Commissioning 2019 Daily Wrap-Up

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Friday, June 14Saturday, June 15Sunday, June 16

Commissioning weekend 2019 honors
Messengers of Compassion

“This is all about you,” said Colonel Paula Johnson, territorial secretary for Women’s Ministries. “We are here to celebrate you,” she said to cadets and their families as they sat at dinner tables.

The tables were beautifully adorned with shining silverware, brilliant red and yellow flowers, deep blue napkins, and table cloths. The evening was reminiscent of ceremonies traditionally held at the US Army or US Navy academies.

Optics included images of cadets and their families on large screens and video clips documenting their CFOT experiences. The Commissioning weekend theme of compassion was echoed in every spoken and projected word; in every handshake, hug, and salute.

The Fellowship of the Silver Star dinner, the first event on Friday evening of Commissioning weekend, was designed to pay tribute to cadets and their families. It happened just three hours before the Commencement Service in the Great American Hall.

The mood was pensive, reflective, and thoughtful. Fathers of cadets were immaculately dressed in business suits or in Salvation Army uniforms; moms wore uniforms or beautiful dresses. A chorus from the College for Officer Training (CFOT) provided music.

A powerful testimony

Cadet Stephen Neil Rivero–Rodriguez, representative speaker, shared a warm testimony, describing his family’s journey from Venezuela to the United States, to The Salvation Army. This family of 5, in the span of just 4 years, lived in 11 different places in Chicago. “But God placed special people in our lives for a reason,” he said of mentors who helped them survive.

“One day, my dad met a Salvation Army envoy,” Rivero–Rodriguez said. That encounter opened the door to practical and spiritual care that changed the course of his life. “I came to the realization that I wanted to be a Salvation Army officer,” he said.

Now 10 years later, he said to the crowd, “Thank you for being people who reflect God’s love!”

Award presentations

Commissioner G. Lorraine Bamford, territorial president of Women’s Ministries, presented the Marie H. Sharp Awards to three representative cadets and their families: Cadet Jared Pryce Starnes, Cadet Tyler Clark Adcox, and Cadet Jeanne–Elie Lubin. Adcox’s stepfather, Rex Ulmer, was also remembered posthumously by Lt. Colonel Naomi Kelly, the CFOT assistant principal for ministry development.

Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham’s devotional message was for the mothers, fathers, and families of each cadet as she expressed an understanding of their hopes, dreams, and prayers. “I’ve sat where you are now,” she said. Years ago, in New Zealand, she watched her son journey from secular work to a sacred ministry as an officer of The Salvation Army. “My daughter is now a 1styear cadet,” she said. Reflecting on the story of Timothy in the Bible, she referenced Colossians 1:9. “I have not stopped praying for you.”

Tributes to families

In personal tributes to their families, cadets shared God’s message of compassion and victory over an old life, over an old self, and over the prince of this world. Their voices were filled with feelings of honor, humility, and gratitude.

The Nigerian room, the center section of the Chocolate Ballroom of the Hershey Lodge and Conference Center, served as a beautiful venue. It is second in size only to the Great American Hall, where the main events will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

The Hershey Conference Center located about three hours or less from major cities, has a capacity of 125,000 square feet of meeting space. It is adorned in luxury, steeped in history, and nestled among the rolling farmlands of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Lakes for fishing, cozy cabins, and recreational sites surround Hershey’s nearby Chocolate World amusement park. 

Chief of Staff kicks off Commissioning Weekend in Hershey
‘Be the aroma’ of Christ

Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham, the Chief of the Staff to General Brian Peddle, kicked off Commissioning Weekend on Friday by delivering a personal note to the Messengers of Compassion session of cadets.

Buckingham turned several times to directly address the session’s 18 cadets, who were seated on the stage behind him in the Great American Hall of the Hershey Lodge. The cadets will be commissioned as Salvation Army officers on Sunday.

“We need you,” Buckingham said. “The Army needs you. The world needs you and the places you will be assigned need you.”

Buckingham said he and his wife, Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham, have been praying for the session to be examples of character, humility, and maturity in a lost world that desperately needs Christ. However, quoting 2 Timothy 3, he warned of challenges, burdens, and struggles ahead.

“Spiritual leadership is costly,” he said.

Buckingham also urged the cadets to be salt, light, and “the aroma of Christ in the world” as they embark on officership.

