Cadet Testimony: Samantha Hascall

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 by Lieutenant Samantha Hascall

My life contains a lot of crosses. I’m not being spiritual here. I mean there’s a lot of crosses around me: the cross on the Salvation Army Training College campus, the cross on our chapel, the cross chalkboard that many of my fellow cadets have in their homes, Salvation Army officers Majors Nigel and Stacy Cross and perhaps one of my closest treasures, a small wooden prayer cross I carry with me wherever I go.

In some ways, I could understand how the cross could simply become a decoration on the tops of churches or in the windows of homes, but not for me. You see, the prayer cross I mentioned was given to me to replace the first cross I ever owned. To some Christians, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but for me, it’s a crucial reminder of how I came to know Christ and how important He is to me today. 

I did not grow up in a Christian family. My dad’s side of the family was non-believing and borderline atheist. My mom’s side of the family from my grandmother up was Jewish. Not only did I not grow up attending church, but also the only parts of the Bible I occasionally heard about were the parts portraying the vengeful, angry Jewish God. And when you add to that mix attending a school with a large amount of “Christians” who liked to constantly remind you that you would end up in hell if you didn’t believe in Jesus (or even go so far as to stone another kid they thought was a witch), you can probably understand how, for the majority of my childhood years, I wanted nothing to do with God.

That changed when I entered my senior year of high school. At the time, I was very intrigued by the Japanese culture and had just discovered Korean music when I became good friends with the only Korean girl in my small town. She got to know me and realized I liked coloring, and as it was approaching Easter, she invited me to her church on Saturday afternoon to paint Easter eggs. When I was there, the church mothers (who were preparing food for Easter Sunday) found out I enjoyed learning new languages and did something incredibly wise and sneaky—they told me they’d teach me Korean after Sunday school on Sundays. From that Easter Sunday, I began going to church.

When I saw how loving and compassionate the church was, my walls against God lowered just enough for Him to get through and give me curiosity—curiosity of what made these people the way they were. I began to attend Sunday school. I ordered a Bible off Amazon and hid it in my dresser. As I came to learn about Jesus, the walls I’d built up began to crumble bit by bit, and I found myself wanting more and more. But you see, I kept it secret. I kept my parents under the illusion that I was only going to church for Korean lessons. That’s why my first cross was so meaningful to me. 

The only Christian bookstore in my area was located right next to a grocery store. My parents asked me if I wanted to stay in the car while they went inside. I said yes, and once I saw them disappear into the store, I hopped out of the car and booked it into the Christian store. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but in the end, I came out with a small cross pendent—no more than the size of a checker piece. It wasn’t terribly refined or beautiful—it was made to look like stone. It was cheap, but I loved it. It was symbolic of my faith when I first came to accept Christ: small, not refined or developed, something small I could keep hidden away from my family, but dearly loved.

I think we all know that love is not meant to stay that way. It’s meant to grow, to be visible and to be shared with others. Only a year after I accepted Christ as my Savior, I was introduced to The Salvation Army, and my whole life changed. The moment I stepped into the Burbank, CA Corps, God started putting me to work—work that I didn’t believe I was capable of until He worked through me to get it done, work that grew my faith and my heart, work that ultimately led me to pursuing officership. It was a long process, but having accepted Christ on Christmas Eve of 2011, I finally began the process to become a cadet in Officer Training College in 2014 and stepped onto campus as a first-year cadet in 2018. 

Over those seven years, God grew me, molded me and strengthened me into a Messenger of His Kingdom. 

I carried my small, hidden, rough-on-the-outside and cheap-on-the-inside cross around in my tunic pocket so I could pull it out when times got hard, and remember what it meant to me. But within my second month of being at the college, I forgot to take it out, and it got whisked away by the dry cleaners. 

Like that cross, I had been scared to let others see my small, unrefined faith in God. But I have been transformed. God had grown my faith in Him and changed me from the shy girl who was scared to be open with who she was becoming into the proud, open and honest second year cadet writing this. My small cross was replaced by a newer, precious cross—not bought by me, but given to me in love and compassion. It is not rough and fragile or something small to hide and keep to myself, but something large, refined and beautiful to show and share. It is like the transformation I experienced after Christ found me and changed me and continues to help me grow. I truly believe the promise contained in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Samantha Hascall was ordained as a minister of the Gospel and commissioned as a Salvation Army officer in June 2020. Lieutenant Hascall’s first appointment is as assistant corps officer, Salt Lake City, UT.

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