New Dress Code for Hospital Chaplains: COVID-19 PPE

By Chaplain Gordon Ruddick, Peace Health Medical Center, Springfield, Oregon

Chaplain Gordon Ruddick

As chaplains, we’ve always been required to wear “business casual” to work. Still true. Now, though,  there’s a new addition. All employees are required to wear a yellow, slightly itchy, hospital mask during our workday. In order to enter one of only three entrances we must all successfully pass the temperature check, give our identifying information, and tell them how we feel. Then the mask. No exceptions. And no homemade masks allowed in the hospital. Only the yellow ones, except in special situations when N-95 masks are required for more dangerous duty.

These days it’s more “serious business” and a lot less “casual.” The war continues. And we are the front lines. As a chaplain I am not seeing COVID-19 patients directly, but definitely am at times involved with other staff who have been in the heat of that battle. My job has changed focus from patients to staff. There are no family or visitors these days, except for those on both ends of life, the ones coming in and the ones going out. Those folks can have very limited visitation from a family member. Of course I still see patients as well. I am one of their few visitors.    

While this pandemic is a bother to many in our community, a loss of business for a multitude, and a definite disruption to schedules and plans to millions, it is as well a source of concern and danger for us who are serving in this place. You are supposed to stay home. We are supposed to go to work. And there are days when that is not easy. Especially the first few days when everything was very eerie. It is a place of danger as well as a place of duty. This is who I am. This is what I have been called to do. We feel that way. It’s why we stay faithful. That does not mean we are never afraid. It means we let go of the fear and hang on to faithfulness.

We and our families appreciate your prayer for our safety and effective ministry to the givers and the receivers of health care. The risks are great. As are the rewards. Our God is faithful. May that continue to be our legacy as well. “For such a time as this.” 

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While many Americans are “staying home,” front-line medical personnel in infected areas are working overtime; that includes hospital chaplains. Pray for Chaplain Ruddick and the other 23 CBAmerica hospital chaplains, most of whom are designated “essential personnel.”  Join me in praying for God’s protection and guidance as they minister to staff and patients.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains ministering during the current pandemic, visit https://cbamerica.org/chaplaincy/.   For electronic brochures describing chaplaincy ministries and the endorsement requirements, contact Director of Chaplaincy, Randy Brandt, at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org.

He Was There

Chaplain response to NAS Pensacola terrorist attack

By Chaplain Nick Dewhurst, US Navy Reserve, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida

On Friday December 6, 2019, there was an attack on students at Naval Air Station Pensacola. At the time, the news reported over 11 hurt and several fatalities. The moment I heard of the events, I immediately reached out to local chaplain assets and offered myself to assist.

I was allowed onto the base and was able to help provide immediate counseling for witnesses and classmates of the victims and offered support. Throughout the entire weekend and into the next week, I was able to help coordinate local resources, interface with the active component and provide manpower to an overtaxed active component.

In the immediate aftermath, it was determined that 24-hour chaplain coverage would be needed and a watch stander would need to be present. I stood one of the first watches and was instrumental in standing up the hospitality and counseling center for those impacted by the event.

I was also able to help the active component with the vast amount of group counseling for Naval Flight Officers impacted. This was a great time of ministry and a great way to be the hands and feet of Christ during a crisis.

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Join me in thanking God for Chaplain Dewhurst’s quick and capable response to this tragedy. Having recently returned from deployment in support of operations leading to the defeat of ISIS in Syria, Nick was undaunted by the news reports and ran to the sounds of tragedy. Pray for Nick and our 199 other military and civilian chaplains who are called out daily to respond to tragic situations, at home and abroad.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, log onto www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For brochures on chaplaincy or endorsement, email Randy Brandt, Director of Chaplaincy at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org

It’s Who You Know

Retired Chaplain Rivals the Energizer Bunny

By Chaplain Bob Hicks, USAF, Retired & FBI Volunteer

Cars, Taxis, & Walking

CRU International Report 2019

Unlike years’ past, this 2019 found me serving the military in four countries.  It was a very busy fall schedule taking me to Canada, Ukraine, Israel and Kenya.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Canadian Principal Chaplain

Through a personal relationship with a pastor whose church is just outside the Royal Military College (Kingston), I was able to give my Combat Moral Injury and From Harm to Home lectures with Canadian soldiers, chaplains and volunteers.  I was also pleased to enjoy the presence of the base “Principal” or head, base chaplain.  Most of those present had either been deployed or were soon leaving for Afghanistan as our ally in NATO.  This was a very timely event for these soldiers bringing about many questions and issues about soul wounds of war.  CRU/HQ is now hopeful in formally recognizing the pastor as a CRU military volunteer.

