Salvationists, families and friends gathered for ceremonies marking the commencement of the Builders of the Kingdom Session, who concluded a rigorous two-year course of study preparing them for Salvation Army officership.
“We’re gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of this session,” stated Training Principal Major Terry Griffin as he welcomed the audience. “God has called them, and they’ve been obedient to follow him.”
In recognition of academic accomplishments, Commissioner David Edwards presented the cadets with academic awards and degrees. Twenty-eight of the graduates earned A.A. in Ministry degrees. Awards were given to: Principal’s Award–Cadet Kyle Smith; Commissioner’s Award–Cadet Daniel Freeman; Principal’s List with Merit — Cadets Raymond Erickson-King, Mary Freeman, Vicki Gilden, Jennifer Perine, Kendall Phillips, and Edith Tippol; Principal’s List with Distinction–Cadets Daniel Freeman, Mark Gilden and Kenneth Perine; and Principal’s List with Honor–Cadets Doreen Freeman and Kyle Smith.
Commissioner Edward Read (R) gave the commencement address, drawing on Jeremiah 29:11 as the basis for his text. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“God’s plan for us is a perfect plan,” Read stated, “it isn’t second best.”
“The Prayer Summit gave me a new attitude of hope,” said Tony Chaffino, San Diego Centre City Corps. “Commissioner Read was awesome and his teachings have taught me how to explain to others the importance of prayer. I have made a renewed commitment to God to pray more specifically, and also to listen for his answers.”
Chaffino was one of 380 delegates who attended the Prayer Summit, held during Commissioning weekend. During the five-hour session, delegates participated in a “prayer circle” of worship, Bible teaching and small group prayer times. At the “10/40 window” prayer luncheon, costumed representatives of various unreached people groups shared information and prayer requests.
The Bible teaching focused on the Lord’s Prayer as a model for the disciples’ priority, pattern, promise, and passion. Commissioner Edward Read (R), internationally known and respected Bible teacher, was the featured speaker.
Not just a Summit about prayer, it was a true summit of prayer. According to Sonya Hollin, Oceanside, Calif., corps, who felt God’s presence “full force and powerful,” the summit was “awesome.” She adds “it has been wonderful to unite with other Christians in prayer. It has deepened…my commitment to prayer.”
Susan Weaver, who has attended Denver’s West Adams Corps since Christmas and has been a soldier for only one week, stated “You can really feel the spirit generated in the room from everyone. [It is] so obvious that it is out of a love for one another and for God.” For her, the Summit was the “meaning of the family of God.”
The Summit also emphasized the importance of the territory’s Prayer Partners program and the role of corps prayer leaders. Lt. Colonel Mervyn Morelock (R) reported to delegates that there are now 1800 Prayer Partners and more than 450 prayer leaders.
Saturday night’s Family Celebration with the College for Officer Training featured two engaging musical presentations, “Get on Board, Children,” and “SAints ALIVE!”
“Get on Board, Children!” –written in 1973 by Janette Smart, then Singing Company leader at Hollywood Tabernacle Corps–cheerfully explored how Noah’s children and grandchildren handled being cooped up in a boat for several weeks with all the animals. Music was written by Captain Terry Camsey.
“That was 25 years ago, hard to believe, and even more fascinating when one realizes that some in the congregation, including a cadet, when this was presented at Commissioning were in that original production,” says Camsey.
And where did the SAints ALIVE Poppets come from? Camsey relates the story:
“I had been thinking about the Poppets (in “SAints ALIVE!”) and the word Moppets popped into my mind, which–in turn–led me to think of the Muppets. Well, two ideas juxtaposed themselves, and the notion of doing “Get on Board, Children!” using Muppet look-alikes (calling them Moppets) and making the presentation a larger-than-life puppet show seemed a possibility. Since this was breaking new ground, the cadets were involved and–under the leadership of Captain Lola Downey and Lt. Evadne Allott, with coaching by Captain Gene Ragan–the challenge began. We knew the puppet theater would be nine feet high, and that we couldn’t get the costumes until the Thursday before the event…and since we did not realize that the Moppet heads would have only about six inches of peripheral vision, there were some incredible problems to overcome.
“The key was, however, to involve the cadets in solving the problems. They did marvelously, a testimony to the power of synergistic thinking “Get on Board” was fun and worth it all just to see the kids’ faces, and I’m talking about kids of all ages through 60 years and beyond!
The attraction of a vision
“SAints ALIVE! was a different “kettle of fish” altogether. Looking at a complete set of Salvation Army Poppet figurines one day, the thought came into my mind, “I wonder what they would say if they could talk!” It was a fascinating thought, especially when one realizes that many Army homes have at least one or two of the set on their mantels. What might they have seen or heard? That concept was realized, and a musical was developed and performed during a Congress in 1987 (with script and lyrics by Kevin White, music by Terry Camsey).
“The thought of having Moppets and Poppets started to develop for this year’s Commissioning, and we shared the concept with the Builders of the Kingdom cadets. We were able to show them a video of the 1987 production and they, too, were intrigued by the possibilities.
