This is not really a story about Celeste C. Pagan, a 22-year-old Salvationist of the Syracuse Citadel Corps. This story is really about the many people who’ve made tremendous impacts in Celeste’s life, eventually leading her to learn what God is planning for her future.
Celeste’s mom, her grandparents, two cousins, her two best friends, and a corps officer—just to name a few—have all contributed to mold her into a Holy Spirit-filled, Blood-and-Fire Salvationist.
“I’m a third-generation Salvationist, and an only child,” Celeste says. When Celeste was about seven, her mom and dad divorced—leaving the young girl confused and feeling alone. But her mom faithfully took Celeste to the Hempstead Corps in New York, and provided a sound, spiritual foundation for her.
One evening at the Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings, the New York Staff Band was on duty. Celeste’s love for music was budding and she sat enthralled at the performance. When the invitation was given, Celeste remembers that “the Holy Spirit just hit me head-on, and I started to cry.”
Her mom sensed what was happening. Celeste’s cousin, Sharon, went with her to the altar to pray. “My time at the altar with Sharon helped me realize that God was with me no matter what happened in my life,” Celeste says, “and that I wanted to be a positive influence to others.”
Celeste’s grandparents, Majors Elmer and Monica Berry, were also role models for her throughout her childhood and teen years.
“When my mom had to work, my grandmother took me under her wing,” Celeste says. “Every morning I’d see my grandmother having her devotions, and her demeanor made a huge impact on me.”
About the time Celeste turned 13, her mom became very ill. Her mom’s promotion to Glory was devastating for the teen, and she moved to Syracuse to live with her aunt and uncle.
Summers at Star Lake Camp increased Celeste’s love for God through music.
“As an only child, it was important to me to be surrounded by other young people—especially other believers.” Celeste counts two people who are “beyond best friends,” Isabel Delapaz and Rey Brinson, who continue to be pillars of security for her. Her cousin, Doug, was also a giant influence who fostered her desire to sing and play brass. Today, she plays baritone at Syracuse Temple on Wednesdays and leads youth in devotions. She also sings in the worship group at Syracuse Citadel when she can.
Celeste’s calling to someday become a Salvation Army officer came one spring during a Greater New York Divisional Youth Councils. But it almost didn’t happen.
“I was enrolled at Sullivan County Community College, but I wasn’t doing very well in school and I began to ‘drift away’ from the Army and the Lord,” she admits. “I wasn’t as faithful to come to the Army because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.” Thank God, her corps officer, Major Mary Moore, talked her into going. Celeste found it was nice to be with other young people in the division.
“The Greater New York Youth Band was playing and God spoke to me silently that I was being called to a bigger and greater task in my life,” says Celeste. “I became more determined to be a holy influence on others.” This holy influence, she knows, will be through Salvation Army officership. “It feels really good to be called to something like that, and knowing that Jesus is by my side no matter what circumstances may be,” she says.
Celeste is considering returning to school to complete a degree in Christian Education. But the Training College is definitely on the horizon. Now living back with her aunt and uncle, Celeste finds ample opportunities to do what God called her to do. She is a Sunday School teacher and helps with instruction of the music programs at both Syracuse Citadel and Temple. She regularly leads devotions, and above all, is building relationships.
“Because that’s what I had when I was younger,” Celeste asserts. “I always had someone to look up to along the way, when I needed that person most.”Her favorite Scripture verse is 1 Timothy 4:12—“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
“God, through The Salvation Army, turned my life around. The Army has helped make me what I am today,” she says with a smile. “I want to spend my life being to others what others have been to me!”
—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor, National Publications