“You’re being sent into the world to make an impact,” he said.

The commencement service also was a time to recognize academic achievement and hand out awards.

The valedictorian was Cadet Meghan Labrecque, who graduated magna cum laude with a 3.81 GPA. Cadet Kate Borrero was the salutatorian and also graduated magna cum laude.

Labrecque won the Doctrine Knowledge Achievement Award, while Cadet Saraí Olmedo-Garcíatook home the Doctrine Knowledge Progress Award.

Borrero wonthe Bible Knowledge Achievement Award. Cadet Sojourney Octavia Adcoxwas the winner of the Bible Knowledge Progress Award.

The awards were the result of tests in Bible and doctrine knowledge—one upon entrance at the CFOT and the other in late May of this year.

“Every one of the cadets didimprove,” said Major Eva R. Geddes, director of curriculum at the College for Officer Training (CFOT).

Labrecque, in her valedictory address, recalled arriving at CFOT two years ago and not being able to find the main lobby or fill out the required paperwork. Throughout the doubts, worries, and apprehension of the two years, Labrecque said she would often cling to the words of God’s faithfulness in 2 Timothy.

“God was with us,” she said. “One thing I’ve learned … is that God is faithful.”

As the cadets prepare to be sent to the field in a few weeks, Labrecque said they may feel the same as they did when they first arrived for officer training, but “God will be with us and He’s going to be faithful.”

During his remarks, Commissioner William A. Bamford III, territorial commander, recognized Colonel Janet Munn, the former CFOT principal. He also challenged the cadets to remember their session verse: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”—Ephesians 4:32.

“I trust that you have learned over the last 22 months to share Christ, to share the compassion of Christ as you move forward,” Bamford said.

Bamford presented each of the cadets with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science (AAS) for completing the two-year training program at the CFOT.

Lt. Colonel David E. Kelly, CFOT principal, welcomed everyone to the service, which included music from the New York Staff Band.

“Tonight, is more about the people they have become than any academic learning … and the people they are becoming,” Kelly said.

“The goal is not to be credentialed officers, but more effective officers.”

Colonel Kenneth O. Johnson, the Eastern Territory’s chief secretary, recognized the CFOT’s Academic Oversight Advisory Council. He also reminded the cadets they would be entering a realm of “spiritual warfare,” but they should “remind people there is hope.”

Commissioning Weekend continues tomorrow with Star Search and a 7 p.m. praise and worship meeting called “Change A Story—Change A Life” in the Great American Hall.

The cadets will be ordained and commissioned as officers on Sunday and will receive their appointments in the afternoon.


—by Warren L. Maye and Robert Mitchell



Innovative ministries, inspiring stories, changed lives

On Saturday, the Great Lobby and the Chocolate Lobby of the Hershey lodge were filled with colorful informational booths. Each one showcased an aspect of the unique programs and ministries of the Salvation Army’s USA Eastern Territory.

The Massachusetts Division’s booth combined two of the state’s most well-known pastimes, basketball and donuts. Major Marcus Jugenheimer set up a basketball hoop where visitors could score a basket and win a donut. “Boston is the birthplace of basketball,” he said. “Dunkin Donuts’ international headquarters is in Canton, as is the Army’s Divisional Headquarters,” he said.

The booth also highlighted popular programs such as the Boston Kroc Center’s successful culinary arts training program, and Backpack 68.

“There are 68 hours between Friday’s lunch and Monday’s breakfast,” explained Jugenheimer. “For children who get fed at school, this is a backpack filled with meals for those 68 hours they’re not in school. The meal bags are unmarked, so only the students know what’s in them and who gave them.”

Children were also the focus of Major Tracy Hughes’ Overseas Child Sponsorship booth. Passersby could reach into a bowl and draw the name of a children’s center that The Salvation Army sponsors overseas. Hughes pulled out a card. It read “Bonilla Dining Room,” in Chile.]

“The Army feeds children, tutors them, and teaches them about Jesus there,” says Hughes. “It’s a little outpost, but it does some big work.”

There were also information packets for anyone who wanted to be a sponsor. Coloring and drawing activities for children were also available. The activities were designed to teach them about the work that the Army does for kids overseas.

“Children are the biggest advocates of child sponsorship work at a corps,” says Hughes. “For example, the afterschool program at the Queens Temple Corps now sponsors an afterschool program in El Salvador.”

