From Tiny Houses to Tiny Chapels!

By Andy Meverden with input from Chaplain Scott Noyes, North Dakota Army National Guard

On a recent trip visiting CBAmerica chaplains in Texas and Oklahoma, I passed a Modular Home Dealer with the sign: “Tiny Houses!” The tiny house movement, a social trend of downsize living space in America, has hit the modern battlefield! Troops deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere know. Not only are troops housed in Containerized Housing Units, better known as “CHUs,” one National Guard Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) Unit in Afghanistan is applying the trend to provide tiny chapels to remote outposts and forward operating bases (FOB).

Chaplain Scott Noyes, deployed with the North Dakota Army National Guard 136th CSSB sent me a storyboard depicting the use of containerized or “Tiny Chapels.” In it he describes the “mission” of the Tiny Chapels; “To provide a place for religious services and a sacred space for all service members, Afghan Nationals, and DoD civilians in order to accommodate for the free exercise of religion.” During Battlefield Circulation (BFC) around Afghanistan, Chaplain Noyes often used available rooms to hold religious activities and counsel Soldiers and quickly recognized the need for sacred space.

Once established and furnished with religious materials, there was an immediate response by FOB residents who began using these containers and rooms for Bible studies, prayer meetings, and simply the use for silent prayer and reflection.

The primary role of a military chaplain is to “ensure the free exercise of religion” among military members and, by necessity, civilian support personnel accompanying the troops. Chaplains “provide or provide for” the religious needs of all in their assigned unit and area of operation. That includes people of a religion other than that of the assigned chaplain. The term used is “pluralism,” which is the recognition and accommodation of other faith groups in the same operational and living space.

From my reading of history, the concept of “religious tolerance” began in Colonial America when “dissenters,” like Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and other non-state religious “sects,” appealed for recognition and respect from the Church of England in the New World. That toleration spread to the acceptance of Jewish colonists, Roman Catholics, and others. It was reflected in George Washington’s Continental Army where all chaplains were Protestants…except one Roman Catholic priest from Canada! Since then, US military chapels have accommodated Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and other emerging religions.   These “tiny chapels,” provide that communal “sacred space” in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. It’s an example that needs to be seen.

Given the large, dispersed area of operation, Chaplain Noyes and his assistant SSG Rick Bryant, circulate among troops in remote locations like FOB Arena, where they have tiny chapels that they keep stocked with Bibles, devotionals, DVDs and other appropriate religious materials. These tiny chapels, provide a quiet, shrapnel-resistant place during the day or night, where troops can come for reflection and prayer. And, when the chaplain visits, they gather for counseling, worship and prayer.

In one of the outlying FOBs, Dahlke, the chapel (below) is in the Mayor’s cell* building, indicating the value of religion in daily life.

Pray for Chaplain Noyes and Staff Sergeant Bryant, as they minister to the troops in their area of operation. Pray for safe travel, good health, hearts open to the leading of God’s Spirit, and opportunities to show the love and Good News of Jesus Christ in a dangerous place. Pray also, for their families back home, for spouses missing their deployed service members, and for kids acting out, in large part due to the absence of their deployed parent. Above all, pray for positive communication and healthy and wholesome return, reunion, and reintegration from deployment.

And, pray for “big things” to happen in these “tiny chapels!”

*The Mayor’s Cell deals with infrastructure and support services like handling trash, tracking the population on the FOB, and employing local workers. In addition, various types of work orders are processed through this office, including the work order to construct the chapel depicted above.

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For more interesting stories of ministry by CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on what it takes to become a chaplain, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy, at chapandy@cbamerica.org

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New Chapel Atlantic Resolve Center (Powidz, Poland)

As reported by Chaplain Andrew Calvert & Specialist Malcolm Williams, USArmy

As the “Atlantic Resolve” mission becomes more robust in Eastern Europe, and units are standing up new headquarters in collaboration with NATO Allies, the US Army Chaplain Corps, as a representative of The Holy, meets Soldiers where they are.