Kiev and Surrounding Areas, Ukraine

During a beautiful Kiev Fall, I lectured at the University of Ukraine (Kiev) to a packed lecture hall of psychology students, national police, emergency officers, and soldiers. Local Press also covered the event and I gave two interviews through my translator. Prior to speaking, I met with the President of the University briefing him about my ministry to veterans.

Ukrainian Veteran Center

The next day, I shared lunch with war veterans, their wives, and some volunteers. Across Ukraine there are Veteran Pizza restaurants started and run by veterans.  Later, I spoke on Moral Injury at a Veteran Hospital in Borispol outside of Kiev near the airport. Later that night I shared my lectures on Combat Moral Injury, PTSD, and Grief issues to veterans. One of the tallest buildings in Kiev dedicated its top floor to serving veterans needs, with job search help, soldier post combat support and teaching computer skills. Every night in Kiev, our team returned to the Vet HUB for meeting with more veterans, spouses, widows, even children having lost their fathers.

Speaking to Career Officers, Kiev Military Institute

Mid-week, I was able to see a major answer to prayer.  For years, CRU Ukraine military had been praying for an opening to some of their officer training facilities.  Through a CRU volunteer who is a Captain at the Kiev Military Academy, he set up my speaking at the General Institute of Defense.  I thought I was speaking to cadets, but when I arrived there were probably 40-45 mid-career and senior officers present. (NOTE: Quick prayer as I walked into the room)

Meeting with Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops, Chaplains, at St. Michael’s Cathedral, Kiev

On my last day, a second prayer request was granted. Ukraine historically, is a Russian/Ukrainian Orthodox church culture. Whether practicing or not, Ukrainians still give high honor to the Orthodox church.  Because Orthodox chaplains deploy to the combat fronts along with Protestants and other groups, the need for serious discussion with the Orthodox leadership has been a long-standing prayer request. Though I don’t know how this came about, I was asked to do a three-hour Q & A meeting with the Kiev Metropolitan (Head Bishop), the Bishop overseeing the Military chaplains plus Orthodox chaplains, even a Catholic (Eastern Rite) Chaplain.  Most of our discussion centered on how our US military Chaplains from many faith traditions work together, how we are trained, even how we are paid!

Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Israel

Leaving Ukraine, I took a side trip to Israel with the CRU European director. Our goal was doing some reconnaissance to see if there were any open doors to serving the Israeli Defense Forces in their constant wartime environment. Having meetings with former IDF soldiers-now pastors we gained valuable insight into how Israel as a nation suffers from PTSD. Over a wonderful lunch across from the New Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem a former student of mine and his wife shared their 40-year experience of sharing Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) in Israel. We concluded our time meeting outside Tel Aviv at a Baptist camp which does outreach to young IDF soldiers and doing a two-month recovery time after they finish their two years of required service.  As a result of our time, the European director will be following up the contacts we made.

Mombasa, Kenya

My final trip was a follow up to my last visit to the country two years ago.  While teaching a course at the African International University, (Outside Nairobi), several Kenyan military chaplains sat on my course on Critical Incident Stress Management. The Kenyan military is seriously involved in defending their country from the terrorist group, Al Shabab, based across the border in Somalia. As a result, they asked me and an Army chaplain (retired) to do our briefings on Moral Injury and how Christ brings about healing from traumatic moral/mental injuries. The weather was hot, humid, and rainy but the fellowship among soldiers, CRU staff, with the presence of the Kenyan Principal Chaplain was such a blessing. The response was overwhelming from the soldiers.

Reflections

Each country visited was very different in culture with their own unique issues when it comes to dealing with the mental and physical casualties of war. However, what they all shared was the concern they have for soldiers, wives, children, and widows.  They all agreed government can only do so much but healing the inner wounds of the soul needs a much deeper approach. That’s why my briefings end focusing on issues of forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation… all spiritual and theological in nature!  As one Ukrainian soldier asked at the end of my presentation, “Why do you talk about Jesus?”  My short answer was, “Because nothing else has worked”.

These trips come about through your CRU support, and faithful prayers. I can’t express how thankful I am for you allowing me the privilege of sharing my military experience with those still facing and recovering from combat.   In the Fight.   Bob

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Editor’s Note:

There’s a song sometimes sung at military retirements. The main lyrics are: “Old soldiers never die they simply fade away.”  The song itself is a British Army’s parody of the gospel song “Kind Thoughts Can Never Die.” In the United States, the phrase was used by general Douglas MacArthur in his April 19, 1951 farewell address to the U.S. Congress (which has become known as the “Old Soldiers Never Die” speech). Whereas some retired military members often fade away, some, like Chaplain Bob Hicks, have continued in productive military and Veteran ministry at home and around the world.

