Sustaining Spiritual Care for Michigan Veterans During Major Change

By Chaplain Bruce Kalish, Grand Rapids Home for Veterans (GRHV)

 Dear Chaplain Andy,

In addition to the brief on-line report that I submitted today, I am sending this letter to further define my chaplaincy work this first half of 2018.

The backdrop for our current operational climate at the Home is the on-going plan to construct a new 128-unit skilled nursing home on our present campus and several more across Michigan in the next decade. The first site plan was challenged and discarded when it was found to be on a wetlands section of our property. The new site plan has been approved, but will require removal of several buildings, including the chapel.

While all this change hovers overhead and infuses any conversation of more than ten-minutes between staff or members; the work of chaplaincy continues:

  • We had 25 deaths and No Member Dies Alone* volunteers were activated for 13 of these.
  • In addition to the individual contacts noted in the on-line report, 123 spiritual screens were done, mostly by interns, completing our census roster, and setting a baseline for annual screens starting this month.
  • My role was expanded to become the clinical spiritual care expert on our five-daily, unit Inter-disciplinary team rounds and on weekly Behavioral Management meetings (assessing psych med prescriptions and alternatives).
  • Three chaplain interns were trained: In the fall, two will enter CPE programs and the third will enter USN pre-chaplaincy program (hopefully).
  • I was asked to edit updated policies and procedures for GRHV and to create spiritual care-plan templates for the Electronic Medical Records data base.
  • I was also recruited to participate on an advisory workgroup for the new site plan, especially as it affects the chapel services and our many monuments and memorials. This will continue to December 2018.

In early June, the chaplains were informed by our supervisor that our department was being re-organized to align it with the future needs of a reduced census. We chaplains anticipated changes would come, but we thought they would begin next year. Wrong.

Beginning mid-June, two of our three P-11 chaplains would be approved for twenty-hour work weeks. The third chaplain’s position would go unfilled. Since I was the last hire, my position would be unfilled. (This could be done because we are considered permanent intermittent employees, neither full-time nor part-time. At the will of our supervisor, we can work between five and forty hours. She can cap our hours according to departmental need.)

In the same conversation this reorganization was presented, I was offered the opportunity to apply for a new position as administrative lead chaplain. Since I am the only Board-Certified Chaplain, I am the only one of us who meets this basic qualification for the advanced position.

Until the position is filled, I have been assigned its duties, working out of class at forty hours weekly. Meanwhile, the Administrative Chaplain, P-12 was posted 03 July within the DMVA. I have applied. Posting will close on 10 July 2018. Interviews will follow and the position will be filled by the end of July. At that time, I will either be employed or seeking employment. Either way, God will provide.

Of course, I’d prefer to remain working at GRHV full-time for the next five years. I would like this to be the capstone of my ministry life. I embrace the challenge of shaping our department into a model that can be reproduced in the six Michigan Veteran homes to be built over the next decade and beyond. Like Caleb, I have a mountain-sized appetite only God can fill. Your prayer support is welcome!

Thanks for your chaplaincy updates, your work, your prayers, and your support.

With you in Christ,

Bruce
Bruce Kalish
06 July 2018
Grand Rapids, MI

*No Member Dies Alone, is a staff-coordinated, volunteer program developed and implemented under Chaplain Kalish’s leadership.  Its Mission: “When one of our members enters the final stages of life having no family or friends present, or if those present need respite; GRHV will enfold that member with dignity and honor by continuous support and companionship, ensuring no member dies alone.”

Director’s Note: Whereas most people think of the VHA (Veterans Health Administration) as the main provider of our Nation’s Veterans’ healthcare and disability, many are unaware of the long-term skilled nursing and end of life care provided by State-run Veteran’s Facilities. My home state, Colorado, has five (5) such care facilities that I visited annually with the State Adjutant General by Army Guard Helicopter (the same ones used to drop buckets of water on Western wildfires).  We were impressed by the compassionate, skilled level of care provided to our aging Veterans at these State-run Veterans’ Homes.  My wife, Myra, and I currently volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Sub Vets to run a monthly BINGO session.  Our oldest participant is Angie, a spry Army widow who recently turned 101! (She brings her own special cards.) Our nation’s Veterans are dear to our hearts.

