Candidates Seminar

Candidates’ Seminar Daily Wrap-up



Friday, February 1, 2019

Colonel Johnsons kick off 2019 Candidates Seminar

“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.”—1 Samuel 12:24.

Colonels Kenneth O. and Paula S. Johnson kicked off the 2019 Candidates Seminar on Friday night by challenging a gym full of would-be officers to “step out of the safe zone and into the faith zone.”

The Johnsons mixed their own calling as Salvation Army officers with the story of Moses to help delegates prepare themselves to hear God’s calling on their lives over the weekend.

“The greatest moment in Moses’ life took place at that burning bush when he encountered God and the decisions he made crafted the rest of his life,” said Colonel Paula, the territory’s secretary for women’s ministries. “You’re going to have the opportunity to have that burning bush moment this weekend with God and it’s going to craft the rest of your life, where you can begin a grand adventure in joyful service to the Lord as you answer the call and you consider what it is God is asking you to do.”

Colonel Kenneth, the territory’s chief secretary, told how he and his wife attended their first candidates seminar 38 years ago. The Johnsons have now been officers for 35 years and the couple shared about their appointments in Florida, Texas, Washington, D.C., and even Russia.

“If you don’t think you’re called to something big and grand and glorious, open up your eyes and smell the coffee because the Lord wants to do something incredible in your life,” Johnson said.

Johnson said if the delegates do eventually choose officership, “You have got one exciting ride ahead of you.”

“Some of you may just be called to local officership, but I don’t say just in a derogatory way. You are called to be local officers. Read my lips: You’ve got an exciting ride too because it’s the ride the Lord has laid out for you. He knows you, He knows what you can do, and He knows what He can do through you.”

“For Paula and I, we went to the training college from the Carolinas. Who would have ever thought we would go from the Carolinas to the Kremlin?”

The evening closed with several officer candidates coming to the altar to pray about their futures.

“We want to take some time to ask God to prepare our hearts to listen to His voice this weekend,” Colonel Paula said. “It may come in conversations with friends or the cadets here. It may come during a meeting, where you hear a song or you hear Scripture and the Lord tugs on your heart just a bit.

“It may come in those quiet moments when you’re thinking, ‘What is it God that you want me to do with my life? What is your calling for me tonight?’”

As the delegates came forward, the song “All That I Am” played in the background. The song’s lyrics include:

All that I am, all I can be,
All that I have, all that is me,
Accept and use, Lord, as You would choose, Lord,
Right now, today.

Take every passion, every skill,
Take all my dreams and bend them to Your will;
My all I give, Lord; for You I’ll live, Lord,
Come what may.

The Candidates Seminar—with its theme of “Joyful Service”—was held at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) in Suffern, N.Y. The event is held each February, usually on the weekend of the Super Bowl, to give prospective officers a chance to hear God’s call on their lives and also to learn more about officership,

The CFOT Latin Band & Gospel Choir and Timbrel Brigade got the night started with a praiseful tone.

Major Richard Lopez, territorial candidates secretary, welcomed the delegates, many of whom had just settled in after arriving Friday from all over the territory. His wife, Major Linda Lopez, the assistant candidates secretary, offered the opening prayer.

“We know and hope this weekend is going to be life-changing for each and every one of you,” Major Richard said. “We know the Lord is going to show up.”

The Candidates Seminar continues Saturday and Sunday at the CFOT. Commissioner William A. Bamford, territorial commander, will speak at Sunday’s holiness meeting.

—By Robert Mitchell

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Life as a corps officer

On Saturday, Salvation Army officers spoke to delegates about the daily life of a corps officer. Seminars in English and Spanish offered a better understanding of the call to officership and the responsibilities that come with it.

All in the family

Captains Arlene and Guillermo DiCaterina always remembered that their first ministry was to their family.

“You can have a wonderful, thriving church,” Captain Guillermo said to the delegates. “But if your family isn’t happy, you need to re-evaluate what you are doing right away.”

As parents and officers, the DiCaterinas divided their responsibilities in the home. Arlene would take the children to school in the mornings, and Guillermo would open the corps but leave to pick the children up from school and take them to afterschool programs at the corps and other extra-curricular activities.

“We never denied our children the chance to try sports and programs outside of the Army,” says Captain Arlene. “But they were encouraged to make their schedules in a way that allowed soccer games, lacrosse practice, and time with friends, as well as time for God and the corps.”

Captain Guillermo says that officers’ children should never feel like they have more (or less) responsibilities because of their parents’ roles as pastors. “They will walk the opposite way of everything you teach them if you put that mindset in them. Let them find ways that they want to be involved. Maybe they won’t want to play music right away, but they may change their minds in six months.”

