Messengers of Reconciliation: ‘You’ve really drawn something very essential’
By: Brad Rowland
On Saturday, Sept. 12, the USA Southern Territory’s Messengers of Reconciliation session of cadets was introduced and welcomed at the Atlanta Temple Corps. While the event did feature social distancing and appropriate precautions, cadets, officers, soldiers and families gathered with an important focus on the charge to the session, given the appropriate name for the time they enter Evangeline Booth College.
“We present to you today an outstanding group of 14 men and women who have been called by God to serve him as Salvation Army officers,” said Captain Jervonne Hinton, territorial candidate’s secretary. “What a significant session name for these days of uncertainty and change. I believe we all can agree that our world desperately needs to hear the message of reconciliation.”
Captain Hinton referenced a scripture passage, chosen by the incoming session, that was also referenced at various times during the welcome: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NIV): “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Following a spoken call to worship from a small group of EBC cadets and a song of praise from the EBC praise team, Col. Ralph Bukiewicz, chief secretary, recognized Lt. Colonels William and Debra Mockabee, Georgia divisional leaders, for their four-plus decades of service in advance of their coming retirement.
“The impression and impact that they have left, not just in this territory but in a global sense, is powerful and profound,” Col. Bukiewicz said.
TSM Jeremy Rowland, representing the soldiery of the territory, then provided a challenge to the Messengers of Reconciliation.
“I want to assure you that you are not in this alone,” Rowland said. “You have soldiers who are on the front lines with you, ready to engage in the battle of reconciliation. I ask that you use us, empower us, and lead us.”
As is customary, the session flag was presented in moving fashion, with a touching musical selection as the backdrop. Commissioner Willis Howell, territorial commander, accepted the flag and presented it to Major Thomas Louden, president and principal of Evangeline Booth College.
“The symbolism of this flag is not lost on us,” Commissioner Howell said. “And what makes this one slightly different is that it bears your name. It contains our shared values, but it has been personalized for you. It’s my honor to present this to you, Major Louden, as the principal. Charge these Cadets well to fight effectively under this flag, to live out the principles that it represents. … Charge them, teach them, to live out the motto emblazoned in the middle, focusing on the Blood of Christ and the Fire of the Holy Spirit. No small order, but your team is a significant team. I present this to you, that you would present it to them, and train them to embody all that it represents.”
Cadet Rashad Poole of Anderson, South Carolina, spoke inspiringly on behalf of the incoming session, with the EBC cadets also bringing a vocal rendition, “The Reconciliation Song.”
Commissioner Howell focused on fundamental and foundational truths of reconciliation in a stirring message, with the realization that reconciliation and, by proxy, the task assigned to this session, can often be quite difficult.
“Now we’re looking at you, the Messengers of Reconciliation,” said Commissioner Howell. “As names go, you’ve really drawn something very essential. How desperate this world is, and in particular right now our country is, for reconciliation. Oh, if only we could achieve it. That’s where you come in.
“As Messengers of Reconciliation, there is nothing vague or ambiguous as to what you’re about or what your purpose is. You’ve not been given a light and fluffy name. … You have been given something that is a very steep hill to climb. Messengers of Reconciliation, you don’t have a light and fluffy responsibility. Your assignment doesn’t simply include making people comfortable on their way to hell. That’s not reconciliation. That falls short of what your name is and what we’re all about.”
Though the challenge of reconciliation is significant, Commissioner Howell shared that it is achievable, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Do earthly things, get earthly results. It won’t last,” Commissioner Howell said. “But when you leverage the power of the Holy Spirit — better said, when the Holy Spirit leverages your gifts and your abilities because you have surrendered them to him — let’s watch what happens and see how it lasts. You have a tough assignment, but you are not going to be sent out unequipped or unprepared.”
Before dispersing from their welcome and diving into the tall task of two years of training and ensuing service, a handful of cadets from the Messengers of Reconciliation session left observers with a poignant benediction.
“As we go, we dedicate ourselves to be passionate and purposeful followers of Christ,” they said. “Renewed and transformed, we go forth to offer God’s shalom and Christ’s peace to a hurting and broken world. We praise God for wisdom and strength as we serve in Christ’s name. Lead us, Father, in the way everlasting. Go in peace in Jesus’ name. Amen.”