Chaplain Bruce Kalish’s ministry is unique. He is the only CBAmerica chaplain currently serving fulltime in a State-run (Michigan) home for Veterans.  Though exciting to learn of Michigan’s plan to build and staff a network of six Veteran Homes, the chaos of the upcoming process is unimaginable.  Despite the turmoil of this great endeavor, Chaplain Kalish has developed a sustainable, working model of effective chaplaincy for aging and terminally ill Veterans. Join me in praying with Bruce for the wisdom, stamina, and organizational support to see this effective ministry implanted in each planned Veteran’s Home in the Great State of Michigan.

Pray for Chaplain Kalish, during this next phase of life and ministry, along with CBAmerica’s other 195 chaplains (military and civilian). For more stories of chaplain life and ministry, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  To inquire about endorsement for a wide variety of chaplaincy ministries email Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, at chapandy@cbamerica.com.

The Blessing of the Birds: Chaplain Prays as Unit Deploys

By Chaplain Dan Moen, with Andy Meverden

Effective military chaplains are flexible, adaptable, and creative.  Rather than being the main drivers in establishing unit culture and activities, they are often placed in a reactive/responsive position, while they “roll with the punches,” and “hurry up and wait!”  Chaplain Dan and Sasha Moen’s recent experience illustrates this.  Originally scheduled to deploy to the Pacific, recent world events put that on hold, until “higher up” got a new mission, which finally came.  Following is an example of how one Army family handles chaotic deployment circumstances, with creativity and grace.

Chaplain Moen writes:

“We’ve been preparing for our deployment to Germany for 7 1/2 months! Sasha was asked to be president of PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) and we’ve been working with our Squadron leadership to establish a FRG (Family Readiness Group).

Chapel Next* is experiencing major transitions – most of the Division is deployed, so attendance has dropped. In addition, the current space we are using is an old Battalion headquarters. The new SFAB (Security Force Assistance Brigade) units will be moving into our space so we are getting bumped to the Middle School on Post. We are trying to move prior to my deployment. It will feel like a church plant ministry.

Recently, I conducted a “blessing of the birds” as our pilots flew all our Apaches (Army attack helicopters) to the port in Texas for transport to Germany. It was a great turn-out of about 50 Soldiers!  See attached pictures!

 

Dan and Sasha ask you to pray for the following:

  • Our family, Sasha, Daniella, and Hannah, while I’m gone.
  • Sasha’s leadership in Post PWOC and unit FRG
  • Chapel Next transitions next 2 months
  • Safety for us all during deployment
  • Great ministry opportunities in Germany & at “home.”

Chaplain Andy concludes:

In April, I drove down to Ft Carson to visit with Chaplain Moen’s command team – the whole team! In closing, the Brigade Commander – an Apache attack helicopter pilot — asked me to pray, not only for his Soldiers and their Families, but also “our enemies,” as their Air Cavalry Unit prepared to deploy. I did. Immediately following, I enjoyed lunch with Dan and his wife, Sasha, at the Post Exchange food court. Sasha was recently selected to lead the Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) on base. Pray for them on deployment; both in key positions of ministry leadership on “The Mountain Post.”

Pray for Dan and Sasha Moen, during this next phase of life and ministry, along with CBAmerica’s other 195 chaplains (military and civilian). For more stories of chaplain life and ministry, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  To inquire about endorsement for a wide variety of chaplaincy ministries email Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, at chapandy@cbamerica.com.

Notes: *Chapel Next is the Army’s version of Contemporary Chapel Services with a modern focus on serving the younger generation of Soldiers and their Families.  Like many US churches, they have a multi-instrument band with vocalists, casual environment, and practical, biblical messages with family-oriented support ministries for children (AWANA), youth (Club Beyond), single-Soldier and couples Bible Studies.

