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Meet the Bridgebuilders

by Captain Leticia SaundersA funny e-mail entitled “30 Years Difference” circulated recently, depicting all too well the changes in life that 30 years can make. In ’72, your parents may have been begging you to get your hair cut, in 2002, your children are begging you to get their heads shaved! In 1972, you may have experienced acid rock, and in 2002, it is acid reflux! Thirty years ago you rejoiced as you passed your drivers test, 30 years later, you are relieved if you pass the vision test. As I read the e-mail, I was amused (and shocked!) to discover how a 30-year gap really separates our perspectives on the world. I was also shocked and amused to discover that there is–exactly–a 30-year age difference between the oldest and the youngest cadet entering Crestmont College School for Officer Training in the Bridgebuilders Session this fall.

Talk about a generation gap! With the oldest cadet being 50, and the youngest cadet being only 20, they did not “grow up” in the same USA! One can remember when President Kennedy was shot, Vietnam, Saturday Night Fever and Watergate…while the other cannot even remember the tragic explosion of the space shuttle.

The new session of cadets may face cultural gaps, as the Bridgebuilders have a rich ethnic background. One third of the 31 new cadets identify themselves with different nationalities: Native American, African-American, Canadian, Cuban, Filipino, Irish, Korean, European and Caucasian backgrounds make up their diverse session. Their educational experience could divide them as well, with two-thirds still in the process of completing their education, one-third have already completed a total of 13 degrees, which are held between 11 students. Their fields of study are also varied: nursing, social services, political science, history, education, Christian ministries and theology.

There is certainly a wide gap in their family makeup, with 10 couples and 11 singles. Out of the singles, four are single parents who brought their children to the College. There are other new “training experiences” occurring for the first time as well: A first-year cadet is a “captain-spouse as she goes through training; her officer husband has an appointment as an assistant officer at a nearby corps! The days of “cadet-spouse” are gone. One of the couples will also experience a different type of training, as they will not be living at Crestmont but their “flex training” program will split their time between traditional cadet classes at Crestmont, and work as corps assistants at a nearby corps. The Bridgebuilders, due to their different circumstances, will each experience a “training setting” that is as unique as their individual situations.

As for the corps experiences the Bridgebuilders left behind, they leave behind them many ministry related positions, for they worked with just about every demographic group, from cradle roll to DIVLOC! Twenty-two of the Bridgebuilders were employed by the Army as program personnel, active leaders in ministry at the local level. While they enter training with a great deal of Salvation Army ministry experience, it has not been the “traditional Army experience” of yesteryear. Of all the local officers positions left vacant, it is interesting to note there of was not one commissioned songster or bandsman in the group, although some have considerable musical experience. With such variety in ages, ethnic backgrounds, marital and parental status, as well as Army experience, this new session of cadets seems more truly representative of the Western Territory than other new sessions in the past.

The Bridgebuilders truly reflect the changing nature of our society, representing mid-stream career moves, single parenthood, and the many individual situations that would not normally “fit” into the traditional “training school garrison” mentality. Our world, and our Army are changing very quickly, but the Bridgebuilders do not see this as a weakness. Instead, they see it as an incredible opportunity to show the world, that while differences exist, their session has been appropriately named Bridgebuilders. Instead of focusing on the differences that could separate, these cadets have individually and collectively dedicated their lives to building bridges between people, groups and generations, in the name of Christ Jesus.

The Bridgebuilders feel called to connect the family of believers with those whose lives may feel distant from God. Having responded to God’s call on their lives, they know that the opportunity for unity exists, but that it can only be found in having a restored relationship with God. Diverse, but not divided, they are uniquely unified in their goal: To be Bridgebuilders for Christ, in a hurting, sinful world.

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