Territory welcomes Witnesses for Christ Session
Focus on 24/7 prayer continues at annual event
by Robert Docter –
Along with territorial and divisional leaders, a capacity audience filled both the San Diego Kroc Center theater and an overflow room to greet the 15-member Witnesses for Christ Session of Salvation Army cadets and welcome back the 15-member God’s Fellow Workers Session.
The stage was crowded as the 30 cadets were joined by an additional 37 others—all of whom are currently moving through the application process with plans for entering the college during the coming year. Six lieutenants and one auxiliary captain already serving in the field united with the others and indicated intentions for continuing with officership.
Major Nancy Dihle stated confidently that the school can anticipate at least 45 new cadets for the 2008-2010 session.
The service focused on prayer as Territorial Secretary for Program Major Eda Hokom, called the congregation to worship with words of continual praise for the Lord taken from the 34th Psalm. All assembled then stood and formed small groups of three or four to offer “prayer for this time”—for the Witnesses, for the Army, and for our world.
Lt. Colonel Deborah Bell led the congregation in The Lord’s Prayer followed by the Pasadena Tabernacle Band’s interpretation of Trevor Davis’s setting for the chorus “Prayer gently lifts me to highest heaven, from earth’s confusion to Jesus’ breast; my sin and weakness, my doubt and sorrow are lost forever in sweetest rest.”
Associate Secretary for Program Major Pam Strickland continued the period of prayer, focusing on prayer for our Army leaders and local officers.
Territorial Secretary for Personnel Major Ralph Hood stood to invite quiet personal prayer in the stillness of the moment and concluded by leading the song, “Be still for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One is here.”
The territory’s special guest, former National Commander Commissioner Robert Watson then spoke eloquently to both to the cadets and to the audience from verses in 2 Timothy: 2:1-12, presented earlier by Commissioner Alice Watson.
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach other. Endure hardship with us as a good soldier of Christ. No one serving as a soldier gets involved with civilian affairs.
He spoke of our mandate—the great commandment—to go into the world and preach the gospel. He drew attention to the commitment and the obedience any response to that command demanded. “God called his people not to a career but to a life of obedience.” He recognized that a response to that call may take us to lonely and difficult places, but “his grace is sufficient as he goes out before us and camps out around us.”
We also have a market—all the world—every creature. He noted the rapid changes taking place throughout the world and the new opportunities this brings. “The world is coming to us,” he stated. He noted that every major city demands multi-lingual understanding and reported studies indicating that well over 200 languages are spoken in Los Angeles County. It’s a world hungry for the gospel.
Within this market, we have a mission—to preach and teach and make disciples. It’s a worldwide project, and it begins right where we live.
Beyond a mandate, a market and a mission, we also have a message. We bring “good tidings of great joy to all people that a savior is born—Christ Jesus.”
We are called to preach the gospel—not our individual philosophies, ideas or interpretations, but to preach the gospel. With it, we bear “Good News in a bad news world.” We preach Jesus Christ, Emanuel, a God who is with us always.”
That makes Christ the mainstay of our lives—the rope from the main masthead forward, without which we would be unable to maintain an even keel. He is our chief support—on him we depend as dependents. That is why we can sing: “On Christ the sold rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” God says to us as he said to Isaiah: Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God (Isaiah 43:1-3).
As Watson concluded his message, Swyers stood to offer prayer in this quiet moment, and invited people to explore a personal willingness to accept this challenge. He urged those willing to stand where they were or to make an altar where they were seated. Scores responded.
He recognized the vast challenges the Army faces in this world and throughout the West. He spoke with optimism of our future as he underscored the trend line supporting that optimism.
He expressed great appreciation to Watson, and to the officers and soldiers who make the territory what it is. This is a cause for celebration.
The Tabernacle Band then presented William Himes’ remarkable picture of that cause in music.
The Sierra Del Mar Songsters, led by Divisional Music Director Jason Burn, then sang William Hastings’ and Andrew Blyth’s “Rock Eternal.”
The focus on prayer climaxed with the introduction of the 24/7 initiative calling for non-stop prayer throughout the territory. As Commissioner Pat Swyers stated, prayer is “first about relationship—community and communion—and conversation with the One who knows and loves us best.” Commissioner Phil Swyers added that prayer is also mission action, as we take direction from God, our Commander in Chief
After the cadets were presented by Dihle, Swyers challenged them to present the gospel with passion of their hearts. Watson presented the session flag and gave it to their flag bearer, Cadet Mike Pyer, who posted it smartly.
Following a delightful interview of Cadet Stephanie Garcia by Dihle, Lt. Colonel Douglas O’Brien offered the benediction.