Join us in thanking God for His Grace that continues to work in and through Bob as he ministers Christ’s love, forgiveness and healing power in the lives of those shattered by war; warriors, Veterans, widows and orphans, chaplains and commanders drained by its impact.  Pray also, for him and his 200 fellow CBAmerica chaplains, military and civilian who daily attend to those impacted by “man’s inhumanity to man.”

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, visit our webpage at http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.

For information on endorsement for chaplaincy, email Director Randy Brandt at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org.

Chat with Chaplain

Finding Hope in the Midst of Crisis

By Chaplain Evan Spencer, Salem VA Medical Center, Salem, Virginia

Here’s how one VA chaplain reaches out to confined patients…through closed circuit TV (CCTV)

Welcome, and thanks for joining us!  Hi, I’m Chaplain Evan Spencer and I’d like to talk to you today about finding hope in the midst of crisis…

About 10 years ago on August 5, 2010, the Copiapo mining accident began as a massive cave-in at the San Jose copper-gold mine in the Atacama Desert near Copiapo, Chile.  The accident trapped 33 men 700 meters (2,300 ft.) which is 6 football fields in length below the ground’s surface. These 33 men survived underground for a record 69 days.  All were able to retreat to a 540 ft. emergency shelter and had 1.2 miles of tunnels in which to move around, and enough food to last for 2 or 3 days.  How did they survive? By banding together under their leader of Mario Sepulveda, the food lasted an amazing 2 -3 weeks.  This was our theme last week.  Connecting in a time of Crisis.  Today we consider that as we connect, we still may be trapped and in need of hope for a rescue!!  A rescue that could only come from above.

With 33 men there must have been some fighting.  So, one of the first things that they had to learn was that they had to keep up the spirits of everyone if anyone was going to survive.  They were still a three-mile drive by the former passageways to the entrance of the mine, and their rations by day 17 were exhausted.  So how did they find hope?  Hope came as a drill finally made it through from above on day 17, just as they’d run out, and began supplying food, toothpaste, even cell phones, news from the surface and messages from loved ones.  Still, 6 football fields below the surface after a terrible mine collapse, and only a tube connecting them to the surface, the collapsed mountain literally blocking the passageway, although they’d pulled together, they were still not out of the woods as far as survival was concerned.  How was a tube the size of a man going to be created to rescue them so far into the earth?

Yet hope was provided by the supplies, air and love coming from the surface into the darkness that entrapped them. There was still a living hope they’d make it out alive.  For it was this narrow shaft that would somehow be made larger through the resourceful efforts of rescuers, now assembling from around the worlds; coming together to solve the dilemma of the trapped miners.

So what about us?  Today, as we band together as communities, as a nation and as a world community, what gives you and I that shaft of hope in the midst of our struggle with the changes and interruptions brought on by the Corona Virus?  

There is a song popularized by a group called the Byrds, in the 1960’s called “Turn, Turn, Turn” which borrowed from a poem from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament which says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” But what we find hard to believe is that God might have a purpose in crisis!  But here it is, the poem says there is a time for every purpose under heaven.  But God’s purposes are not just out there and mystical. Knowing there is a larger purpose even in difficult times provides hope.  God has not abandoned us!  For the passage goes on to tell us he has made everything, all these seasons, beautiful in their time.  So let’s you and I also find hope in realizing there is a purpose, even for this present season.  Let us find hope in celebrating the beauty of the season we are in, because God has a purpose in every season of life.  

Let’s face it, if there is a time for everything, all the seasons of life can’t be good; but let us focus on the good that we might discover knowing that there is beauty in the midst of even difficult seasons of life as well. 

For some of us, the beauty might be to grow closer to God.  When we become more aware of his presence in a way we never ever could have unless this difficult season came.  For others, it might be an important opportunity to know a quiet, deeply reflective child better, or even a friend, one who has great potential to bloom if the time was taken by someone to get to know him or her better. 

In the Spring we celebrate the beauty of new beginnings as in the beauty of the flowers, birds, and buds bursting forth with new life.  This week many will celebrate life with the remembrance of deliverance from oppression as in the Jewish Passover.  For Christians the celebration of life takes place as we remember the conquering of death by Jesus Christ by remembering the empty tomb.  These historical events reflected both beauty and darkness as our present times do as well.  So, was it just a coincidence that as the virus peaks, we find that these aspects of our Spring celebration are peaking as well?  Or might we also find beauty in God’s timing this Spring as our “tube of hope” to help us through?

