No Small Thing
With only three new cadets accepted for officer training in 2024, Salvationists could be justifiably concerned about the future leadership of The Salvation Army in New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa—until you meet those three cadets, that is. SALT speaks with accepted candidates Rose Hotene (New Plymouth Corps) and Sateki and Elina Palu (Otahuhu Corps, Auckland) about their faith journey, calling to officership and impending move to Booth College of Mission as cadets in the 2024 ‘Keepers of the Covenant | Nga Kaipupuru i te Kawenata’ session.
A wholehearted ‘yes’ from even one person can be extremely powerful in the hands of God, as Scripture proves again and again. Territorial Candidates Secretary Captain Shane Healey is quick to acknowledge the elephant in the room when he says, ‘Yes, it’s the smallest session of cadets we’ve had in a long time. We’re living in days when it is challenging to be a church leader. I don’t want to make excuses, but this leadership crisis is not unique to our territory or The Salvation Army. It’s a symptom of much wider issues at play in terms of church engagement and discipleship in the Western world. Covid-19 challenged many aspects of church life, and leadership across the board is not the same as it was five years ago. So, to have three candidates say yes in these days, well, that’s no small thing. It speaks to the depth of their commitment to this calling.’
This year did not include Fiji, but Shane reports that the 2025 session is already half-filled. ‘There are people applying across the Pacific who would be more than capable of serving in all four countries within our territory, which is exciting. The education and skill level of the applicants, as well as the depth of discipleship and relationship with God, is solid. And I’m excited by the possibility of doing ministry in the future with these people,’ affirms Shane.
Shane speaks candidly when he says that cadet numbers from New Zealand may look similar for the next few years, but he is excited by the interest in officership among younger people. Shane explains that this interest has a lot to do with some of the subtle shifts taking place in the shape of officership in recent years.
‘There’s this renewed emphasis and push to reclaim the call for officers to be spiritual leaders,’ says Shane. ‘In the past we’ve been heavily driven by programmes and mission goals, and it’s been a lot of administrative work. Some officers got burnt out and others left because that’s not what they signed up for. Specialist support staff now play a huge role in releasing officers to be spiritual leaders within the movement and the communities they find themselves in.’ Shane explains that a good example of this is the shift from officer-managers of Family Stores to employed specialist area managers—a game changer for many officers. ‘Officers are now free to be chaplains to the staff—to care for the people,’ affirms Shane.
Another key shift is the freedom for officers to prioritise spiritual formation—firstly their own, and then that of their congregation or community. ‘Officers are in covenant relationships with God. When you become an officer, you are invited to step into a deeper journey with God,’ explains Shane. ‘There are still tasks that need to be accomplished, but your walk with God is integral to that—it’s the foundation of your ministry and all your work,’ says Shane. ‘So who are we looking for to become officers? Well, those who are putting their hands up are people wanting to serve in a way that facilitates and supports everyone going deeper with God, and that’s exciting.’
However, Shane also outlines a shift in theology affecting officer recruitment. ‘If you roll the clock back a few decades, officership was the ministry pathway within The Salvation Army. Today people want to be part of bringing the kingdom of God to earth right where they are—serving God in the supermarket, as a policeman or a teacher. And that ministry is no more or less important than officership. So officership becomes one of the options, not the only option. And I’m not diminishing that shift one bit—it’s where some of our amazing support staff come in and add weight to the mission. But it’s a catch-22 and does make it a challenge for us to recruit into the officership space.’
Nonetheless, God is clearly calling people to officership. ‘We may not have the quantity we would like,’ says Shane, ‘but we certainly have quality leaders responding to God’s call—quality people like Sateki and Elina Palu and Rose Hotene.’
Captains Christine and Karl Foreman (New Plymouth Corps) say that the Hotene family will be sorely missed. ‘Rose and her children Tane and Maia have made a huge impact on our church whānau (family), but we know that wherever God places them in the years ahead, we will see God move in people’s lives because of Rose’s obedience to God’s call. Rose carries the presence of God in such a way that all who know her testify to a transformed life.’