“Also, the work of the ministry stays in the ministry. Never discuss the problems that you may have at the corps in front of your kids,” warns Captain Guillermo “It is your job to solve those issues, not theirs. Teach them to love the corps and cherish the opportunity to serve, because when you love the corps, it becomes a joy to serve it.”

“Our children are now grown, and they love the Army and the words of William Booth,” says Captain Arlene. “They know that every wonderful opportunity to see the world, the friends they’ve made, and the talents they’ve developed have all come from God through the Salvation Army.”

Great expectations

Twenty-five years ago, Lt. Colonels Mirtha and Ricardo Fernandez sat as delegates in the same classrooms they addressed today. Not being able to speak English, they did not expect to ever be seen as leaders in The Salvation Army.

“That is when we needed to have faith that God was choosing us as officers,” says Lt. Colonel Ricardo. “If you ever feel that a skill is missing in your life, like English was for us, you need to believe that God will provide.”

“Some believe that leaders are born; others say they are made. I think it goes both ways,” said Lt. Colonel Mirtha. “Jesus was a born leader, but He chose his 12 apostles, with their strengths and imperfections, and made them leaders of his Church. We must never feel inferior, because we are not inferior in the eyes of God.”

The expectations of an officer are very similar to the expectations any employer would have of you, explained Lt. Colonel Ricardo. You must get up every morning ready to work, stick to a schedule, be productive, and be eager to take on new responsibilities.

“Now, if that’s what man expects you to do working for him, the expectations of working for God are even greater than that,” says Lt. Colonel Ricardo.

“You are also expected to integrate with your community. If you are not of your community, you cannot be a pastor to the community,” says Lt. Colonel Mirtha.

Another important expectation of an officer is to remember the social outreach part of ministry and the many forms it takes.

“Think of the ministry of The Salvation Army as a bird, with one wing representing the spiritual outreach and the other wing the social outreach,” says Lt. Colonel Ricardo. “If you clip just one of those wings, that bird cannot fly.”

The power of the pastor

Of all the hats a corps officer wears, from money handler, janitor, cook, and much more, the most important hat is that of the pastor, says Captain Gilberto and Nancy Velez.

You might be an administrative superstar behind the scenes at your corps, but that is not what you were brought in to do,” says Captain Gilberto. “The pastor is there to bring souls to God. Every activity at your corps should be built to bring another soul to Him.”

Anyone can open someone’s eyes to the Word of God, but as a pastor, that is his or her main responsibility, explained Captain Gilberto.

“The corps will emit the faith of the pastor. You need to live and breathe your faith, so your ministry can see that they are being led by a person with faith in God,” says Captain Nancy.

That is when the ministry will approach the pastor for guidance, says Captain Gilberto. They might come to you suffering from loss, sickness, or problems at work.

“When there is a crisis like that, the hat of pastor goes on, and every other hat gets put away,” explained Captain Gilberto.

“Maybe you might not be a good preacher and find that the audience doesn’t always connect with you. It can be difficult, even for a great speaker,” says Captain Gilberto.  “But If you show your ministry love and genuine concern, they’ll forget those stumbles in your sermon. But they will never forget that you love them.”

“That’s the biggest blessing and strongest power of being a pastor. To see a life directly impacted by the love you have shared. It’s great to help someone with their groceries or their light bill, but it’s even better to help them with their soul.”

A face in the community

Majors Janet and Samuel Gonzalez presented the delegates with four crucial points that an officer must follow to become the best face in the community that he or she can be.

“First, you need to meet your community,” says Major Janet. “Get to know the players and movers of your town. Be ready to tell them what the Army can provide, with your business card in hand.”

Second, look to connect with your community, says Major Samuel. That means to connect with your ministry and know what is going on in their lives, but also reach out to local civic groups and charities. “They can help you in ways you might not expect. If you are ever in need of last-minute volunteers, you may learn that they have a group of people just waiting to be part of something,” says Major Samuels.

At the same time, you must help those same organizations and collaborate with them. “Be present at their events and create those partnerships,” says Major Janet. “Don’t limit your service to the community to the rooms of your corps.”

“And finally, don’t be afraid to begin right away, as soon as you arrive at your corps,” says Major Samuels. “Being with what you know how to do well. Even if you are not an officer, there is always a way to let others know the work of the Salvation Army.”

A quiet place

As the assistant secretary for Spiritual Life Development, Major Santa Correa was the perfect person to explain spiritual growth as a Salvation Army officer.

“Spiritual development comes from time and discipline. We allow ourselves to get closer to God, listen to Him speak, answer His calling, and do His work. It can come from every part of your ministry, even the social programs”, explained Major Santa.