For now, we have a difficult time, as the miners did, as our character is tested by COVID-19. So we hope to find we have the strength to weather this seemingly endless storm, developing in us the new-found strength to pass on both the torches of connection and of hope to our friends and neighbors and, of course to the next generation

So , let us look around us and enjoy the beauty of the Spring.  Let us look around us, and humbly enjoy the extra time we have to spend with our loved ones.  Let us look around us and appreciate this time we have to positively connect with others who we would not ordinarily connect with.  Yet, God and nature have conspired together to allow this to happen.  But what of our friends in Chile?  After the event and the men were miraculously rescued, these men of Copiapo, Chile remain close brothers to this day. What a triumph of the human spirit!      

33 Men!  One of the miners remarked: “There were not 33, but 34 of us, because God was with us.”  So, let us continue to pray, and let us find hope by seeing the beauty in this season today.  For God makes all things beautiful in his time.

Lord please show me every day
As you’re teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time

In your time, in your time
You make all things beautiful
In your time

Lord my life to you I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing
In your time

(Instrumental piano interlude played by Chaplain Spencer)

Lord please show me every day
As you’re teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time
In your time (in your time), in your time (in your time, Lord)
You make all things beautiful
In your time

Please let me share a few valuable resources:

1. Based on this meditation, I invite you to watch the movie, “The 33” which references the actual account of the miraculous rescue.  It can be found on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV and Vudu.

2. Our Salem VA Chaplain Team is at your beck and call. Feel free to reach out to a chaplain 24/7 by calling one of our Extensions from 7am to 4:30pm.  After-hours call and request to be transferred to the Chaplain-on-call.

To conclude, permit me to share this Prayer with You:

Holy God, we humbly ask you to provide us with a sense of trust as we wait on you, reveling in the beauty that you create in every season of life.  May we see the beauty of today and notice your handiwork in and around us. As we anticipate these blessings, so we extend our thanks and praise to you for the good purpose that you have for us all.  In your Holy Name I pray. Amen. 

I’m looking forward to seeing you again here soon!

Though initially frustrated with social-distancing limitations, Chaplain Spencer took advantage of the VA Medical Center’s Facebook Live page and broadcast a message of home and recorded a corresponding song of hope for interested patients confined to their rooms.  Join me in praying for the Spirit’s leading for our 200 CBAmerica chaplains adapting to ministry in the current pandemic; that they might find effective, creative ways to share the message of hope in Jesus Christ!

For more stories by and about CBAmerica Chaplains, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For PDF brochures describing the varied ministry of chaplaincy and the process of endorsement, email Randy Brandt, Director of Chaplaincy at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org.

Keeping Distance in Kosovo

COVID-19 impact on life and ministry

By Chaplain Jason Dong, Oregon Army National Guard, Deployed

Greetings from Kosovo!  Unfortunately, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 occurred on one of our bases here in Kosovo.  (Approximately 60 cases have been reported in Kosovo with 1 death.)  Restrictions on movement and social interaction where I’m located have increased to include the closure of the gym and increased precautions in our dining facility.  (See picture below for the strange and sad way we are required to eat in our dining facilities.)

Our task force continues to move forward with the mission.  There is a heightened sense of awareness as Kosovo’s prime minister was removed from office two days ago in a vote of no confidence.  Patrols and presence continue, and Soldier morale seems stable.  It helps that the border finally allowed the mail through so Soldiers are receiving much anticipated packages.

The limit on social interaction has made it challenging for the Unit Ministry Team.  I’m learning to navigate the world of social media to reach our soldiers and families with encouragement and hope.  Please pray for wisdom and discernment as I seek to engage in this new way (for me!).  I’m thankful we have such technology available to us and the ability to stay connected with family (see eating hamburgers pic 😊).  A few Soldiers have expressed a hunger for fellowship and getting into the Word which is encouraging.

Praises/thanks:  1)  Sustained health  2)  Mail arrived  3)  God’s continued provision  4)  Technology to keep us connected

Prayer requests:  1)  Wisdom, discernment in navigating ministry under these circumstances  2)  Open doors and open hearts of Soldiers  3)  Good health  4)  Peace and health for all our families    

Quote of the Week:  “…The righteous shall live by faith.”  –Romans 1:17

Thank you for your prayers and partnership in the faith.

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Jason’s update underscores the spread and impact of the Coronavirus on the life and ministry of our chaplains. Join me in thanking God for the wellbeing of Jason and his troops and asking God to reveal His wisdom and opportunities for ministry under current restraints.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, visit us at http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/ For information brochures on chaplaincy and endorsement, email Director of Chaplaincy, Randy Brandt, at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org.

