Messengers of Light receive degrees

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Commencement ceremony begins commissioning weekend in the West.

In culmination of two years of academic effort at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) at Crestmont, Salvationists and friends gathered on the college’s lawn today to witness the commencement of the 48 cadets of the Messengers of Light session.

 Major Brian Saunders
Major Brian Saunders

“We don’t just celebrate the accomplishments of these few men and women behind me today, but we celebrate the ministry they will go forth to do,” said Major Brian Saunders, CFOT training principal.  

The session sang its song, “Then The Light” by Len Ballantine, before a prayer by Captain Annalise Francis, CFOT curriculum officer.

“Relationships are, indeed, the backbone of our culture, our communities and our daily lives…but distractions and demands of daily life often interfere with the essential connections with those around us,” said William Flinn, chair of the Crestmont Council, noting the words of General John Gowans’ song “Someone Cares.” “We are essentially partners in ministry with the Lord and we often become the answers to someone’s prayers as we use dedicated hands to bring hope to others.”

Saunders led attendees in singing “Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” before Chief Secretary Colonel Douglas Riley read Matthew 5:14-16, and Lt. Colonel Edward Hill, program secretary, gave the commencement address.

“I believe God has called the soon-to-be-commissioned Messengers of Light and all contemporary Salvationists, to this moment in time, to this place and, I would suggest, with a message and ministry reflected by the four words spoken long ago by Churchill—blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” Hill said, noting Winston Churchill’s place in history at just the right time.

Hill urged the cadets to preach the blood of Jesus Christ.

“It’s the blood that saves. It’s the blood that cleanses. It’s the blood that motivates us to share the gospel with the unsaved,” he said, suggesting the new officers not stray much from preaching about the cross, about the blood of Jesus Christ.

Lt. Colonel Edward Hill
Lt. Colonel Edward Hill

He advised the session to be prepared to toil in ministry.

“The response of the Messenger of Light to hard days should be faithful endurance,” he said. “That’s what it means to toil. The called of God press on even when things are difficult because when they do, God draws strangely near.”  

Hill told the cadets to be ready to shed tears, as Jesus was.

“Guard against a calloused heart; a crammed schedule; or detachment from the hurting,” he said. “Cultivate empathy and sympathy with your people…shed tears.”

Finally, Hill urged the session to be willing to work up a sweat.

He said he was embarrassed to admit that in his first appointment, he often spent hours in his office writing sermons.

“They were sermons about serving and saving the lost; living a life of love and compassion; evangelizing the world… while outside my closed door was a steady stream of people coming in and out of the reception area,” Hill said. “These people were not particularly interested at that moment in my well-reasoned theology, but rather desperate for help to solve real world problems. It wasn’t until I flung open the door of my office and met people at the point of need that I began to grow chest hairs as a Salvation Army officer.”

In making ministry a priority, Hill told each cadet to “break a sweat as if it depends on you, because in Anchorage to Yuma and 500 places in between, it may.”

Territorial Commander Commissioner James Knaggs presented academic degrees and certificates to the cadets, including Cadet Stephanie Pavlakis who spoke on behalf of her session.

“These last two years, we have been taught how to breathe. These breathing exercises have come in the form of chapels, discipleship, and other opportunities for spiritual growth and development,” Pavlakis said. “However, there comes a point in training where you have to begin breathing on your own…Officers have led us in spiritual formation, but when it comes down to it, true spiritual growth only happens when we each individually seek the Lord with all our hearts.”

Major Pamela Gardner, CFOT personnel officer, led attendees in singing “I’ll Stand For Christ” before Saunders offered a closing prayer.

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