 

Hospital Therapy Pool Turned Baptistry: Good News at the VA

By Chaplain Dru Nelson, US Navy

A couple months ago, I had the honor and privilege of baptizing three Veterans at the San Diego VA Medical Center. Two weeks prior to the baptism, I had led one of the veterans pictured to Christ.  I met the other two through various interactions; one through a weekly Bible study and the other through “deck plate*” ministry.

After the initial veteran gave his life to Christ, he began to read a Bible that he had been given.  When I checked in with him the following day, he had already read the first two Gospels, and expressed the desire to follow in obedience to Jesus’s command for baptism.

He asked if I could baptize him at the VA. I let him know that to my knowledge, full immersion baptism had not happened at that facility, but that I would see what I could come up with. After pulling some strings and a lot of persistence, we were able to lock-on the therapy pool.

Once news of the upcoming baptism spread, two additional veterans joined in. One of them also dedicated his life to Christ, while the other was already a Christian, but had not been baptized as an adult.  The three veterans in the picture represent the Navy, Marine Corps and Army. The three men had served their country honorably within each service and are now engaged in a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Notes: *Deck Plate Ministry is a Navy term for work place ministry on board Navy Ships – the “deck plate” being the “floors” on ships and other Navy facilities.  I used to call it “ministry by wandering around.”  It is proactive incarnational ministry in the military context.

While completing his Clinical Pastoral Education at the San Diego VA Medical Center, Chaplain Nelson shared the Gospel with Veterans eager to acknowledge and follow Christ as Savior and Lord. As clinical chaplain and patient advocate, he responded to these requests for baptism by approaching the hospital administration who eventually cooperated with the Veterans’ request.  I thank God for the change of attitude and accommodation of the “free exercise of religion” in the Veterans Health Administration.  Pray for continued transformation of that huge bureaucracy as they seek a new national director of the VHA chaplain service to replace retiring Chaplain Michael McCoy.

Chaplain Nelson is one of 15 Navy chaplains (13 active duty and 2 reserve) endorsed by CBAmerica. Pray for them as they serve Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard personnel on, under, and over the sea, and at Naval and Marine Corps installations around the world.

The Navy is seeking active duty and reserve chaplains. For information on endorsement in the sea services, contact Chaplain Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Send Us Your Best: CBAmerica’s Newest Army Chaplain Checks-Out & In

By Chaplain Phil Persing, with Intro by Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy

Every time we endorsers meet with the Military Chiefs of Chaplains; we hear the same thing: “Send us your best! We need your best!”

After ten years on the staff of First Baptist Church, Juniata, Pennsylvania, Pastor Phil and Beckie Persing (and their five sons) followed the Spirit’s leading into the Army Chaplaincy.  The first time I met the Persing Family was at Phil’s graduation from the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course (CHBOLC).

Escorted to my seat, I reviewed the program.  I looked for Chaplain Persing’s name, customarily listed in alphabetical order.  It wasn’t there.  Initially, wondered if there was a mistake, or worse.  Then I glanced to the top of the list.  Under the title: “Honor Graduate,” was Phil’s name.

The ceremony proceeded; speakers spoke, awards were presented, and the event concluded.  The class of newly graduate Army chaplains filed out forming two-ranks through which attendees would pass.  At the end of the sidewalk stood Phil next to other recognized graduates, most of them prior military, some highly decorated.  As I took his hand, I said, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  He replied, “Somethings are best left unsaid.”

Not only did Phil “check-out” in chaplain school, but he immediately “checked-in” to his first assignment at Fort Hood.   Following is his first family newsletter:

Continuing on Mission…

Hello from Fort Hood, Texas, where time seems to be flying by! The last several weeks have been filled with activity and intense preparation for the coming days. God has been consistently proving His sufficiency for our family as we are experiencing His blessings and finding He provides just what we need at exactly the right time. We hope that you are seeing evidence of His gracious love at work in your life today as well.