Jesus our Hero

Pastor-friend’s long-term prayer for chaplain-friend

By Chaplain Greg Uvila, LCDR, US Navy,Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, WA

Recently at the CBNW annual enrichment conference we experienced phenomenal preaching and teaching by Pastor Jeff Vandestelt.  He wisely articulated what “Everyday Evangelism” is.  Pastor Jeff challenged us in many important ways; particularly one stuck like Velcro to my soul, “In all of your personal stories make Jesus the hero!”  What grand encouragement!  Yes?  Yes!

Greg Uvila and Andy Meverden

Incarnational

Clearly the Scriptures proclaim the mystery of incarnational ministry, the reality that we can be the arms and legs of Jesus for others right here, right now.  As we do so, we are a hero in their midst, not the hero, that’s Jesus’ spot.  Right?  Right!   Nevertheless, through God’s enablement we can powerfully “hero” into the lives of others.

My Hero

25 years ago, (I know, I just turned 60) I had the honor of working  alongside a CBA youth pastor Mark Claudson (currently Senior Pastor at First Baptist LaGrande, Oregon) in the greater Vancouver, WA area.  Through crazy summer camps and sleepless winter retreats we schemed and connived our way into the lives of high school students- two spiritual pied pipers offering hope to a generation, although not really understanding it, really needed Jesus.  What an honor to run alongside Mark!

Over two decades later, while at the 2014 CBNW renewal conference, Mark and I connected and got reacquainted, catching up on family news and ministry shenanigans.  Before I left that conference, he said “I’ll pray for you man.”  You know what?  He did!  Amazing, right?  Stick with me.  I didn’t see Mark until this year’s (2020) conference, which, do the math, was 6 years later.  He ran up to me like the prodigal Father did his son, “Greg Uvila!?  I spun around, locked eyes with Mark, warm smile, gentle eyes “in hand,” “I prayed for you Man…”  I was incredulous, “What, really, after 6 years?” I didn’t know what to think or say, I just muttered a simple, sincere thank you. 

You know praying for others is heroic.  It is servant-hood.  It is Christ incarnate.  Pastor Mark is my hero, little “h,” not capitol “H,” that designation only belongs to our precious Savior, Jesus.  Once again, we got caught up on family history and ministry shenanigans. 

Spirit Intrusions

Normalcy for me as a “middle manager” in the USN Chaplain Corps consists of a routine ripe with administration and mentorship with regular interruptions of Sailors who are in some sort of mess or crisis.  This day was no different, deeply engrossed in some “important” report God knocked on my office door.  God you say?  Yes, He routinely shows up, disrupts, interrupts, barges in, with the same playful glee and energy of a preschooler wanting to show off her coloring.  These Spirit intrusions remind me continually of what the calling to Chaplaincy is all about- Sailors, with hearts and souls, people whom God loves passionately, unconditionally.

The Idea of Living

I won’t soon forget this particular disruption.  My very normal day gave way to the abnormal, surrendering willfully like a newborn puppy under the watchful eyes of her mother.   The sailor before me was in her 20s, like many of those whom I serve, a single parent.  Her presenting problem, unfortunately, has become all too common- she was highly suicidal; sadly the idea of living was far more daunting than dying. 

Something has kept you alive

I quickly awoke myself from the malaise of administrative madness and engaged her, “Something has kept you alive to this point; otherwise you would be dead, what has kept you alive?  The sailor responded curtly, without hesitation or emotion, “My daughter.”  “How old is your daughter?”  Her affect did not change, and with no emotion, she curtly responded, “Four.” 

For about 30 minutes I continued to engage her- seeking Christ’s help to stay engaged, focused, fiercely fighting the pull on my soul to get sucked into her same depressive state- the stakes were high and she needed a present, alert lifeguard, one who could confidently throw her that bright orange lifeguard ring and pull her safely to life’s shore. 

35

“Tell me, when will your daughter graduate from high school?”  She stoically calculated “2035.”  Again, showing little emotion, it was if we had been discussing the oppressive Northwest rain.  We momentarily sat quietly, both pondering the heaviness of the moment, then God showed up again, first with a gentle whisper, next as a confident coach giving clear, precise instructions.  “Here’s what I’d like you to do.  I want you to go to the store and buy a pack of 3”x5” cards.  Next, go straight home, go directly to your kitchen and locate your junk drawer and pick out your favorite magic marker.   You know what you are going to do then?”  “What?”  Again the same, flat, distant, desperate, lifeless tone, “You are going to write in huge print the number 35 on a bunch of cards and plaster 35 all around your home- on your bathroom mirror, on your bedroom dresser, on your living room mantle, on your fridge in the kitchen, on your computer monitor in your study.  Further, you are going to go out and put 35 on the dashboard of your car and on the glove box door, okay?” 

