A soft and cool evening breeze, the sound of brass band music wafting through the air, the scent of fresh garlands of flowers, and the quiet murmur of eager soldiers and officers of the Fiji Division welcomed the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, and the World President of Women’s Ministries Commissioner Sue Swanson at Nausori Airport on Wednesday, 30 November 2011.
The occasion was the commissioning of two of six cadets that had entered the School for Officer Training in 2010 in the Friends of Christ session. Sadly, Cadet Vani Vukialau was promoted to Glory earlier in 2011 which necessitated the withdrawal from training for family reasons of her husband, Cadet Inia Vakialau. Cadets Randy and Mereani Gopal will continue their studies into a third year.
The Swansons were accompanied on their flight from New Zealand by territorial leaders Commissioners Don and Debi Bell.
A traditional ceremony of welcome was held, with Major Sainivalati Toganivalu welcoming their international guests to the Fiji Division. This kickstarted a busy but compact weekend. All but one of the Fiji Division’s officers were present, with Lieut Geoffrey Miller in Tonga for that region’s annual youth councils.
The next day, officers and cadets gathered for councils at the School for Officer Training where they listened to inspiring messages reaffirming God’s call on officers’ lives; firstly by Commissioner Barry Swanson in the morning session, and by Commissioner Sue Swanson in the afternoon. Testimonies were shared in song and speech by selected officers.
On Friday, a Covenant Day service was held, under the leadership of the territorial leaders and with support from Lieut-Colonel Andy Westrupp, Secretary for Personnel, and Lieut-Colonel Yvonne Westrupp, Territorial Candidates Secretary. Cadets Sekaia and Karalaini Rabuli signed their covenants supported by those already serving as Salvation Army officers.
In the evening, guests joined with officers and their children in the annual Christmas party. There was dancing and merry-making as people celebrated the past year. Each child received a gift, presented by Commissioner Sue Swanson and Commissioner Debi Bell.
Saturday saw the commissioning of the cadets. Captain Tauan Cheer, Training Officer, paid a tribute to the late Cadet Vani Vukialau. Her fellow session mates lit a candle and laid white orchids in remembrance.
Lieut-Colonel Andy Westrupp read a message of greeting from General Linda Bond, which was followed by a sessional report from Captain Arone Cheer, Senior Training Officer.
Commissioner Sue Swanson highlighted that as God’s people, we are privileged to serve a ‘covenant-keeping’ God. ‘When God makes a covenant, he means business,’ she said, adding, ‘God does not choose us because of how good we are; we have been chosen and saved through his grace alone. God doesn’t ever forget his covenant with his people, and we are such that we can never keep a covenant without this great God’s help and love.’
Sunday morning saw a March of Witness from Flagstaff Police Post, led by the divisional brass band under the leadership of bandmaster Cati Natera. The Swansons and the Bells welcomed marchers onto the grounds of Suva Central Corps.
A celebration meeting was held immediately after the march, followed by a fellowship lunch, with corps from the eastern side of the island joining officers, families and friends of the cadets. This concluded what had been a hectic yet memorable and blessed few days for all.