can find that what they’re really searching for is Christ. They don’t need to fill themselves with other worldly things.”
The exercise fit perfectly with the week’s theme of “identity.”
“We tried to carry that theme of identity throughout the week and to emphasize transformation and change and who they are in Christ,” Smouse says. “Those stories really touched my heart because—that’s my life too.
“I love getting to know people and hearing where they’ve come from and where they are today. Just watching that transformation is an absolutely beautiful thing.”
Cadet Angelica Spence said she was touched by the cardboard exercise, especially as the beneficiaries revealed who they are now.
“You could just see the smiles on their faces as they know they are loved by God and that they’re a child of Christ,” she says.
Spence said she later saw God at work when she prepared a devotional, but was not sure who the audience would be. However, God knew.
“It was perfect for the group of guys in there who I got matched up with,” Spence says. “It was amazing to see how God worked.”
Spence called working in the warehouse, sorting donations, and the counseling sessions a “blessed experience.”
“The people in here just have their arms wide open and it’s just been a blessing to be able to see that,” she says. “You can see how great God is moving.”
BLOOD AND FIRE
Cadet Grace Cho said that her gift of counseling was confirmed.
“I didn’t realize the gift was really in me but then I meet people in the real world and I hear what they are going through,” she says. “All of the things that we learned at the [CFOT] about the Bible and doctrine, they all just came to apply to their situation. It was really nice.”
Cadet Joseph Smith said the “Holy Spirit was moving” at the meetings and in the counseling sessions.
“[The beneficiaries] were actually able to talk to us, with no judgment,” he says. “Just to hear their stories and be able to interact and find out where they are physically, mentally, and spiritually was fantastic.”
Cadet Taylor Senak, who played William Booth on Army history night, said he enjoyed hanging out with the beneficiaries and getting a first hand look at an ARC.
“I’ve never seen the day–to–day operations,” he says.
Cadet Rebecca Smith said she enjoyed sharing fellowship with the beneficiaries, including just playing pool or Ping–Pong.
“I felt able to engage the beneficiaries and to hear how they came to The Salvation Army,” she says. “It was a wonderful time.”
Cadet Chelsey Crawford planned the history night, which included cadets portraying William and Catherine Booth as well as other luminaries. As did other cadets, she enjoyed the one–on–one time with beneficiaries the best.
“I had the chance to give them feedback or read them an encouraging Bible verse,” she says.
Cadet Ingrid Moreno sang at one of the events and enjoyed her time working in the family store, where she noticed that many shoppers know the beneficiaries. “That shows me there is something brewing inside here,” she says.
She sees big things ahead.
“People know The Salvation Army is in the community and we are here to do something.”
by Robert Mitchell