Chaplains Singing Hymns on Easter Sunday

April began with Fort Hood celebrating Jesus’ resurrection in a garrison-wide Easter sunrise service. Chaplains from the many on-post chapels came together to proclaim the hope we have over sin and death. Pray for the many in attendance who heard the gospel that day!

Several days later, Phil officiated and preached at a memorial ceremony for a young Soldier in his unit (apparent suicide). While we thank God that the service accomplished the chaplain’s sacred duty to “honor the fallen,” it was a sobering reminder of the struggles that all too many Soldiers are facing these days, and of the urgency to bring them a life-saving message of hope that all people need to hear and trust.

On April 19-20, Phil joined his squadron on an intense 28-hour long event called a “spur ride.” It’s a voluntary cavalry tradition that involves strenuous PT challenges, land navigating and ruck marching over 25 miles through the woods, conducting a simulated “night raid,” and memorizing significant dates and facts from the history of the 3d Cavalry Regiment. For surviving this ordeal, Phil was awarded his silver spurs (yes, it’s a set of spurs to be worn on uniform boots. Who knew?).

Gabe’s Car Took 1st Place in the AWANA Grand Prix

Our whole family has had its share of excitement this month. Our oldest boys recently designed and raced cars in the AWANA Grand Prix. Out of 21 racers, Gabe and Jack took home first and second place! The on-post AWANA program is soon ending for the summer. When it kicks off again in the fall, Beckie will be taking a leadership position in the “TnT” group (3rd-6th graders) — a position to which she thankfully brings much experience and expertise.

In late April, we were blessed with the opportunity to gather with some old friends for a week’s vacation near Branson, Missouri. It was a refreshing opportunity to see a part of the country we’d never previously visited, and to spend some time relaxing with loved ones.

This was especially important for our family, as we are gearing up for Phil’s deployment.The deployment plan will involve Phil ministering to Soldiers on mission in the Middle East. While there, he will be leading the morning worship service every Sunday, teaching a Thursday evening Bible study, providing counsel and pastoral care for Soldiers, and advising the command on issues that arise. The current schedule (which has undergone some changes, and could always change again) has Phil returning to Fort Hood in the fall.

Your prayers are certainly treasured during this deployment. First and foremost, thanks are due to God for calling us to a God-sized task for His glory– there is no better place to be than serving Him in the way He directs and equips.   Please remember to pray for the Soldiers’ safety, success in the mission, the salvation of souls, godly wisdom for the leaders, and the overwhelming assurance of God’s presence and peace for our entire family during the months to come.

With Trust in Him and Love for You,

The Persing Family:  Phil, Beckie 
Gabe, Jack, Hayden, Clark, & Timothy

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted! “
 
-Psalm 47:8-9  

Crisis Ministry: When a Sanctuary Becomes a Refuge

By Chaplain Brian Hargis, US Army, Hawaii

Below is the summary of events on 24MAY, concerning HMR* IMPACT Chapel:

At 1700 hours on Thursday, 24 MAY, Lisa, a resident of HMR, posted to HMR Spouses FB page; “White banged up Minivan speeding onto HMR with lots of police cars chasing!”

For the next several hours, I followed this thread as a flurry of comments were posted by HMR residents.  As the only chaplain residing on HMR, I had no idea that what was unfolding would result in great community ministry.

Within an hour, Amber posted a picture of the two individuals wanted by local authorities….”These people are in my house someone call 911….” The two individuals, wanted by police, had jumped the security fence of HMR and entered her residence, seeking shelter.

Amber’s call for help did not go unnoticed.  Numerous residents following the FB thread immediately dialed 9-1-1 and alerted authorities to Amber’s home.
“I did” – Al
“I called” – Mary
“Called 911” – Natalie

Shortly thereafter, Amber, her husband and daughter were able to escape the home, leaving the wanted individuals inside. Alisianna, neighbor of Amber, replied, “I have Amber and her daughter.”  A few moments later, Amber chimed in, “I escaped, they are still in my house. My husband and my daughter and I got out.”