Soon our Sailor slipped away into the day with a sense of hope- I need to stay alive until my daughter graduates from high school in 2035 was her new mantra, her orange lifeguard ring.  As she got up to leave, my closing argument was simple, “Hey, after your daughter gets her high school diploma I trust and hope and pray you will choose life, that you will have the courage to stay alive just for you, what do you say?”  With that challenge, she slowly got of her chair and with the coyest of grins gave me a fist bump and said, “I think I can do that.”

A Month Later

About a month later my phone rings, “Hey Chaps, this is Laura (not her real name), you got a second?”   “Sure, of course.”  My mind is quickly on over-drive, my brain scanning through the files of the Laura’s I have known and do now know.  I remember the voice.  Yes, it’s the single Sailor who has the four-year-old… #35… the suicidal Laura.  “Hey, Chaps I want you to know things are going much better, but I’m really not calling for myself, I’m calling on behalf of my parents.  They just wanted me to tell you thank you, so “thank you!”

“Thank you, Mark, for praying, thank you CBA community for praying, “heroing” into my life and the life of our Sailors at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, thank you Christ, our Hero, for answering.”

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Join Pastor Mark in praying for Chaplain Greg and our other 199 chaplains scattered across the US and around the world in military and civilian institutions and communities. For more stores by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  To receive electronic brochures on chaplaincy and requirements for endorsement, email Randy Brandt, director, at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org

Ministry in the Balkans

Guard chaplain supports peacekeepers in Kosovo

By Chaplain Jason Dong, Oregon Army National Guard, Deployed

Greetings from Kosovo!  I hope this finds you in peace and good health.  We arrived in Kosovo five days ago.  Unfortunately, I’ve already become quite sick as the poor air quality reignited by chronic sinusitis into an infection.  Due to the coronavirus precautions I was put on quarantine for 48 hours just in case to make sure I don’t develop signs (i.e. fever or dry cough).  

So much has happened since the last update.  We finished our training in Germany.  I held two chapel services (chapel pics) there and we completed a 5-day exercise in “the field.” At the end of our three weeks there we were given a one-day pass to visit the surrounding area and I chose to visit the town of Regensburg (Regensburg/St. Peter’s pics).  It was established in 179 A.D. by the Romans and there was so much history to explore.

Before being quarantined I was able to tour our area of responsibility for this NATO mission (KFOR27).  It is a beautiful country, but sadly the effects of war are still visible in many forms.  (I will provide some pics in the next update.)  We met our interpreter Ivan, a Serbian, who is my age and lives in Northern Kosovo.  The mission of our task force of 227 soldiers is to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo.  My primary responsibility is to provide spiritual support to these U.S. soldiers.  However, I will have the ability to meet with local religious leaders to encourage dialogue and peace.    

Praises/thanks:  1)  We finally made it to Kosovo!  2)  God’s continued provision  3)  Turned 44 while in Germany  4)  interactions with soldiers 

Prayer requests:  1)  Healing of sinus infection  2)  Open hearts of Soldiers  3)  Preparation for weekly service (two each Sunday)  4)  Preparation for two weekly Bible studies  5)  Safety and protection for all during this mission

Quote of the Week:  “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”  –John 4:23

May the peace of Christ dwell richly in your hearts this week.

Sincerely in Christ,

Jason Alan Dong

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Join me is asking God’s direction and sustaining care for CH Dong and his peacekeeping Soldiers and their separated families back home.  While you’re at it, pray for the other 200 CBAmerica providing ministry of comfort and calm across the US and around the world, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains on the cutting edge of ministry, log onto http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/. For information on endorsement for military and civilian chaplaincy, contact Randy Brandt at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org.

Lingering Longer with the Lord

Chaplain preps himself for divine duty

By Chaplain Dan Wilton, Illinois Air National Guard, Deployed

My first deployment was full of many wonderful demonstrations of God’s faithful presence and gracious empowering.  Nearly every day I saw God grow in me a greater desire to be obedient to His Spirit in what, when, and how I would go about my duties as a chaplain.  My family’s sacrifice to enable me to serve had afforded me a ministry opportunity temporarily uninterrupted by the blessed limitations of family life.  My wife, kids, and I were determined to not let it go to waste, but we knew that would require a daily disposition of our hearts to abide in Christ and be filled with His joy.