Talent with a message

The Salvationist Star Search finals for 2019 attracted young soldiers from around the Eastern Territory. They competed in brass, dance, drama, and other musical ministries.

The Guayama, Puerto Rico Corps Dance Troupe performance evoked strong emotions in Omaira Vasquez, who had accompanied the troupe all the way from the island. But it was the message that the troupe wanted to send through their performance that resonated with her most.

“The girls wanted to put a focus on problems that their age goes through, specifically bulimia and bullying. Their message was to remain committed to the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17 that say, if any of us are of Christ, then we are new creations. No matter what difficulties we go through, we are made new through Christ.”

The New Brunswick Corps Dance Troupe also brought a message to Star Search. Dressed in blue, they performed their dance to ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong United, the Australian worship group.

“When we feel like we are drowning, we turn to God to help us walk through the waters,” says Soldier Vivianne Andretti, a member of the New Brunswick Dance Troupe.

Soldier Eric Hawkins performed the song “War Cry,” by Queen Naija. The song has a powerful message to the world, calling out Christians who are not living as they should.

“We’re in an uphill battle today as Christians. There are people being prosecuted and dying today by people who do not know God,” says Hawkins.

“Singing ‘War Cry’ today was spiritual; I felt it deep in my heart,” says Hawkins.

Soldier Lena Marlowe, from the Camden Kroc Center, says that her song selection, ‘Take My Life’ by Francis Havergal, contains lyrics that are instructions for allowing God in a person’s life.

“it shows how God can take every part of you with Him,” said Marlowe. “Your heart, your lips, and your voice can all be used for Him.”

Marlowe says that she allows God to dictate to her before and during her performance.

“Too much technical preparation can make me feel overwhelmed, but God’s grace eases me when I come to perform at Star Search,” says Marlowe.

Changed lives dominate Saturday meeting

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”—2 Corinthians 5:17.

Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham, world secretary for Women’s Ministries, told Salvationists attending Commissioning Weekend at the Hershey Lodge that she is impressed with the Eastern Territory’s “2020 Vision” … and she also added some suggestions.

Buckingham used the Gospel story of the blind man Bartimaeus and Jesus asking him, “What do you want me to do?” as her devotional text.

“It’s as if you’ve heard Jesus asking, ‘What do you want me to do?’ You’ve answered, ‘Lord, we want to see. We want to see vision that is clear,’” Buckingham said.

The Saturday evening service, called “Change A Story—Change A Life,” featured several inspiring videos showcasing Salvation Army programs that display God’s love throughout the territory.

“God is changing lives,” Buckingham said. “God is transforming lives through the ministry of this territory.”

She urged Salvationists to take time for:

  • Look back and learn from the past.
  • “What is true of us?”
  • “What changes need to be made? We need eyes open to the past, the present, and the future.”

Commissioners William W. and G. Lorraine Bamford, territorial leaders, gave an update on the “2020 Vision Focus,” which has focused on People, Program, and Provision.

“We can attest to the fact God keeps sending people our way,” Commissioner Lorraine said, adding that 1,000 new soldiers have been enrolled in the territory in the last three years.

Commissioner William, quoting Founder William Booth, said you can’t show God’s love to someone on an empty stomach and with cold feet. He noted that the territory served 2 million people through basic social services in the last year, 10 million through disaster services (including hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), and 8 million meals. The territory also served 240,000 seniors.

The Bamfords urged the territory, including thousands watching via livestream on, to pray for the “2020” Congress June 12-14 next year in Harrisburg, Pa. Commissioner William said about 7,000 Salvationists are expected.

The videos highlighted the Rockland County Mobile Food Service; the Bensonhurst, N.Y., Senior Program; Tools for Life in Portland, Maine; CAMEO (Come And Meet Each Other) of Lexington, Ky.; and the New Haven, Conn., Pathway of Hope Program.

In fact, Lt. Colonel James LaBossiere, the territorial program secretary, welcomed the crowd to a night of “worship and celebration” of The Salvation Army’s innovative programming. The videos, he noted, showed “just a fraction, a small portion” of the scope of Army programming.