Amber, who is several months pregnant and experienced complications due to stress, was rushed to Tripler hospital by ambulance.

At approximately 2300, Alisianna contacted me through FB Private Messenger and stated that there were residents at bus stops and on the streets, and she sent me a picture of those in her garage.  Not sure how she knew that I was a chaplain, but word spreads quickly on HMR.

By this time, HMR Families near Amber home, had been displaced for approximately five hours.  No one thought it would take that long to apprehend the subjects, and considering that it may have been longer still, I posted, “If anyone needs me to open up the chapel, it’s available.  Plenty of room, kitchen, bathrooms and shower.” I was unsure who, if any, would come to the chapel, but knew that it could be a sanctuary.

Alisianna responded in private message, “Lots of babies out here with rain on and off. They just moved everyone further down the street. Main homes are empty. We have at least 20, sir.”

“Send them to the chapel.  I’m headed there to open it.” I stated, and I quickly put on my duty uniform for distinction in crisis, jumped in my vehicle and sped off to the chapel.  Meanwhile, Alisianna took to the streets and contacted the Military Police (MP) to inform them to head to the chapel. A few moments later Alisianna sent this message, “I sent everyone your way, and still sending.”

Simultaneously, CH (LTC) Niehoff was in contact with me from the 25th Division cell, as the conduit of information and direction.

Within minutes, residents began arriving at the chapel in small waves.  I directed personnel traffic as quickly as possible – the nursery was used by a family with a special needs child.  The Children’s Church rooms were used as sleeping quarters by another family.  The chaplain office contained a couch which became a bed for a pregnant lady and husband. The sanctuary became a safe-haven for another 10 residents to chat with each other about the evening’s events. Even the children’s play room became home for a family with two dogs.

I opened the pantries in the kitchen and brought out all the food we had to feed the residents.  We played the only movie available – Courageous – which was more than appropriate for the situation. Additionally, I found four sleeping mats tucked away in storage!

Jessica, a nearby resident, reached out to us….“Hey, y’all need some food for the people at the Chapel?  I have 2 pans of Tuscan chicken I can warm up and bring over.”

At midnight I caught a break and updated the FB post….”HMR Chapel is open as a relief HQ for displaced families. As of midnight, 25 people and 2 dogs are using the chapel as a community hub. We have coffee, soft drinks, chips, popcorn, and a movie showing (Courageous). Additionally, we have a nursery with diapers, bathrooms, a shower, kitchen, play rooms, sleep rooms and plenty of padded space available. I am on the scene for prayer and support.

We are your Ohana and safe-haven, and proud to serve you!

Chaplain Brian Hargis, Senior Pastor
IMPACT Chapel Hawaii

Around 0100, the situation was under control and the individuals were apprehended by authorities.  Residents were authorized to return to the residents except for three families, whose homes became crime scenes.  One of the families used my vehicle to return to their home and retrieve items – they were being placed at Wheeler Army Airfield in temporary housing.

In all of this, God could minister to these families in a special way through prayer and calmness that the chapel provided.

The aftermath: On Sunday, May 24th, four new families attended chapel services at HMR.  They were the displaced military housing residents who were ministered to three nights prior!  One of them was Amber, her daughter, and mother-in-law Shelly.  We spoke about the events and collectively prayed for Amber and the family.  Additionally, Shelly joined our IMPACT Chapel Prayer Warriors page on FB, and asked for continued prayer and support for the family.  Shelly also started a Go-Fund-Me account for the family.

v/r,

Brian T. Hargis
MAJ, Brigade Chaplain

*Notes: IMPACT Chapel at HMR (Helemano Military Reservation) launched 4 June 2017 under Chaplain Hargis’ initiative and leadership. Alternating between chapel and beach locations, many have come to Christ and have been baptized. On Easter 2018, they had the largest attended service of 194. It has been an exciting and fruitful period of ministry.  God used this “exciting incident” to capture the attention of local military residence and bring even more into God’s Family!

