Photo Credit: Laura Dake
Commissioning weekend forum focuses on reconciliation with God, others
By: Brad Rowland
Following a commencement service to honor the contributions of the Messengers of Grace session of cadets on Friday, June 4, commissioning weekend continued with a reconciliation forum under the teachings of Captains Nesan and Cheryl Kistan. On Friday evening, the general session operated under the theme of “Reconciliation with God,” with Saturday morning focusing on “Reconciliation with Others.”
Friday’s session opened with Commissioner Willis Howell providing the backdrop of goal-setting for the weekend, focusing on reconciliation when compared to forgiveness.
“When we talk about reconciliation, it has to do with forgiveness, but reconciliation and forgiveness are not the same thing,” Commissioner Howell said. “They’re related. You will never get to reconciliation without forgiveness. However, there is more to it.”
“Reconciliation is a multi-person process. Only one party is needed for forgiveness. If there is going to be reconciliation, all of a sudden that door opens… Reconciliation takes two or more people and you can’t force it.”
Friday’s session also included a recognition of the Raleigh International Corps and their expansive work. 18 nationalities are represented in the body of the corps, and they were presented with a check from the territory to continue their burgeoning ministry in the community.
A time of praise and worship followed, punctuated by multilingual prayer, before Captain Cheryl spoke eloquently. She began by addressing reconciliation and one’s relationship with God.
“If we think in terms of Christianity, reconciliation is the end of estrangement between humanity and God,” she said. “It is the restoration of a relationship with God, and it means ‘peace with God.’”
“Our reconciliation with God is entirely dependent on him,” Captain Cheryl Kistan continued. “It is totally founded in his love and his grace for us. We live in a world of un-grace and un-love, and God’s never-ending love and his unlimited grace are so hard for us to understand and to comprehend, so Jesus talked to us about it often. God so extravagantly loves us that he gives to us over and over and over again. God’s greatest desire is for us to be reunited and reconciled with him. The whole message of scripture is based on his desire for us to be in an intimate relationship with him.”
Her message was wide-ranging and impactful, including a focus on the parable of the prodigal son.
“True repentance is not just admitting that you’re in the pigpen, it means leaving the pigpen,” said Captain Kistan. “Repentance involves more than just a feeling of regret or remorse over sin, it’s being willing to walk away from your sin and walk back toward God. Repentance means changing your mind about your behavior and being willing to change your behavior. Jesus is quick to forgive, but it requires a willingness to repent. I want to ask you, are you willing to admit to God that your life is a mess? And are you willing to walk away from your sin? If you’re saying yes, the next step back to God is to return.”
Friday’s session concluded with a moving time of prayer and reflection, striking an ideal tone for the weekend’s worship. From there, Saturday morning’s assembly picked up the mantle while making clear the foundation was set previously.
“Last night we began with a very important foundation — reconciled with God,” said Colonel Ralph Bukiewicz, chief secretary. “If we build on anything else other than that, we’re going to have a weak foundation. We were challenged, and the invitation still stands for anyone who needs to make sure that they are entirely where they need to be in right relationship with God.”
After a meaningful time of musical worship, praise and prayer, Captain Nesan delivered the message, challenging attendees to focus and dive into meaningful conversation.
“I want you to press in because I believe God wants to reveal something to us that is profoundly important,” he said. “I’m going to tell you right now that I know the enemy does not want you to hear this because he’d rather have a divided church. He wants a divided Army because, when we’re divided, we’re weak and we’re fallible and we’re broken. When we’re together, we’re strong and beyond powerful.”
“I’m going to tell you that faith and worship and following Jesus is not a spectator sport. You’re either in or you’re not in.”
Captain Nesan also discussed the theme of reconciliation through Jesus and Peter, as well as the difficult task of initiating the conversation.
“I want to share with you this morning that reconciliation requires those who have been offended to initiate,” he said. “Jesus was the one that was rejected by Peter. Jesus was the one that was discarded by Peter. But Jesus is the one that initiates. You may be here this morning and you may feel as if you have been offended. You may feel as if you have been hurt. You have been grieved. But I want to tell you this morning that it’s you that needs to initiate.”
“Part of the journey of reconciliation is when we start to restore relationships with that person, or that entity or that organization that has offended us. Part of the process of true reconciliation is when we come to the table and say to my brother or sister, ‘Yes, I’ve been hurt. But yes, I want to restore this relationship.’”
Major Algerome Newsome, divisional commander for Georgia, also spoke from his heart on Saturday morning, focusing on The Salvation Army and the impact of the organization on his life and ministry. He provided background on the inspiration he took as a young person from the diversity and encouragement of The Salvation Army while also pointing out divisions that emerged in 2020, focusing on building a bridge for those divides in the near future, and encapsulating the theme of the weekend.
“For the past 35 years, I have served in The Salvation Army, and it’s been my mission, my passion to be able to love everyone. No matter who they are. No matter what culture,” Major Newsome said. “Last year, during 2020, it hurt my heart to see The Salvation Army that I love, The Salvation Army that is more diverse than most churches that I’ve ever seen, to begin to divide in such a way. To begin to have a discussion not necessarily from the place that I’ve always seen The Salvation Army sit, in a place of love and inclusion.”
“Over this next year or however long, I invite you to come and join with me in a journey of conversation, where we can once again stand on our kingdom values. And once again be able to speak in love, and include people in love, and be able to reach beyond borders and barriers. Not like the world, but like Jesus Christ in how he would speak and walk and talk. Would you join me in that?”