By Dan Childs
Southern Spirit staff
In the shadow of Christianity’s most powerful and profound symbol, the 38 members of the Disciples of the Cross session were sent out into the world June 1. General André Cox exhorted the newly-minted officers of The Salvation Army that the challenges and trials that await them will demand that they stand firm at the foot
of the cross now and in the years ahead.
The commissioning and ordination of the 29 lieutenants and nine captains at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center climaxed a weekend of both consecration and celebration, all awash in sights, sounds and pageantry and graced by the presence of General Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox.
The weekend, themed A Cross/The World, began with Friday morning’s Commencement at Atlanta’s Temple Corps, followed by the Order of the Silver Star luncheon and a unified Solders Rally on Friday evening. Saturday morning’s Soldiers Meeting emphasized the responsibility of all believers to tell the world’s children the story of the cross, and that evening’s Whosoever Will Festival examined the decision that the cross demands of all men.
And, finally, Sunday’s Commissioning and Ordination and Appointment meetings carried the Disciples of the Cross from the safety and certainty of Evangeline Booth College to the challenge and uncertainty of the world where they will minister.
General Cox, in his Sunday morning message, stressed to the new officers – and to all believers – the importance of a strong adherence to the cross of Jesus. “Disciples of the Cross, do not drift away from the cross. Members of the congregation, do not drift from the cross. I believe God has great things in store for The Salvation Army. But those things will not happen unless we remain close to the cross. Never take your eyes from the cross. Never forget what God has done for you. Never forget the price that was paid.”
It was the first commissioning of Southern officers for Commissioners Don and Debi Bell as territorial leaders and the first as Evangeline Booth College principal forMajor Dean Hinson. And a busy weekend it was for Commissioner Bell’s cell phone camera, which the territorial commander playfully brandished often to snap selfie photos of himself with the international leaders, speakers and guests. Commissioner Bell told the Disciples of the Cross that, as members of his first Southern session commissioned, they had become a part of him. He counseled them to see themselves not as whom and what they are but as what Jesus can make of them. “Just let him use you, just like you are.”
The makeup of the Disciples of the Cross session is one of rich cultural diversity — Major Hinson related that more than half of its members were born outside the U.S., with nations such as Cuba, the Philippines, Korea and Colombia represented among its ranks. The average age is 34.
Lieutenant Arnaldo Pena, who met the Army while living in his native Cuba, overcame many obstacles to officership along with his wife, Lieutenant Niurka Pena, before they reported for training in August 2012. Lieutenant Pena would go on to be selected as the recipient of the Commissioner’s Award, which is presented annually to the most outstanding cadet, and was selected to be the sessional speaker in the Appointment Meeting.
He acknowledged the fear that is shared by all newly commissioned officers as they stand on the brink of their first appointments. He said they all have wondered if they can be the officers God wants them to be. But he said they have laid their all on the altar. “We are ready to fight evil wherever the Lord sends us.”