Pray for CBAmerica Chaplains around the world, who regularly respond to crisis situations; on the battlefield, in training accidents, operational incidents, individual and family crises. For more stories of ministry response, visit www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy for the latest postings.   For more information on endorsement as a chaplain, contact Andy Meverden, director of chaplaincy, at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

 

 

Unique Ministry for Pastors of Churches on Coastal and Inland Waterways

By Pastor Mike Barnard, Auxiliary Clergy Support, US Coast Guard,

Do you have a heart for ministering to active duty military personnel and their families, but aren’t called to leave your church? Is your church located on or near the East or West Coast or major inland waterway? If so, then the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Clergy Support (ACS) program may be the ministry for you and your church!

What is the United States Auxiliary Clergy Support program?

  • The Coast Guard needs 150 chaplains, but currently have only 40; 10 of those are in administrative positions which leaves only 30 to be out in the field at any one time, providing religious support to America’s Lifesavers, and their Families!
  • The ACS program helps to fill this gap with qualified* local clergy as members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary!
  • ACS candidates are thoroughly vetted; requiring the approval of 3 Chaplains, 2 Admirals, an examination board in Washington, D.C., with final approval of the Chaplain of the Coast Guard!
  • ACS candidates must be able to operate within the framework and protocol of the United States Coast Guard! (Prior military experience is helpful, but not required.)
  • Those approved will serve under the supervision of active duty Coast Guard Chaplains!
  • Approved clergy receive the same 100% confidentiality protection as active duty military Chaplains!
  • Approved clergy will be authorized to minister to active duty Coast Guard personnel and their families in much the same way that active duty Chaplains do, being granted access to United States Coast Guard facilities.
  • This is a volunteer position, but the rewards are out of this world!

For more information on the ACS program, email

Pastor Mike Barnard at pastor_mbarnard@hotmail.com or call him at 541-297-1571.

For information on endorsement for the ACS program, contact Andy Meverden, CBAmerica’s Director of chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

 

*Notes:  Qualifications include professional ministry education, ordination, Coast Guard Auxiliary membership, endorsement by a federally recognized endorsing agency (like CBAmerica), and affiliation with a local church in proximity to Coast Guard facilities.

Care Package Support: Boosting Morale in the Indian Ocean

By Chaplain Dan Klender, USN

At Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia (DG), our amenities are severely limited due to our remote location.*  We have one modestly sized Ship’s Store that stocks mostly limited food items.  The problem is that mark-up is considerable due to the expense of transporting wholesale goods.  Variety is also limited for the same reason.  Some of the desired items on the island are listed below:

1)  K-Cups

2) M & M’s

3) Starbucks instant refreshers

4)  Beef jerky

5) Licorice & Twizzlers

Thanks for your consideration!

Blessings!

Chaplain Dan Klender,
LCDR, Chaplain Corps, United States Navy

 

Address for Care Packages

LCDR Daniel Klender

PSC 466, Box 18

FPO AP 96595-0018

 

*Director’s Notes:  I checked the distance from Denver to Diego Garcia, a remote island in the Indian Ocean.  The only flights are military and special charter (with an occasional emergency landing), so Google Maps didn’t work.  Using a special website, I found the distance from my home to Chaplain Klender’s chapel is 10,185 miles – as the albatross flies!

Chaplain Klender reports a vibrant chapel ministry to US and Allied personnel, and expatriate contractors supporting the strategic regional mission literally out in the middle of nowhere! The photo to the left shows a healthy chapel congregation with heads bowed in preparation to receive the Lord’s Supper. These Care Packages will support not only flight line and portside ministry, but this multinational congregation, among the 4,000 forward-deployed US and Allied service members.