The 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion recently established a new logistics headquarters in Powidz, Poland.  In anticipation of this need, Chaplain Andrew Calvert and Specialist Malcolm Williams created a sacred space for the Soldiers living there now, and for those of the 497th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion scheduled to take over the mission in mid-Spring 2017.  The space is called Grace Point ChapelWhere God and People Come together.

Chapels are places where Soldiers can worship and volunteer.  This creates a sense of connectedness that is greater and deeper than their unit normally could provide.   Spiritual Fitness and a relationship to The Holy is essential for the well-being and development of the whole Soldier concept.  This space and needed resources were coordinated through a Polish Air Force liaison to “perform and/or provide” full spectrum Religious Support to all personnel both US and foreign.

WHO: CH (CPT) Andrew Calvert and SPC Malcolm Williams (18th CSSB)

WHAT: Setting up an enduring Chapel at Powidz, POL

WHEN/WHERE: Jan-Feb 2017

 

Chaplain Andy writes, “I was excited to read in Chaplain Calvert’s report, the establishing of this the Army’s newest dedicated chapel facility in Poland, so I asked him to send photos.  He saw the need, and with the eyes of faith, and a diplomatic boldness, he recommended to his command team the transformation of a suitable space into a chapel facility.   Approval was granted, and through a cooperative effort, Grace Point ChapelWhere God and People Come together, came into being.

Pray for this facility to always be available for God-honoring activities, and that it will become a “spiritual home” for all visiting personnel. Join me in celebrating this historic event in USArmy chaplain history!

 

For more stories about God’s work in and through CBAmerica’s 185+ chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.    If interested in pursuing chaplaincy ministry, contact  Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Divine Interruptions & Medical History

Tony is an active duty Army Master Sergeant who works in my building at the Regional Health Command here in San Antonio. It is a miracle that Tony is alive today.

A couple of months ago as he was in the process of trying to get some medical care to address some chronic pain he had been having as his body began to unexplainably shut down. He was taken to the ER and as soon as the doctors noticed that his legs were turning blue they immediately admitted him and he was almost as quickly in surgery and then in the intensive care unit fighting for his life.

I got the call from my Command Sergeant Major on a Tuesday around noon, I was in the middle of a book study with a couple other chaplains covering the topic of “The Upside of Stress” and the call was short and to the point, “You need to get to the hospital now Chaplain, they are saying he is not going to make it….”

When I got to the ICU, I went straight to his bedside and met Tony’s wife, Lutz, and she told me how bad it was, no kidney function – he was on continuous dialysis, no blood flow to either legs – if he somehow survived both legs would have to be amputated up to the pelvis and would he need kidney transplants. He had tubes everywhere and it appeared that all they were doing was keeping him alive with very little hope of recovery. They told Lutz to gather her children and prepare to say goodbye to Tony.

When all seems so hopeless, the only thing we can do is pray. And so I prayed with Lutz and her friend. When the children came, I gathered them all in the waiting room and we prayed together.  The staff allowed us to all gather around Tony’s bed, and holding hands, we prayed. I showed them where the chapel was and we went down there, on our knees and we prayed.

We prayed for Tony. We prayed for the Doctors and Nurses. We prayed for Grace and Mercy and Healing. The problem was that Tony’s circulatory system was unique, it took this event to discover that, so to try something bold and new they created a bypass system, an artificial vena cava, a large vein for blood flow from the heart to the lower body – it was a new medical procedure that had not been tried before – medical history was made as prayers were answered!

Over the next couple weeks Tony endured more surgeries that allowed blood flow to the legs – they began to heal and then somehow his kidneys began to heal to the point of total removal from dialysis – another miracle. Tony continued to heal, and in the end they decided to amputate one portion of Tony’s leg – below the knee and he is doing better today than ever. He is attacking his rehabilitation with fierce determination and looks forward to his new prosthetic and walking.

Through it all he is telling everyone he knows about this gracious healing touch from his loving Heavenly Father – and he has given me permission to share this story of grace and healing with you.

CH (COL) Randy Brandt

 

For more stories reporting the fruit of CBAmerica chaplain ministries, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.