Sunday night at the Army
The Southern California and Sierra del Mar divisions celebrated jointly with over 750 enthusiasts at “Sunday Night at the Army” in the packed Tustin Ranch Corps. Their joy came with the enrollment of 113 new soldiers present for a ceremony of installation into the Army by Commissioners Philip and Pat Swyers.
Along with the territorial leaders, divisional leaders, Lt. Colonels Paul and Ronda Bollwahn and Lt. Colonels Douglas and Diane O’Brien supported the special guests for the evening, Commissioners Barry and Sue Swanson, international secretary and secretary for women’s ministries for the Americas and Caribbean territories.
A number musical groups from both divisions added to the evening. These included The Tustin Ranch Band (B/M Ed Freeman); the Sierra del Mar Ladies Chorale (Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien); the Sierra del Mar Timbrels, (Ms. Joy Lee); the cast of Espiritu (DMD Kevin Larsson).
The San Diego Citadel Praise Team and Sierra del Mar Hula Group performed and accompanied a time of prayer offered in three languages: Korean, by Major Chung-Ae Kang; Spanish, by Captain Saul Doria; and English, by B/M Richard Opina.
Swyers presented representative Sunbeams with their Commissioner’s Award. They included Courtney Perine, Crestmont; Samantha Hill, Pasadena Tabernacle; Alexandra Sparrow, Pomona; Shelby Ward, San Diego Citadel; and Sierra Pereyra, Santa Fe Springs.
Commissioner Sue Swanson’s sense of humor revealed itself in an extremely hilarious yet deeply inspiring personal testimony. She spoke of the challenge of acculturation into a new culture – especially enjoying the sound of English speech. Particularly delightful to her is the recorded voice from the IHQ elevator announcing “door opening” – and with her attempt to mimic the accent, the audience laughed with her. She went on the “door closing” also enjoyed by the audience now thoroughly captured by her style. “Then, on one crowded occasion,” she said, “the voice spoke: obstruction in the door.”
Moving past the hilarity with sensitivity she spoke frankly about the opening and closing doors – the obstructions in her own life. She spoke of the fear she felt in her own life not knowing whether or not she was doing enough for God – about how that fear forced her to try to “earn her salvation through works” – about how the doing became an obstruction in her spiritual growth. She admitted that it wasn’t until after she had graduated from Asbury College that she confessed her sin and confronted the fear with the insight that “It is by grace we are saved. To know Jesus and the reality of his sacrifice and resurrection is all we need. “It is by grace we are saved through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Commissioner Barry Swanson spoke in a conversational manner with his audience and offered some thoughts for new soldiers. He drew his text from Phillipians 1:27-30 – written by Paul when in chains.
“Whatever happens, conduct yourself worthy of the gospel of Christ,” he quoted. It is not enough to be proud, to be a Salvationist, to be a Christian – you must be worthy. We can’t control “whatever happens” in life. Paul was speaking to those who had accepted Christ and were living a life in harmony with him.
So what does a “worthy life look like?” First we must stand firm – to put on the whole armor of God – to be united, of one spirit together, unified in prayer. Second, we must contend for the faith – to wrestle the obstacles confronting us, even if we, ourselves, are the ones in the way. We must represent the gospel. This explains our passion as we strive to become change agents in the live of those with whom we unite to stand firm. Everyone must contend for the gospel.
Sometimes, the church fails to show itself as worthy of the gospel of Christ. Sometimes, immorality, hypocrisy creeps in and tarnishes the image of Christ people ought to be seeing in us. Let us agree tonight to contend for the gospel.
Third, we must not only believe, for it is in our suffering for Christ that we are most worthy. He spoke of the suffering of various people in the cause of Christ. Among them was Frederick Bonhoffer – a Christian in a German concentration camp during World War II. Bonhoffer said that “suffering is the badge of the true Christian.”
In Sao Paulo, Brazil is the worst slum in the world. In it is a Salvation Army corps. Its soldiers are surrounded by filth and crime. They are caring, intelligent, committed people. They are worthy Christians full immersed in the joy that only Christ can bring.
Here, Swanson opened the altar with an invitation “to be like Jesus.” Immediately, people responded and lives were changed.
Swyers than invited all soldiers to be enrolled to come to the platform. They came – filling the space available and overflowing off the stage. He spoke simply to them and urged them to be worthy of their calling to Christian service. He asked them to hear a portion of their covenant. He asked them raise their right hand and affirm the reading:
I now call upon all present to witness that I enter this covenant of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to his serviced for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore, do here declare my full determination, by God’s help to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army.
With right hands raised, the group responded “I do” – and The Salvation Army grew by 130 new soldiers striving to find worthiness in the cause of Christ.