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New world for Believers

BY LETICIA A. SAUNDERS, CAPTAIN –

It was supposed to be a week of exciting preparations for the Welcome of the Believers, the Western Territory’s newest session of cadets. They were supposed to be practicing cheerful songs, declaring the love and power of God in their lives. Instead, on Tuesday morning, a portion of their session song tragically rang true: “In a world of sinfulness, so full of hate, where the pains of life can hurt and contaminate…”

The entire world watched in shocked silence at the effects of some of that worldly hate. Tuesday’s tragic attack changed the whole tone of the welcome week. Instead of nervous excitement, sincere heartfelt prayers were offered up for those directly affected by the attack. If some of the Believers questioned that the welcome weekend would even take place, if they privately wondered if family members and Salvation Army personnel would be able to reach Crestmont College, instead of being upset that their “special weekend” might be affected, they were ready to roll up their sleeves (literally!) and help in any way possible. The cadets were ready to go “en masse” to comfort bereaved families, assist rescue workers and donate blood.

This new session of cadets, 30 “Believers,” has certainly entered training to a world that has changed dramatically overnight. We keep hearing how radically our world has changed. Yet, the Believers themselves, as a session, reflect many of the significant changes in our society. While some of the cadets are still young (the youngest is 20) the oldest is 51. The cadets’ age is not unusual though; there are 12 Believers who are in their forties. Some cadets in this session are even fortunate enough to be grandparents, and challenge the stereotype of “fresh green cadets.”

This session of cadets also challenges the idea that they are here to be “educated.” While it is true that there will be much to learn, this particular session is already a rather educated group, with 15 degrees (earned by 12 individuals).

The areas in which they have achieved success are quite diverse, and include: architecture, accounting, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, psychology and business administration. The Believers’ degrees also include biblically related subjects such as theology, Master of Divinity and Biblical studies. Perhaps it is their professionalism in previous vocational fields that is the basis for their professional attitude towards the very practical ministry of disaster relief.

Culturally, they are also truly representative of our modern melting pot society. There are as many cadets who speak Korean as speak Spanish. There are as many African-American cadets as there are Latin-American cadets, and while there are 17 who are Caucasian, the remaining 13–almost half the session–represent different ethnic origins.

This session of cadets also represents the changing world of our own Army culture–only two cadets in the Believers session had officer parents. Twenty-three of the Believers are first generation Salvationists, and half of the session, 15, came to the Army from some other church. Only four cadets were dedicated as children within the Army; the majority of the Believers have come to The Salvation Army as adults. But that does not mean they are unfamiliar with Army ministries. They have held a number of positions in the corps they left behind.

In addition to various leadership positions with corps youth, there were several who were already in ministry positions as envoys and worship leaders. Some were in administrative positions such as administrative aides, corps secretaries and in-charge of outposts.

As their Welcome weekend approached, even as the tragic events of the week threatened the joy, the Believers continued to demonstrate an unwavering readiness to fulfill the call to ministry. They continued to polish to perfection their session song (words written by Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien and music written by Captain Steve Smith, both of Crestmont) while their attitude seemed to reflect the words they sang–that even “…in a world of sinfulness, so full of hate…all the grime and grief he can eliminate…. We believe that God can melt a hardened heart… We are believers in his saving love…We are believers in his victory!”

The world may be changing radically around us, but for the Believers session, it is evident that they are ready, willing and able to prove that it is only the powerful love of God that will truly change our world.

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