The Territorial Welcome to Cadets in Fiji honoured the mix of Fijian and Tongan cultures in the Champions of the Mission session. Around 300 people came to support the eight new cadets who have begun their studies at the School for Officer Training.
Starting with Ordination and Commissioning last year and continuing to this year’s welcome, there has been a greater focus on celebrating the different cultures and languages represented in the cadets—Fijian and Tongan. For the first time, the sashes cadets wore at the welcome named their session in four languages: Fijian, Fijian-Hindi, Tongan and English.
The service featured singing in all these languages, beginning with the traditional call of the davui (conch shell) and the lali (Fijian drum) as a welcome to the cadets.
A beautiful array of mats were placed in front of the cadets, a traditional gift from their families. Chief Secretary Colonel Gerry Walker and the cadets were presented with salusalu (garlands) of ribbons and hand-crafted flowers.
Fiji Divisional Commander Major Phillippa Serevi was formally installed at the service and gave a powerful sermon about ‘staying the course’, which received a positive response from the audience.
Most of the event went smoothly, but quick thinking was needed when it was discovered there were no offering plates. Instead, the offering was taken up with timbrels! Fortunately, these were available as there had been a special timbrel item earlier in the meeting.
Senior Training Officer Captain Dale McFarlane loved seeing all the cadets march proudly into the service behind the flags. She particularly enjoyed the ‘roar of support’ from the audience for Cadet Sekilini Vasu, the only Tongan cadet, as they ‘embraced her as part of the group’.
Three of the cadets spoke in the service: Cadet Peni Soga shared his testimony, Cadet Salome Matakaruru prayed for the offering and Cadet Sekilini Vasu read the Bible.
The cadets come with their own unique life experiences, backgrounds and cultural expressions and Dale reflected on how impressed she was with their inclusiveness as a group, despite how different they all are. ‘God’s bringing people together with these really different backgrounds. The welcome was a special time of celebrating the diversity of Fijian and Tongan cultures, and the important commitment the cadets have made to begin their study toward Salvation Army officership.