Rose came to faith through The Salvation Army’s Bridge programme. A recovering addict, Rose explains that ‘Jesus met me in the depths of my despair. I didn’t know him, but he knew me. Jesus came and visited me at the most vulnerable time of my life—when I was broken and completely alone. There was no one else for me to rely on and I love how that experience of Jesus has formed me today. It’s Jesus who leads me and guides me every day as my Lord and Saviour and in my recovery journey.’
Rose facilitates a women’s group, leads worship and is on the corps leadership team. She’s been involved with the foodbank, youth ministry and Recovery Church leadership. ‘My main role and passion are just walking with people in faith. There’s a lot of discipleship happening. My heart is to see other lives redeemed and restored. I also have a big heart for healing from generational trauma and that stems from my own testimony. People become addicts because of trauma-based life experiences. I have a heart to see people freed from that and to pass that healing on to their children. Jesus set me free, so I know that freedom is available for others.’
Last year Rose did a diploma in theology because she wanted to know more of God. ‘I studied out of passion and the pursuit to know Jesus more deeply, which in turn led to a confirmation of the call on my life,’ says Rose. Study set a strong foundation for the move to Booth College of Mission. ‘I’m excited and apprehensive and a bit scared—but mostly excited! This is the first move I’ve done with God so it feels very different, but I know this is the best thing I could be doing because God’s called me to it,’ affirms Rose. ‘I’m learning to be my authentic self, and just because I am training to be an officer doesn’t mean I’m not still on a healing journey or going through things—that’s life in all its realness.’
Elina Palu grew up in Tonga and says her life was shaped by the influence of her father’s strong faith. Elina doesn’t recall a time when Jesus was not part of her life. When she finished high school, Elina took a leap of faith and joined Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Her time with YWAM was significant for her spiritual journey, and it was during her discipleship training that she met Sateki.
Sateki was a child when The Salvation Army arrived in Tonga. ‘It was a privilege to see God’s work in the early days of The Salvation Army in Tonga. They set up just down the road and my father went along and accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. My father was a sailor and was often away travelling on the cruise ships, and I got to see his life transformed by God. We were part of everything in those early days—going to church every Sunday, the band, the Bible studies.’
Sateki explains that it was during a Salvation Army Youth Council in his last year of high school that his own life was transformed. ‘I thought being a Christian was about being a good person, but then in 2007 I had an encounter with God and experienced real conviction in my heart. My life was changed and I began to develop my own relationship with God.’
Sateki first sensed a calling to officership when he was 19, but the timing wasn’t right. It was the late Major Carolyne Frazer who supported and advised Sateki. ‘Carolyne was a woman of real influence in my life,’ says Sateki. ‘She really invested in me and when I shared with her about my interest in officership she said I was too young and not mature enough—I look back now and realise how right she was! I’m grateful for her honesty. Major Carolyne looked out for opportunities for me and that’s where the chance came for a scholarship to be part of the Youth Development Band, and my first trip to New Zealand.’
Sateki soon joined YWAM and for the next 20 years he served all over the world. Sateki worked with refugees in the Pacific, ran outreach programmes amongst Muslims and was a leader at YWAM’s discipleship school. Sateki travelled to Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands, Kenya, Thailand and Cambodia leading mission teams.
During those years Elina worked in a variety of support roles with YWAM, based in Auckland, while raising their children Jonathan and Esther. In 2019, the couple’s time with YWAM drew to a close and it was during this next season that they found a home at Otahuhu Corps, and the call to officership resurfaced. After a significant time of wrestling in prayer, God moved powerfully and both Sateki and Elina were convinced that applying for officership was God’s will for them. ‘I know deep in my heart that God is behind it all,’ testifies Elina. ‘Even though it is still a challenge, I am saying yes and will go because I know this is from the Lord.’
Majors Tom and Heather Kopu say, ‘We will be very sorry to lose Sateki and Elina’s valuable contributions to the life of Otahuhu Corps, but are delighted to release them knowing that many others will come to know the Lord through their ministry as Salvation Army officers.’