Exploring a lifetime of service to God and to others

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While many people were on ski trips, cleaning out the garage or otherwise occupied, 128 Salvationists from around the territory came to the Crestmont campus in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., to explore God’s will for their lives.

The Life Service Conference, “Passing The Torch: An Army for a New Generation,” sponsored by the Territorial Headquarters Youth Department and College for Officer Training, was an incredibly blessed and enlightening weekend. With each event, each class, God poured out his Holy Spirit to encourage, bless, and challenge all who came.

Inspired by a similar experience at eXtreme ’99, the conference branched out into a form of ministry that was very new and foreign to many in attendance. Dubbed “Operation Eye-Opener,” on Friday night the attendees were divided into two groups to visit the Harbor Light Center and Bell Shelter, social service programs focusing on shelter and treatment based in the Los Angeles area.

As the buses rumbled up to the centers, many delegates were not quite sure what to expect when they walked through the doors. Interestingly enough, the residents of the shelters felt the same way! Some delegates had never seen ministries such as these – “I’ve seen it on videos, but that’s nothing compared to being there.” At each facility, Life Service attendees and shelter residents met, prayed and praised the Lord together. Through powerful preaching, Gospel choirs and testimonies from both residents and delegates, any barriers that kept the two apart soon melted away until all were joined together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

This year, the Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARC) Command was well represented by a large group of vibrant delegates. Through their moving testimonies and personal experience, many were able to share in a special ministry at the shelters, expressing thanksgiving to God for his care through their trials with addiction. “I am in recovery; it reminded me of where I have come from.” That night, not only were eyes opened, but hearts were touched by the Holy Spirit.

Traveling all the way from Sweden, Captains Kjell and Ann-Christine Karlsten were special guests for the weekend and shared a powerful teaching and healing ministry. A definite highlight to their time here was the Saturday morning challenge that came from God’s word via Captain Kjell. Speaking from 1 Samuel 17, the familiar story of David and Goliath, one would have thought that the true but typical “the battle belongs to the Lord” sermon would have been preached; not so at this meeting.

In the Biblical story, David wants to defeat Goliath, for his slanderous talk and attitude against the God of the Israelites. David, a teenager, approaches the king to offer to fight Goliath, while the rest of the Israelite army cowers in fear. At first, King Saul dismisses the notion of this boy going to meet a giant. But when David shared the adversaries he had come up against during his daily duties as a shepherd, it was evident that this ‘boy’ was a man at heart. To help equip this boy-warrior to meet Goliath, King Saul gave David his armor to wear and his sword to fight with. After a few moments of stumbling around, David took off the ill-fitting, foreign weaponry, and grabbed what he knew–his staff, five smooth stones and his sling. Strange gear to meet a giant with, but as the story goes, David–through God’s power, was victorious over his enemy.

The focus of the challenge was empowerment. Are we empowering and allowing today’s generation to slay their ‘Goliaths’ with the armor that works best for them, or are we forcing them to wear armor that is not their own? Are we willing to pass the torch onto the next generation to do battle, to take the light to the world, and to win the world for Jesus–and let them do it in the way that God has prepared them, or will we force them to utilize ill-fitting methods for the sake of doing it the way it has always been done? This was not only food for thought–but food for the soul as well.

The Sunday morning worship service was a spirit-filled encounter with God. The worship service was marked by unity through diversity, both musically and culturally. Through the use of traditional brass as well as contemporary choruses, God’s praises were lifted high. In English, Korean and Spanish we were brought to our Heavenly Father’s throne in prayer.

Testimonies shared by delegates were heartfelt expressions of God’s love, purpose and providence. Cabinet members Colonels Phil and Keitha Needham, Colonels Donald and Esther Sather and Lt. Colonels Raymond and Carolyn Peacock lent thoughtful and godly leadership to this assembly of hearts seeking God’s will.

In a very down to earth but spirit-filled message, Colonel Phil Needham shared from Philippians 2:1-11 on the meaning of servant leadership. Even before the prayer chorus “Lead me Lord” had begun, delegates made their way down the aisle to the mercy seat to seek the Lord, his forgiveness, his grace and his will. The place of prayer was lined, sounds of prayers in many languages were offered and lives were changed.

Responding to God’s call of ministry in their lives as Salvation Army officers, many came forward when Major Rudy Hedgren, territorial youth secretary, asked them to make a public declaration of the desire of their hearts to follow God. Many also responded to the Lord’s leading by acknowledging God’s call in their lives to become increasingly involved in lay leadership in their corps. God be praised for his calling to all forms of ministry!

When asked to evaluate the weekend, many commented that their lives would never be the same; that this was a time of confirmation of God’s call in their lives. One shared, “(This weekend) showed me that there is much more to The Salvation Army than I knew. God really uses the Army to make a difference in the world.” For the majority of delegates, each event was further confirmation of God’s call in their life–either to be a lay leader in their corps or in service as an officer. In the end, we were all reminded that Life Service isn’t just a weekend conference, it’s a lifelong calling fulfilled each and every day.

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