On Sunday 29 January 2023, supporters from around the territory gathered at Johnsonville Corps (church) as the newest intake of Salvation Army cadets, Ngā Toa o te Mihana—Champions of the Mission, were formally welcomed, writes Jules Badger.
Five cadets will train in Upper Hutt at Booth College of Mission over the next two years, with a further ten cadets about to commence training in Fiji.
Recently returned from four years of service in Australia, Captain Shane Healey addressed the cadets for the first time in his new role as territorial candidates secretary.
With the spotlight on the cadet’s sessional name, Shane referred to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16–20. ‘Jesus clearly laid out the mission we are to champion—“Go and make disciples of all nations…” This is the mission that you are called to champion and carry with you.’
As training principal, Major Garth Stephenson formally received the cadets for training. He carried on the theme: ‘As a verb, champion becomes an action—an activity. Something you do, rather than something or someone you are. In this sense a champion is someone who enthusiastically, untiringly defends, supports, promotes and advocates for a person, ideal or cause. The Salvation Army needs champions who enthusiastically and untiringly defend, support and promote the mission of God.’
Are you listening?
By the time Commissioner Julie Campbell took the platform to preach, the afternoon’s message was resoundingly clear. ‘I hope you’ve got the message this afternoon already,’ she said. ‘You can’t possibly have missed it!’ Julie affirmed that each cadet was already a champion in the sight of God, having accepted Jesus as Saviour, but went on to detail an expansive definition of Champions of the Mission:
‘We are called to be champions of the mission—all of us together. Champions of the mission are people who vigorously support and defend the message of Jesus and continue pushing his mission forward. People who proclaim what Jesus has done for them and what he can do for others. The world is looking for answers and searching for peace and joy and love and hope. But we already know who can provide all of that! Champions of the mission are people who vigorously proclaim and demonstrate the good news and love of Jesus Christ.’
Who are you?
The stand-out for the afternoon though, was the testimonies of the cadets themselves. Territorial Secretary for Personnel Captain Pauleen Richards began by asking Cadet Manasa Natera (Hamilton City Corps) how he likes to relax, with the answer being fishing. ‘You can throw the line out into the river and think about absolutely nothing for a while,’ he said. Manasa explained that fishing helps him reflect on his life with God, and he always comes home refreshed—sometimes even with a fish!
When asked to share about a significant time that shaped her life, Cadet Anna Natera spoke of a mission trip to Papua New Guinea (PNG). Anna confessed that her life at the time was easy and very self-focused, and that her faith was intertwined with that of her parents, ‘In PNG I had to rely on God in a way I hadn’t before. That was the beginning of having my own strong personal relationship with God, and it developed into a love for people … I went to PNG thinking I had something to give or offer, but the learning and blessing came from the relationships and the interaction with the people.’
Cadet Ashton Vaitaki (Manukau Central Corps) was asked to recall a decision that changed her life. Ashton spoke of a moment of surrender at a women’s event. As she got up out of her seat and responded to the altar call, ‘everything that had held me back from coming back to the Lord lifted,’ she said. ‘A woman prayed for me saying, “nothing you have ever done, nothing you could ever do, will ever separate you from the love of God.” Since then, it’s been such a rollercoaster ride of mountains and valleys, but God has been so patient and faithful.’
Cadet Niko Vaitaki shared how God challenged him to take up a job working for The Salvation Army. ‘At first, I said no! I get triple that amount at Fletcher Steel,’ recalled Niko. ‘Eventually I did give that money up, but at first, in the new job, my heart was still with the money at Fletcher! But really, now, the new job was the most beautiful thing in my life. God changed me through that smaller amount of money. Now I have less money, but I spend more time with my family.’
Asked to share something people may not know about her, Cadet Tania Viljeon (East City Corps, Howick) spoke about her background working for the South African Police Force. ‘I saw things that no one should see,’ said Tania. When she moved to New Zealand, she was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Part of her healing journey was working in the maternity ward at Middlemore Hospital—she even delivered a baby in the carpark! God brought Tania from ‘death daily to new life—literally’. God has repeatedly reassured Tania that she has nothing to worry about—he will make a way through. And Tania testified that God certainly has!
Prayer cards for the cadets are available from your local Candidates Secretary.