Director’s Note:  Here’s another opportunity for a church, youth, men, women, or Veterans group to make a difference and assist one of our forward-deployed military chaplains.  In 2016 we facilitated Care Packages to an Amphibious Taskforce in hostile waters, and last year we sent them to those on the ground fighting ISIS. This year, we “go long,” way long out into the Indian Ocean.  The supply system has been greatly reduced in terms of non-military “comfort” items.  By sending Care Packages directly to chaplains, you ensure safe arrival to a known individual, and provide our chaplains with special “resources” that will bring goodies from “home” to those literally on the front lines and in faraway places.  If you use USPS Priority Mail® Flat-Rate shipping boxes, be sure to tell the postal clerk this is a military “Care Package,” to receive a $1 discount on postage! Include a signed greeting card with sender’s address info (& email) so recipients can reply.

For more stories of CBAmerica chaplains on the front lines of ministry at home and abroad, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy or information on chaplain endorsement, email Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

 

Annual Training: Prayer, Baptism, and a new Chaplain Guidon

By Chaplain Jason Dong, Oregon Army National Guard

 

Prayer Summit:

During Annual Training I offered daily morning prayer on a hill in the middle of our Brigade Support Area (BSA).  Every morning I would stand there at 0600.  Sometimes I would have one or two Soldiers come up to pray and some mornings there were none.  However, it was right during breakfast where all the Soldiers had to walk by to get their food.  On the last day I thought to myself, “No one will show up today because everyone’s focused on packing up and getting out of here.”  However, I was convicted that I needed to be faithful until the end and be where I said I would be.  As I approached the hill I noticed an unusually large gathering at the foot of the hill and figured they were standing in line for chow.

As I ascended the hill, to my amazement they all began to follow me.  When we reached the top 81 Soldiers lined the hilltop with the sunrise as the backdrop.  It was a moving sight.  While they may not have joined me the other days they showed up to express their gratitude (with prompting from the Command Sergeant Major (CSM)) for my daily presence on the hill.  I trust it served as a visual reminder of God’s presence and pointed others to Him.

Baptism:

During Annual Training I was making my rounds when Specialist (SPC) Jacinto pulled me aside.  He wanted to talk about spiritual things and felt the need to draw closer to God.  He desired to have peace with God and with his family.  I could tell he had an open heart and through the course of our conversation he repented of his sins and placed his faith and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation.  After we prayed he said that he felt like a burden had just been lifted off his shoulders.  As we stood there rejoicing in his new birth we just paused and said, “What now?”  Immediately my thoughts turned to the Scriptures and the command to be baptized.  I asked him if he would like to be baptized and he responded, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

After we discussed the symbolism and meaning of believer’s baptism, the planning began.  With the support of leadership, we scheduled a day, time, and place for the event.  In faith, my chaplain assistant packed two plastic baptismal liners for Annual Training, trusting we would have occasion to use them.  Indeed!  Now we just needed a hole and water.  I instructed SPC Jacinto that he would be responsible for digging his own grave in symbolizing the putting to death of his old man.  The night before the baptism he began digging.  However, the ground was very hard and rocky.  Jacinto, together with the help of a wrecker, dug a huge trench in the ground.  The next day we employed one of our water tankers and filled the hole in just a few minutes.  With the Commander, CSM and about 30 other Soldiers in attendance, Specialist Jacinto made a public profession of faith and was baptized in obedience to our Lord.

Guidon:

During Annual Training I was setting up the tent that would serve as the chapel in our BSA.  I wanted to fly the chaplain flag to signify the tent for this purpose so I attached the flag to the side of the tent.  However, this seemed inadequate and not very visible.  As I was making my rounds one day I visited our fabrication section.  This group of skilled welders just finished a major project and were looking for something to do.  The idea came to me that I could have them make me a guidon* for my chaplain flag!  They embraced this project and hit the ground running.  Together they helped me design it and even let me make a cut on the steel plate.  It turned out beautifully and the chaplain flag now has a proper place to rest in front of the chapel.  It was even used later in the week during the baptism of one of the welders (SPC Jacinto).

