Commissioning: A worship experience to say ‘We Believe’

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We Believe, a virtual worship night, brought Salvationists and friends together throughout the West—and the world—as a part of the territory’s first-ever online-only Commissioning weekend. 

Instead of the typical lobby fellowship of past Commissioning events, virtual attendees chimed in with Facebook comments, sharing the locations they were watching from, prayers, greetings and hallelujahs on the New Frontier Chronicle livestream.

Similar to past Commissioning weekend Saturday evening worship services, We Believe featured an array of music, speakers and special guests from throughout the territory. The evening started with a presentation of the Soldier’s Hymn, with each musician submitting his or her own video that was lined up for a corporate song, beginning first with a drumline, moving to brass and percussion, and adding voices. The hymn was followed by a video presentation of the doctrines. 

“Tonight is an interactive opportunity for us to share with one another how our fundamental beliefs in Jesus Christ have been playing out in the past three months during extraordinary times,” said Western Territorial Commander Kenneth G. Hodder in his opening remarks. “Despite all of the challenges we have faced, The Salvation Army is still moving forward. Men and women are still finding him as their Lord and Savior. Service is still being provided to the communities and we should celebrate all that God is accomplishing through The Salvation Army here in the Western Territory.” 

Hodder noted how the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 didn’t stop the West’s youth from growing and developing their talents for God’s glory, as demonstrated through this year’s virtual Encore events. A video of Encore highlights was shared, featuring performances of percussion, piano, vocal, brass, drama monologue, guitar and ukulele and dance.

Following the video, Hodder held a Facetime interview with Adelaide Lyons, a Seattle Temple Corps Singing Company member whose Encore performance video surpassed 1 million views after it was posted on Facebook. During the interview, Northwest Divisional leaders Lt. Colonels Bill and Lisa Dickinson, knocked on Lyons’ front door to surprise her with an official Encore medal and participation trophy. 

A virtual singing company then performed “Simply Trusting.” Following the performance, Hodder invited those watching to join in singing “Glorious Day” as video footage from the West’s COVID-19 response played. 

Cadet Paul Chisholm spoke of his journey to officership—which started at the Canoga Park Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC)—and what the Lord has taught him. 

“After years of addiction, incarceration, destruction and pain, God brought me to a place where I could finally stop running and give my life to him. The consequences of my actions had piled up, with the most impactful consequence being my 2-month-old daughter had been taken from me and put into foster care,” Chisholm said. “The county officials told me I had until she turned a year old to get my life together or she would be put up for adoption. I was physically tired, emotionally bankrupt and spiritually dead. I walked into the doors of The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center broken, with nothing to give, and the Army said they had a place for me here.”

Chisholm shared the Lord imprinted the need for discipleship on his heart during his time at the College for Officer Training (CFOT), noting the importance of those who discipled him, including the late Envoy Jerry Bloom of the Santa Clarita Valley Corps.

“I thank God everyday for not letting me do this on my own, through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, and the guidance of my discipler, I was able to walk, sometimes fall, but most importantly get back up with dignity,” Chisholm said. “I made some mistakes along the way, but God continues to say he’s not done with me yet. The Holy Spirit continues to work on me.” 

Hodder thanked Chisholm for his powerful testimony before presenting the Divine Servant Award to three officer couples. The Divine Servant Award honors corps officers and others, who, by their conduct and leadership, best exemplify what it means to be a servant in the name of Jesus Christ. These individuals were awarded in 2020: Captains Juan and Patricia Torres of the Santa Maria (California) Corps, Captains Jeff and Katie Breazeale of the Yuma (Arizona) Corps and Majors Rio and Rachel Ray of the Santa Rosa (California) Corps.

Following the virtual award presentations, Hodder introduced the evening’s speaker, Lee Strobel, an Atheist-turned-Christian and former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune. Strobel is a New York Times best-selling author of more than 40 books and curricula that have sold 14 million copies. Strobel talked about what it looks like to be “strong salt” and “bright light” in today’s world. 

“I am forever grateful for how those in The Salvation Army live out that verse I recited earlier—Matthew 5:15—that says ‘Let your light shine before others so that they might see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,’” Strobel said, noting the word in Greek there that refers to doing good deeds doesn’t just refer to good deeds as opposed to bad deeds—there is another connotation, to do deeds that are winsome and attractive. “To serve other people in a winsome and attractive way to cause their eyes to drift heavenward toward our Heavenly Father who motivates you against the grain of this me-first culture to put somebody else’s needs ahead of our own. That impacts people today in an incredibly profound way. I know that firsthand.”

Strobel shared most people have a “spiritual sticking point,” an issue that keeps them from moving forward with their faith in God. He shared a story of how a woman in his church came to faith after interactions with unassuming, faithful people.

“We can serve them, but…the easiest thing of all is we don’t have to pretend we’re smarter than we are. We don’t have to pretend we’re more spiritual than we are. We can just be sinners saved by grace. We can just be us,” Strobel said. “God can use us to have eternal impact on other human beings. He is going to do that with you. He has done it. He will do it.”

Commissioner Jolene K. Hodder gave a word of prayer, praying for help to be salt and light in the world.

“We all want to be messengers of your kingdom. Bold in our mission. Bold in our believing. Bold to speak out to tell others the hope that we have,” she prayed before a choral benediction. “We believe because you believe in us and you have called each one of us to serve you.”

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