by Linda Bond, Commissioner –
The Commissioning weekend is the Army’s annual celebration and thanksgiving weekend. For the newly commissioned officers, it is the event they have set their sights on for two years. It brings to a conclusion residential life at Crestmont College where in the community of staff, cadets and children, they have given their best to academic studies and field training. And now—ordained and commissioned—they go out, eager yet apprehensive, for no matter how effective the training period is, it isn’t the field.
There, reality checks are commonplace, for putting theory into practice is easier said then done. In some ways, learning has truly begun, for it is where their lives intersect with people that they will understand their calling and responsibility. But it is a glorious ministry and the cost is surely swallowed up in the privilege. The grace of God overflows into everyday experiences, and exhaustion is countered with exhilaration, pain with joy, and failure with effectiveness.
Just ask the officers who are in attendance. Sometimes the Commissioning weekend is our “Bethel,” the place of beginnings to which we return to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness and the strength we have found in the people of God. The testimony is credible, for many this year will receive long service certificates, of 25 years, 35 years, and even 40 years. Throughout the weekend, our minds drift back to bygone days of calling, covenant and commissioning.
For some there was a certainty since childhood that officership was their life’s purpose. For others it came as a surprise, an interruption. It was as though the Lord stopped them dead in their tracks and sent them down a totally different road. There are other officers who ran from him as though he was the “hound of heaven” and only submitted in order to be at peace. Who knows why the call of God is embraced by some and resisted by others? With respect to the latter, is it the idea of officership, or is it the surrender of the personal plans, the submission of the will in obedience and trust? But for officers attending the commissioning weekend, it will be a further confirmation that we do what we do because we have been called.
It has been my privilege as a training college staff officer for six years—and now the territorial commander—to participate in the Covenant service of the Believers. You can’t be involved in this serious occasion without remembering your own. The sermons always focus on God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises and our personal vows. Together with him, we are keepers of the covenant. But here again, for some cadets, kneeling to sign your covenant is not the defining moment of officership. That was done in the heart, when the first “yes” was said when his calling came. Yet, others have spent agonizing moments in prayer before the signature was affixed. Still today, we are talking about lifelong service as Salvation Army officers and for many, if that was not settled with the “Yes;” it had to be settled with the signature.
And then commissioning. All officers have, in their mental meanderings, gone over their special day. It may be the memory of absolute shock as they heard their appointment announced at the very same time as the congregation. Perhaps it was the striking contrast between the exhilaration of the commissioning celebration and the first, scary, lonely Sunday in the appointment. Or that weekend may have been the turning point for family members who through the commissioning meetings entered into a relationship with the Lord. But for all, there would be no doubt that the Army had gone to every length to affirm their calling, remind them of his grace, and then trust them with an appointment. And then 25, 35, 40 years on, you sit at the ordination service and commissioning of the new officers, and ask, would I do it again? For most, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
The Salvation Army needs men and women to say “yes” to his call today. We are blessed with thousands of volunteers, with quality employees, that we could not do without and who feel that their service is a ministry. But we do need people who respond to his calling with the same abandon as the early fishermen, who left their nets for another type of fishing and entered into a relationship with one who claimed their highest loyalty and gave them an unpredictable, glorious adventure, beyond their narrow boundaries and their wildest dreams.
Identify, train and