*Director’s Note: A “guidon” is typically the pole or standard on which a unit’s flag is attached. The guidon accompanies the unit wherever it goes.  Every Unit Ministry Team (a chaplain and at least one assistant) is issued a small blue flag with a white cross (or other denominational symbol – like Tablets for a Jewish Rabbi) to place at the chaplain’s tent or place of meeting – “field chapel” for identification.  In Chaplain Dong’s unit, his Soldiers blessed him with their skills and creativity in creating a portable base in the shape of their home state, Oregon, with two doves in flight attached to a cross.  Such actions are indicative of the Soldiers’ acceptance and appreciation of “their chaplain.”

Join me in thanking God for this Baptism and others (Servicemembers, inmates, inpatients, etc.) by CBAmerica chaplains in the U.S. and on military installations around the world! Pray for continued bold and faithful Gospel witness.

 

For more stories of ministry by CBAmerica chaplains, check out our webpage a www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on endorsement for chaplain ministry, contact Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

 

Rejoicing & Weeping: Chaplain Ministers in Life and Death

By Chaplain Travis Hairston

Rejoicing: My greatest blessing this quarter was taking over the Main Post Chapel Protestant service children’s ministry. When I arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) this past January I was asked by the Garrison chaplain to consider serving as the Main Post Chapel’s children’s pastor since the chaplain currently over this ministry was about to leave, and since I have had a lot of experience in working as an education director while pastoring. Since accepting this assignment 4 weeks ago, we have grown from 20 to 30 children in the children’s church and are starting a new youth Sunday school class. New families have begun attending the chapel and the kids are excited each week to learn about Jesus.

Weeping: A month ago, we had a suicide in our battalion. A new Soldier, just out of Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, arrived at the unit; and 36-hours later he killed himself in his room. The 36-hours he was with our unit, he was made to feel welcome and supported. My Soldiers are still struggling with the “why” questions and some even blame themselves for not doing “more.” I would appreciate prayers for this Soldier’s family and for this Company who is still struggling with this loss.

Director’s Comments: Chaplains ride a rollercoaster of emotions on a daily/weekly basis, “rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) Pray for their focus on each person and situation they encounter.

 

For other stories of ministry, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on endorsement as a chaplain, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

 

Baptism near a Blast Wall: Easter Sunday Baptism in Afghanistan

By Chaplain Paul Castillo, USAF, with Chaplain Andy Meverden

The email message was short and to the point:

Andy,

A beautiful baptism on  Easter Sunday at Enduring Faith Chapel on Bagram Airfield.

The Lord continues to bless.

I should be home in a few weeks.

Blessings,

Paul

Director, Andy Meverden writes:

That’s just like Chaplain Paul; focused on ministering to the Troops and unwilling to toot his own horn. Fortunately for us, he sent an occasional photo of significant ministry events.  Like last October, when he met with fellow CBAmerica Chaplain Scott Noyes before Scott returned home after deployment with the North Dakota Army National Guard.

Then there was the Christmas photo of Paul with his Ministry Team at Bagram Air Base.  Paul shared their names, ministry assignments and significant contributions to the Team.  It was obvious he was proud of each one, and valued their ministry.

Then there was that “secret photo” of Paul and the VPOTUS, Mike Pence, the President’s special, clandestine 2017 Christmas envoy to our deployed Troops.  Again, there was a short message with the photo: “Oh, by the way, I got to meet and greet Vice President Pence.”  (Maybe I wasn’t supposed to share that photo!?)

As I recall, Paul didn’t have to go to Afghanistan.  There was a need for a senior chaplain, and, with Family and Command support, he said, “Here am I, send me.”   From the pictures, it’s apparent that God used him; as a senior officer, a supervisory chaplain, a “fellow-chaplain,” and a minister of the Gospel to those in need of a Savior…near a blast wall!

For more stories and photos of CBAmerica chaplains serving at home and abroad, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.