“if you have the mindset that everything social can be also be spiritual, even sitting down for coffee and bread becomes ministry. That is when a discussion about God will start, or questions about last week’s sermon come up.

Officers also need a time and place to set aside for peace and quiet, advises Major Santa. “God does not just arrive in singing and rejoicing with others; sometimes He comes to you in pure silence and solitude. Begin with only five minutes and work from there, until it becomes part of your day.”

“Also, once a month, escape to be with God. Tell yourself, ‘Right now, I have nothing to do, except be in His peaceful presence,’” says Major Santa.

“Spiritual development is how we each grow and mature in our faith. Just as you keep your body healthy through diet and exercise, this will keep your soul healthy. And we must keep our soul as healthy as we can, because It is what we will take with us the day we meet the Lord.”

Tomorrow, the Candidates’ Seminar will conclude with a Holiness Meeting in the morning.

by Hugo Bravo


Sunday, February 3, 2019

The call of Christ

Candidates Seminar 2019 concludes with passionate messages, worship, and prayer

Early Sunday morning in the College for Officer Training (CFOT) Lecture Hall, a small group of uniformed Salvation Army soldiers sat on the front row, praying. A woman’s voice broke the silence as she said, “Give us life, hope, peace, joy.” She stood with head bowed and eyes closed. “Fill each one of us with your will. Open our hearts; open our spirits. You did not call us from a phone, Facebook, or Instagram. But you called us to be faithful servants to minister to the unloved and bring hope to the hopeless.”

A short time later in the CFOT gym, turned sanctuary, Commissioner William A. Bamford, territorial commander, echoed similar words when he quoted 1 Corinthians 9:16 and then Oswald Chambers from his book My Utmost for His Highest, “Beware of refusing to hear the call of God…. Woe be to the soul that tries to head in any other direction once that call has come….”

In a powerful and passionate message, Bamford encouraged a room full of officers, cadets, and soldiers to obey God and receive joy. He used the words of such Old Testament and New Testament icons as Eli and Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4–10) and Paul. He also quoted contemporary figures such as Nicky Cruz. They were all examples of people who learned to hear and obey God’s call to service. “They listened with intensity,” said Bamford.

Joy through service

Cadet Vanessa Muller shared a revealing and heartfelt testimony of how, as a wife and an expectant mom, she instead suffered an unfortunate miscarriage. It happened at Valentine’s Day, her favorite holiday. “I was angry with the people I loved; I was angry with myself. But my greatest anger was towards God.”

Muller had thought God was punishing her; that she would have made a bad mom. To fill the disappointment and pain, she became materialistic, impulsive, and illusive. “I thank God for my persistent husband who encouraged me to return to church.” She continued, “without him and his mother, I would not have given my life to Christ in 2014.” During the following two years, she went on to shine academically, in her career, and in lifestyle, but still longed to become a mom.

However, she eventually relinquished the pursuit of external things and found inner joy through service to others. “I’m able to help people physically, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually by preaching the gospel. This is what brings me true joy, peace, patience, and faithfulness.”

The CFOT Worship Band set the tone for a powerful and moving time of worship. People with a desire to become officers filled the platform. Others seeking a spiritual touch from God concerning issues in their personal lives knelt at the mercy seat and prayed.

During this time of prayer and commitment, Commissioner William Bamford said, “Don’t let anything get in the way or distract you. Let nothing stop you from hearing, listening, and obeying God’s call. Say, “Take me, mold me, and use me to bless others, give them comfort, and impart a lasting legacy!”

The meanings of joy

  • Renato Sarniento: “It’s the pleasure I feel when I can help people in need.”
  • Luis Nenendez: “I feel energized as I serve others. I start out to help them, but then the energy comes. In giving, I receive. I become a channel for the grace of God.”
  • Admire Tagora: “It is good. When I am serving the Lord, I feel happy. This is my time to become a Salvation Army officer!”
  • Anthony Davis: “In good times or bad times, we must count it all joy. Joy comes from God, rather than from any circumstance, person, or thing. He didn’t say that we would not have trials, but He did say that He would never leave us.”
  • Sarai Olmedo–Garcia: “Joyful service for me is a big thing. Sometimes, there is so much to do, I can grow weary. But in God’s service, I can remain in that joy, serving Him above anything. Not for myself, but for the Lord.”

Robert Lane: “Joyful service is a service of happiness. I do it because I want to do it. It makes me feel good. I began to experience that joy the moment my wife, our two children, and I started moving in. Immediately, we felt like we were home.”

by Warren L. Maye



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