Among them:

  • Commissioner William Bamford prayed for the territory’s mission teams heading off for the summer, including the Creative Arts Service Team (CAST), Summer Brass, and Hands On.
  • Music was provided by the New York Staff Band, Eastern Territorial Songsters, and UNBOUND, which performed one song in Spanish and had the crowd in the Great American Hall on its feet.
  • The audience was treated to a stirring performance by the MOVE Dance Co. called “Will You Fight?” set to the Lauren Daigle song “Rescue.” Major Susan Dunigan, territorial social justice secretary, then gave an update on the territory’s anti-human trafficking efforts.
  • Major Christine Rock, director of women’s ministry in the Empire State Division, discussed the Transitional Apartments and Parenting Center in Syracuse, N.Y. Hailey Mauk then presented a dramatic skit called “Doorways” before a rapt audience.
  • Heather Green, director of human services in the New Jersey Division, told the crowd about the New Jersey Veterans Camp. The New York Staff Band played an armed forces medley as flagbearers entered with flags for several branches of the military.

Commissioning Weekend concludes tomorrow with the official ordination and commissioning of the Messengers of Compassion session at 10 a.m. and the appointment service at 3 p.m. in the Great American Hall at the Hershey Lodge.

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


Messengers of Compassion: Ordained and appointed to serve

On Sunday morning in the Great American Hall of the Hershey Lodge, the Messengers of Compassion session concluded their festive Commissioning weekend events. In doing so, they officially entered new lives as lieutenants in The Salvation Army USA Eastern Territory.

Honoring the faithful

In honor of the faithful officers who have been promoted to Glory in the past year, the service began with beautiful music by the New York Staff Band (NYSB). Majestic photographic images projected on large screens above the massive stage paid tribute to each promoted officer.

Cadets of the Messengers of the Kingdom session (2018–2020), along with the territorial leaders and staff of the College for Officer Training (CFOT) respectfully marched into the hall. Music from the NYSB set a reverent tone. Soft spotlights illuminated the cadets’ faces and cast striking shadows on their deep blue uniforms and epaulets. Brilliant white shoulder braids and pristine collars accented their tailored tunics.

“We welcome you to celebrate and receive those called by God—The Messengers of Compassion,” said Commissioner William W. Bamford III, territorial commander. “They will always remember their session name.”

Bamford continued, “Commissioner Lorraine and I have been praying that this day would fill us all with God’s Holy Spirit. We welcome every family represented here.” Bamford then led the congregation in singing a spirit–filled rendition of “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

A flagbearer carrying the session flag slowly entered the room, followed by the Messengers of Compassion, who joined the others on the platform. “The session flag is a reminder of Jesus’ message that calls them to live lives of holiness,” said Bamford.

Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham offered a thoughtful prayer, saying, “Your promises are backed by the honor of Your name! You’ve worked out the plans for our lives and we acknowledge that we are here by Your Holy Spirit.” She also prayed for the spiritually lost. “We pray for those who have not yet given their lives to You,” she said.

Lt. Colonel Hubert Steele, secretary for business administration, announced that $11,300,000 had been raised for World Services. He also shared just a few but dramatic examples of how the funds have already been used to aid people in partner countries around the world.

United in praise, the congregation sang “Mighty to Save,” accompanied by UNBOUND, who added a delightful Caribbean beat to the arrangement.

Prayers led by selected Messengers of Compassion, rendered in English, French, Spanish, and Korean set the tone for a dramatic scripture presentation by three session cadets.

‘By your faith’

Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham, Chief of the Staff, began his exuberant and passion–filled message by saying, “I have a word to share with you from Romans 5—you have been made right in God’s sight by faith!” He went on to declare how the session had also been reconciled by their heavenly Father. “You now understand the peace and shalom of God,” he said. “You now stand confidently and joyfully, looking forward to God’s glory!”

Buckingham drew a distinction between the academic training, which the cadets had all achieved vs. the privilege of standing in the grace of God. “Because of His grace, you’ve been reconciled. You have hope, peace, and confidence—even though you don’t know what will happen this afternoon,” alluding to the upcoming service when each cadet would receive their first appointments as officers.

The time of response was supported by spirit–filled music from the Eastern Territorial Songsters and UNBOUND. The New York Staff Band received a standing ovation for its electrifying rendition of “Great Are You, Lord.”

“We thank God for a band that stands for more than just the notes they play, but who truly ‘pours out their praise!’ said Lt. Colonel David E. Kelly, CFOT principal. In

presenting the Messengers of Compassion, he first paid tribute to his predecessor. “We are profoundly impressed by the gifted ministry of Colonel Janet Munn,” he said of the former principal. The audience responded with great applause and cheers.