Every morning I made it my practice to not leave my small room until I was happy in the Lord and filled up by His Spirit through prayer and Bible reading.  Every morning wasn’t memorable.  However, each morning became very meaningful.  One morning about half-way through my 6-month deployment, I was half way out my door into the desert heat when I felt strongly in my spirit that God wasn’t done meeting with me.  My heart accepted God’s invitation, and I stepped back into my room and got on my knees to pray.

Not knowing quite where to begin in my prayer or what God had in store, I just wanted to be obedient. After a few moments, I began to share with God how ready I was to introduce someone to Jesus.  God knew that was in my heart, but I didn’t know it until that moment.  I was trying to be patient, but God wanted to hear about my desperation.  It had been 3 months and I hadn’t yet had the privilege of seeing an Airman give their heart to Christ even though I had been faithfully teaching, preaching, and visiting.  My theological tradition celebrates God’s gracious and proactive work in salvation, and it has freed me to share the gospel without feeling the burden of other’s unbelief.

However, I had become entitled in this freedom and neglected to ask God with boldness to use me in His salvation work.  That morning when invited by God to linger a little longer with Him, I prayed what I should have been praying all along.  I asked God to do a miracle in someone’s heart and let me be a part of it. 

I left my room that morning deeply encouraged and ready for the day.  As the day moved along, my memory of that morning began to fade.  I was busy and there was much to do for many.  In the late afternoon, I was working in the chapel office when two airmen entered.  I recognized the supervisor, and he introduced me to an older sergeant named Dan.  Dan has given me permission to share what happened next.  

In my office, Dan shared his story, and I listened.  He had been deployed many times before and had always been able to deal with the stress and trauma of it all.  However, this deployment was different.  He wasn’t in as much danger as he had always been before, and yet he no longer had the capacity to deal with the stress.  He was confused and scared, and death seemed to him an appropriate escape.  

A day or two before we met, our base mental health team was able to intervene and had determined that it would be best for him to return home and begin treatment.  Feeling his pain and prayerful about how I could help, I asked Dan to share why he had desired to come and speak to a chaplain.  Dan shared that he wasn’t a Christian but for several months had felt drawn to the chapel, but he had resisted the urge to attend a service or speak to a chaplain.  He then shared that in the morning the urge had become too great to resist any longer, and that is why he had come.  He wasn’t sure why, but he knew it was what needed to happen today.  With growing excitement, I asked Dan if he was interested in hearing about Jesus, and thankfully he said yes!  

For the next several hours, Dan and I sat in my office and I white-boarded the story of God and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we talked, Dan became more and more interested and excited in the gracious work of Jesus.  He saw the good news in the Gospel, and he was drawn to it by the grace of God.  I was witnessing a miracle.  It was like seeing what Luke described when Paul received his sight.  Dan’s body-language and demeanor demonstrated what was happening within his heart.  It was like seeing scales fall from his eyes (Acts 9:18).  My prayer from the morning was being answered.  I was seeing a dead soul come to life.  Together we counted the cost of following Jesus, and Dan decided to give his whole life to the Lordship of Christ.  God did a miracle.  He took a man despairing of physical life and gave him eternal life.

As I have shared and reflected upon this day over the last several months, I can only praise the Lord for His faithful and steadfast love.  He didn’t need me to save Dan.  He could have used another chaplain or believer hanging out in the chaplain corps office.  However, I am so thankful He did use me.  He quickened me to pray when I wouldn’t have prayed.  His Spirit enabled me to pray for those things that I normally wouldn’t have had words to pray for.  He brought Dan to the office at just the right time despite his resistance.  God was determined to save Dan, and it was beautiful. 

None of us need to go to the desert to be participants in God’s beautiful redemption plan.  He is going to place opportunities all around us.  No matter where we are, it will be for our joy if we commit to pray in the Spirit for what God desires.  He will place us exactly where He wants us at the right time so we can behold and participate in His beautiful work.

Join me in rejoicing over the salvation of this Airman’s body and soul. Pray for Chaplain Wilton and the 199 other CBAmerica chaplains serving in difficult places around the world. Ask God to prepare them for each day’s duty in His vineyard.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, visit us at http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/. For information on endorsement, email Andy Meverden chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Little Eyes Are Watching

How a Navy Chaplain’s wife supports her husband

By Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, US Navy, 7th Fleet, Yokosuka, Japan 

When her first child was only six months old, Melissa’s husband received orders to the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in the 7th Fleet at Yokosuka, Japan.  After the three of them arrived, it was only two weeks before he had to be flown out to sea.  With their household goods being delivered to their new home on that same day, she stood in the doorway holding their baby as she kissed him goodbye and asked “how can I pray for you?”

