Musical extravaganza celebrates the gospel at Commissioning
By: Brad Rowland
Attendees entering the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 2, were greeted with an unexpected wall of sound in the form of the Southern Territorial Youth Band, performing in the corridor prior to the announced start time of the event. For the next two-plus hours, that feeling of immersion never dissipated, with an upbeat, gospel-driven mindset permeating the festivities.
After preliminary music from both the Territorial Youth Band, back on the stage, and Youth Chorus, the 2018 Salvationist Service Corps teams were introduced. Units will be deployed to the Marshall Islands, led by Ashleigh Gilliam and Benjamin Neville, the Tanzania Territory, led by Melvin Franklin and Verony Dediavoukana, and the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland Territory, led by Raegan Walters and Zachary Perez.
That transitioned beautifully into an annual tradition of a grand reveal of the territory-wide fundraising total for World Services. The territory combined to raise $10,494,685 for distribution worldwide.
In keeping with that World Services focus, Commissioner Torben Eliasen, territorial commander of South America West, reflected on the impact funds from the Southern Territory have on The Salvation Army around the world. “One would ask why we do it,” Commissioner Eliasen said. “But we do it because the Lord told us to do it …This is what we do.”
The evening also featured the presentation of the inaugural Commissioner Ruth Osborne Fellowship Award, recognizing a leader in the territory who has been able to impact others and establish a community fostered by quality leadership with a focus on four areas: boldness, a welcoming attitude, patience and a hard-working spirit – with an eye toward building the kingdom.
The inaugural recipient was revealed in surprise fashion, with Jovanie Smith, territorial young adult and mission deployment coordinator, receiving the honor. The award is accompanied by a scholarship for leadership training. Reflecting the spirit of Commissioner Ruth Osborne, Lt. Colonel William Mockabee shared that “we are all here because someone, somewhere in our life, has supported us and encouraged us and helped us along the way.”
From there, the night transitioned into a music-driven celebration, featuring testimonies from the Messengers of the Gospel. Cadets Armando and Mayela Acosta shared, in both video and on-stage form, their story of redemption and arrival at the Evangeline Booth College, with Cadets Shane and Carmen Owens, through eyes of their children, and Cadet Christopher Pachik, with a hat-tip to baseball and the team concept, doing the same.
Surrounding the powerful testimonies of those soon to be commissioned as Salvation Army officers, Swedish gospel singer and recording artist Samuel Ljungblahd, blessed those in attendance with musical selections. His message, accompanied by Salvationist forces from around the territory, including the cadets, was uplifting and personal, sharing the testimony that “My God is Able” and the “Ruler of Everything.”
Finally, the congregation joined in the festivities when a “Southern Gospel Praise Band,” led by Major Rick Mikles, provided the opportunity for a singalong. Traditional hymns such as “Power in the Blood” and “I’ll Fly Away” were featured, with special cameo appearances from Commissioner Howell, on the banjo, and Nick Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary, on the upright bass.
Still, it was clear throughout the evening that the focus was the praise and admiration of God and what he has allowed the Messengers of the Gospel to accomplish, with an eye on the future and the doors that will be opened by their ministry. Commissioner James Osborne, in paying tribute to his wife through the prism of the award made in her name, perhaps said it best and provided the backdrop for what was an inspiring evening.
“Love people, develop every talent and skill that the Lord has given you,” Commissioner Osborne said. “And give it the best of your best.”