Cadets return to Crestmont campus—and the field

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The 2020 fall quarter looks to be unlike any other.

By Karen Gleason–

The cadets arrived at the College for Officer Training (CFOT) at Crestmont in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, for the 2020-2021 school year with modifications for the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with staggering their arrival times to allow for social distancing. 

The Messengers of Grace Session—now in their second year of training to become Salvation Army officers—arrived Aug. 17 with the first-year Messengers of Reconciliation arriving the following day. And while the first-year cadets completed some of their orientation in the traditional outdoor tent, most of it took place online. 

Notably different this year: the incoming cadets will not see much of their sister session.  

The Messengers of Grace remained on campus for one week before leaving for service and study in the field through Dec. 23.

“With COVID-19 continuing to put schools and colleges in jeopardy of in-person gathering, we decided to have the second-years return to their summer assignment or new assignments based on need,” said CFOT Training Principal Major Nigel Cross. “They will remain in these assignments through Christmas. Instead of having the cadets take online classes in their apartment on the CFOT campus, they can be associated with a corps, undertake all classes online and participate as they can in the corps. We view this as a win-win for the corps and the cadets’ training.”

The cadets responded positively to this opportunity, noting the advantage of more field experience and remaining optimistic about the challenges of online classes.

“It is one thing to learn theory and how to apply it to our future ministry and it is another to learn the theory and be in ministry and actually put it into practice,” said Cadet Carl Esquivel, who returned to the Riverside (California) Corps, where he served this summer. “In a world that is changing every second, it is wonderful to see our capacity as an Army to adapt, including the ways in which we train and teach cadets. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to be in the field and do what I love doing the most, while still being trained.”  

Meanwhile, the first-year cadets are taking classes online from campus. The College is looking to develop some hybrid classes. 

“We will base our decision on local circumstances and in conjunction with the RPV school district,” Cross said. “We may be able to social distance with masks and have some in-person chapels and maybe a class—especially with the outdoor tent.”

Cross said they gave careful consideration to the second-year field assignments, making sure the corps have adequate housing and a vehicle for the cadets and their families. The CFOT classes are mandatory with online attendance required. All assignments and reading for courses are to be completed per the class syllabi.

“We do not want a short-term win at the corps to interfere with the long-term goal of a cadet being commissioned on time,” Cross said. “Corps officers will work with the cadets in scheduling participation at the corps taking into consideration CFOT classes and coursework requirements.”

The cadets’ recent experience with online classes will help them as they study in a new setting.

“I trust I can meet any challenges distance learning presents to me as the Holy Spirit guides me,” Cadet Christopher Rockwell,who has returned to the Lodi (California) Corps, where he served this summer, said. “I know this because we did distance learning last quarter, and I didn’t like it at all, but I let the Spirit guide me, and everything turned out very well. With a humble and willing heart, the Lord works everything out beneficially through me as an instrument of his love and grace.”

To keep the session’s sense of community strong, cadets will be online for a weekly assembly, discipleship group and Salvationism lectures. Other extracurricular activities will not be required. Their Christmas assignment begins Nov. 9, and they will be fully vested at the corps until their Christmas break begins on Dec. 23. The second-year cadets will report to CFOT Jan. 2, 2021, to complete their residential training.

The cadets requested prayer for their return to the field during this challenging time.

“As we embark on this new journey, our session would greatly appreciate your prayers,” said Cadet Adrianne Sherman, who has returned to the site of her summer assignment, the Seattle Temple Corps. “We especially would ask for prayers in keeping us connected to our session family and CFOT family. Please also pray for the corps and communities that we will be serving.” 

School-age children of cadets are registered with the RPV school district for online classes through Dec. 31. Serving in the field with children also attending school online adds another dimension to the experience.

“I would appreciate prayers as I homeschool my four children in addition to completing my own training and ministry,” said Cadet Kristin Boyd, who is serving at the Spokane (Washington) Citadel Corps. “Please pray for our kids, that they adjust to this adventure and we remain strong and brave as a family unit.” 

Cross noted the special circumstances of this school year.

“With an open campus, and ‘shelter in place’ recommended, having the cadets based at a corps provides opportunities for corps ministry and training that would not be able to occur at CFOT,” Cross said. “If the cadets remained on campus, they would be confined to their apartments most of the time. We believe this distance learning approach is worth trialing under the current circumstances and better for the well-being of the cadets. We are not considering at this stage this approach to be normalized for future years.”

Of course, “normal” does not in any way describe 2020.

“This year has been exceptionally unusual for our session, but it has strengthened our reliance and trust in God, as well as made us very flexible,” Sherman said. “It is my greatest desire to be used by God, in any way he sees fit. Loving God and loving others is what it is all about!”

Here are the Fall/Christmas assignments for the Messengers of Grace:

Cadet Matilde Esparza—El Cajon Corps (California South)

Cadet Charles Copeland—Long Beach Citadel Corps (California South)

Cadet John Rodriguez Mercer—Redondo Beach Corps (California South)

Cadet Carl Esquivel—Riverside Corps (California South)

Cadet Andrielli Santos—San Pedro Corps (California South)

Cadet Nayeli Mercado—Santa Ana Temple Corps (California South)

Cadet Michele Dell’Olio—Chico (California) Corps (Del Oro)

Cadet Christopher Rockwell—Lodi (California) Corps (Del Oro)

Cadets Amber and Johnathan Herzog—Reno (Nevada) Corps (Del Oro)

Cadet Adi Sherman—Seattle Temple Corps (Northwest)

Cadets Jeff and Kristin Boyd—Tacoma (Washington) Corps (Northwest)

Cadet Melissa McQuade—Phoenix Kroc Center (Southwest Division)

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