Kelly continued, “The General of The Salvation Army can name a session, but he or she cannot change the character of the cadets in that session. But during the past 22 months, this session has grown into its name.” Kelly said that growth evolved through unexpected heartbreak, challenging ministry outreach, and a matured empathy for the lost. “These cadets are now ready to be called Messengers of Compassion.”

‘I challenge you’

After Kenneth O. Johnson, chief secretary, led the session through a traditional recitation of their Affirmation of Faith, Commissioners William A. and G. Lorraine Bamford conducted an earnest and frequently tearful Ordination and Commissioning ceremony. “I challenge you to be a faithful messenger of compassion in this day and age,” said Commissioner William Bamford.

With soft piano music and reverent silence from the audience as backdrop, each cadet came forward to receive his or her official ordination and commissioning as an officer. The new lieutenants then walked down the platform stairs, knelt, prayed, and sat together in a designated place in the audience.

In Colonel Janet Munn’s unique and thoughtful prayer of dedication, she announced the first names of each lieutenant twice before she recited a specific and heartfelt prayer for them. Finally, she said of the 18 officers, “They are few in number, but able to cause giants to fall.”

Commissioner William Bamford offered a call to service. Many Salvationists came forward and stood by his side. “We give praise to the Lord for this response,” said the territorial commander.

The meeting ended with the congregation singing “Send the Fire,” music by the NYSB, and a vocal benediction of “Children of God.”

Appointed to serve

The NYSB, the Eastern Territorial Staff Songsters, and the College for Officer Training (CFOT) Timbrel Brigade set a lively mood for this long–awaited and much–anticipated meeting. On Sunday afternoon in the Great American Hall, the Messengers of Compassion and their families finally learned where their first appointments as lieutenants in The Salvation Army would take them.

A parade of seasoned officers carrying flags from previous sessions entered with great fanfare and under bright and colorful spotlights.

The crowd roared when the Messengers of Compassion marched into the room.

“Ladies and gentlemen put your hands together for the newest session of officers, the Messengers of Compassion!” said Colonel Kenneth Johnson, chief secretary. “Welcome!” he continued. Johnson also greeted the newly retired officers in the room.

Cadet Yesenia Sierra Hernandez, Accepted Candidate Dustin Norcross, and Major Dennis Young led a prayer in Spanish and English. They prayed that the Lord would give the Messengers of Compassion comfort, peace, acceptance in their communities, protection, and the ability to help people who are “starving for peace, hope, and love.”

A talk about living water

After Johnson led the congregation in singing “Crown Him with Many Crowns.”

Lieutenant Meghan Labrecque, representative speaker, offered an encouraging and instructive message based on the parable of the Woman at the Well. ”Jesus suffers with us,” she said. She described how He crossed cultural and gender boundaries to have a conversation about a special “water” that would forever quench her spiritual thirst. “Like us, she was broken, ashamed, and alone,” Labrecque said. “But Jesus’ compassion transformed her life. She went to the people and told them about Him. We need to do the same; we must go out!”

Historic appointment

Following Commissioner Bamford’s announcement that lieutenant Alexander Vargas would receive the Commissioner’s Award, the territorial commander made another and historic announcement. “Without soldiers, there is no army,” he began. “To develop a clearer chain of communication between soldiery and leadership, the Cabinet of the USA Eastern Territory has made the decision to initiate the role and the appointment of a Territorial Sergeant Major (TSM).” Bamford invited CSM Kristina Hevenor from the Lowell, Mass., Corps, to the platform and commissioned her as the first to hold this rank as a soldiers’ advocate. In response, Hevenor graciously accepted the post and said, “Thank you for recognizing the voices of the soldiers.”

She then gave the charge to the new lieutenants, encouraging them to be in the present, but to also respect the history and the future of corps and the soldiers in them. “Be all in,” she said.

The Bamfords then appointed the new lieutenants to serve as corps officers and assistant corps officers in cities around the territory.

Lt. Colonel James LaBossiere, territorial secretary for program offered a benediction, praying that everyone would exit “in energy, passion, and purpose.”

Commissioning Weekend wrap up stories, videos, and live streams are available for viewing at Commissioning 2019.

—by Warren L. Maye


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