“Characters were carefully selected, bearing in mind what we felt to be the personalities of each Poppet, and rehearsals started. Again, we allowed a great deal of creative interpretation by the participant cadets. We also added a choral backing and asked Ivor Bosanko to score the music.
“The Moppets and Poppets are now history…We hope to produce a video of the evening and the musical score of “SAints ALIVE!” is available through the Trade Department. But, you know, I sense that there were very many parallels in the experience with the emerging project to develop a vision to take us beyond 2000 and into the future…
“For a start, Noah was a builder…a man of faith who acted on God’s command and saw the promise fulfilled. We need lots of Noahs!
“The ‘SAints,’ too, reminded us of the courage of those Salvationists who left us such a godly heritage. They heard Booth share his vision, were excited by its possibilities and got “in step.”
“Then, we have seen the pattern is that a ‘seed’ of vision is sown…visions attract followers…synergy is produced which enables 1+1 to equal 3, 10, 50…deadlines and guiding boundaries release creativity…having a target to aim at gives a sense of direction and motivation…one could go on.”
“You know, I believe that the Saturday evening at Commissioning was, in reality, an allegory for some of the most exciting thinking and action (ever!) about to emerge in this territory. Who can doubt that the Lord has blessed abundantly the courage of those who stepped out boldly in faith, knowing that God’s power would, by that action, be released.”
A hush filled the auditorium as the Builders of the Kingdom stepped forward smartly one-by-one–with a proud smile and a snappy salute–to be commissioned and ordained by Commissioner David Edwards during Sunday morning’s services.
Highlighting the service were testimonies by Lieutenants Bouaphet Sidavong and Jennifer Perine, and a moving solo by Lieutenant Osei Stewart of “If You Knew,” by Gowans and Larsson.
Sidavong told the audience of the journey that took him to The Salvation Army, which began in his native Laos and included nine years as a concentration camp prisoner. Afterwards, he became a Buddhist monk, and still struggled to find salvation. “In 1985 I accepted Christ,” he said, “and I found salvation then. God has taught me so much and been so good to me.” While his family has “been through tough times,” he said God had shaped and refined him through it. “As a Builder of the Kingdom, I will build myself up in God.”
Perine described how she came to officership after growing up in The Salvation Army, crediting a conversation she overheard in high school between two missionary kids that drew her to missions. “I attended UCLA and had a double major of French and Linguistics with the goal of serving God, maybe in the mission field,” she said.
In his message to the new lieutenants, Edwards challenged them to become disciples of Christ, and to have as their motivation a love for God. “No person can have two masters,” he said, “to follow Christ, you must love only him. You must love God with undivided loyalty.”
Resplendent in red trim, the West’s new lieutenants proudly marched in amidst applause, cheers, and fanfare at the opening of their service of appointment.
To begin the service, Edwards and Colonel Donald Sather, personnel secretary, recognized long service officers. They include:
25 years–Major Barbara Ammann, Major Nila Fankhauser, Major Walter J. Fuge, Major Charles F. Gillies, Major Judy Hedgren, Major Edward Lowcock, Major Brengle A. Navarro, Major Stephen Owen, Major Bonita Rider, Major Daniel Starrett, Major Helen Starrett, and Major Kathie Timpson.
35 years–Lt. Colonel Harold F. Brodin, Lt. Colonel Joann Brodin, Lt. Colonel Chris Buchanan, Major Joan Craddock, Lt. Colonel Dianne C. Hogan, Major Patricia Jolley, Major Ralph E. Looker, Major Ruth Looker, Major Carolyn Mulch, Major William J. Mulch, Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock.
40 years–Lt. Colonel Evelyn J. Hunter.
Representative speaker Lieutenant Kyle Smith challenged the audience to strive to build God’s Kingdom. “We don’t want to be just any kind of builders. We seek to be workers ordained by God…God deserves our best, but our best is only possible if we all work together.”
Commissioner Doreen Edwards, territorial president, Women’s Organizations, assisted by Colonel Gwen B. Luttrell, territorial secretary, presented the Order of the Silver Star to three representative mothers: non-Salvationist mother Frances Damm, mother of Lt. Terry Damm; Salvationist mother Beverly Freeman, mother of Lts. Daniel and Mary Freeman; and officer mother Captain Roberta Downey, mother of Lt. Lynn Stewart. This year, 29 mothers were admitted to the Order of the Silver Star.
Major Terry Griffin presented the session to Edwards, saying “They are determined to build the Kingdom of God wherever they may go. Commissioner, they are prepared to receive their first appointments!”
Thanking Griffin for the lieutenants, Edwards commended Majors Terry and Linda Griffin for their four years of leadership at the college. “You have shown an excellent example of what it is to be spiritual leaders.”
As the lieutenants received their appointments, cheers and whistles filled the hall. Addressing the audience, Edwards told the new officers “You are going to God’s place for you. Never lose that sense. It’s God’s place. There is no place we can send you that is outside God’s world. God’s people will be there. Love them, serve them, care for them. Be strong and courageous. God will be with you wherever you go.”