Things did not slow down for Melissa and her family the entirety of their tour. They did not get to do all the traveling that they had hoped to do or experience the culture like they imagined they would. When her husband was out, her distance from the US and the opposite time zones even made relying on extended family for support difficult. Between deployments they were blessed to have another little girl and when the baby was only two weeks old, Daddy had to leave again. Her husband would be absent more than he was present for the first year of their new baby’s life. With her husband being deployed for two out of three Christmases, birthdays and anniversaries, this was fertile ground for bitterness to grow but she did not let it.

Melissa had a firm belief that God had called them to this ministry for a purpose. As her husband would communicate the challenges, she would partner with him in prayer and as he would share with her the testimonies of how God had answered, she would join in the celebration.  Of course this was not hidden from God’s eyes but it was also not hidden from the eyes of their little girls. Instead of focusing on the time that he was away, Melissa would celebrate the time that he was present. She would make a big deal about Daddy coming home from work, or Daddy calling on the phone… so, deployment homecomings… were nothing short of epic!

Their now 3-year-old daughter makes up songs about her “so handsome Dad” and sets aside her favorite dress “for when Daddy comes home.” When their now 15-month-old daughter gets sad she points at the iPad and says “DaDa” because looking at pictures of her Dad is her go-to comfort (besides her “Pacie.”) How could their Daddy be their hero when they hardly know him and rarely see him? It’s because of a wife who chooses celebration over bitterness and chooses faith over despair. Children learn to live life through what they observe, and this Dad owes his hero’s status to a wife who treats him like he is one and has convinced his daughters that it is true. – Thank you, Melissa!

Join me in praying for Jonathan and Melissa as they await the soon arrival of baby number three! Include the various families of CBAmerica’s 200 chaplains scattered around the Globe.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  For information on endorsement, email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org


Last-minute Good-byes

Text reply from recently released inmate

By Jerry Levizon, Chaplain to female inmates, Pacific Northwest

This New Year’s Day I woke up early to take Misty to the train station in Klamath Falls Oregon. On Monday December 30, Misty was released from jail after serving 6 months. I began visiting Misty in jail three months prior.

The morning of her release I was there to help with transportation, but what she needed was shoes, socks, and clothes. Did I say I love to shop! Next stop, food stamp office, and Walmart where she purchased a phone.  Last stop was the Gospel Mission for a place to stay. I lured Misty away from her  friends who were also leaving jail that morning with a McDonald’s breakfast…everyone agreed for Misty not to pass on that!

Nevertheless, the next day Misty did not follow through.  We were  supposed to meet up, so I could drive her to the mental health office.  She was a no show.  Misty had a friend named Angie who was also there at Misty’s release; but Angie only wanted help from Misty to get her man out of jail!  

My concern was that Misty had met up with Angie and she was gone for good. Oh well!  My work for the Lord was done, so I thought! That night on New Years’ Eve, I got a text from Misty saying that she just wanted to spend some time with Angie and her friend’s man before leaving the area. Misty’s mom sent her a ticket for home, and Misty still needed a ride to the train station on New Year’s Day at 8 a.m. “No worries.” I texted.  I could do that!

That night I prayed that Misty would be ok, and for the Lord to protect her from the Evil One who wanted her back in his grip. This morning I was up before my alarm and read a text from Misty. She was at a Motel 6 and needed a ride to her friend’s place to pick up her stuff and then the Mission for her meds before getting on the train.

I was up, dressed and out of the house before sunup, and wondered what Misty had gotten herself into. She was at the Motel 6 with a gal I had never met. “What’s up?” I asked and Misty said that Angie and her man began to party, and Misty wanted no part of it.  So she called another friend she met in jail who was also struggling to stay sober, and together they rented a room.  A Hallelujah! Moment!

I gave Misty’s friend, who she spent the night with, a ride home, then  picked up Misty’s stuff from Angie and the Mission. Making it just in time for her train ride home. Misty thanked me. We hugged and I said that I was proud of her choices. I told Misty that God puts people in our life for a reason, but you must make the choice to change; how God wants to help you. “He is not going to force you Misty!” I said. “He designed you for a purpose and it wasn’t to live in the streets and wander aimlessly as you have done.” I went on to say God will love you more than anyone on this earth ever could! More than your father who won’t love you.

The only way to know him, it’s to read his Word, keep praying and watch for wholesome, like-minded people he puts into your life. While on the train, Misty texted me her mom’s phone number and we vowed to stay in touch.

Join Jerry in praying for Misty; that she would follow Jesus, Misty’s Savior.  While at it, pray for CBAmerica’s 13 other chaplains serving at the Federal, State and Local level.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica’s 200 chaplains, civilian and military go to www.cbamerica.org/chalaincy. For information on endorsement for chaplaincy, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.