When Heaven Comes Down

thCAHBXI47A report from Chaplain David Kuntz illustrates the Kingdom impact of his ministry and the ministry of the other 37 CB hospital and hospice chaplains across America.

From David’s report:

“Heaven can be sometimes present and future. As I walk along life’s pathway with Emanuel – God with us, I am reminded that I am already in touch with the essence of Heaven. God is with me, in me and all around me. Each day in the hospital I am blessed with hints of Heaven in my ministry.

This past week I was able to meditate on this glorious truth. I witnessed a mother and father’s prayer for their daughter and her child.

Here is the story: A single mother was told her unborn child had a serious heart defect. This specific diagnosis would require three major open heart surgeries. The children who make it through the heart surgeries and long hospital stays have a short life expectancy. In this case the mother of the child had three specific tests done that confirmed her child had a bad heart defect.

The mom delivered and the baby was med-flighted to us. When the baby arrived in our hospital, we did a test to see the heart defect and it was gone! The cardiologists were stunned. The mother told me that her parents were Christians, but she was not. She said she had not prayed much until she was given the bad news about her son.

She relayed to me that she had many prayer chains going for her son. To her regret, she told me she did not believe in God, but now she does and she wants to follow HIM. I asked her what she named her son and she told me Luke because he was a real heart doctor.

This week Heaven came down in the middle of the room as this mom returned back to her loving Father.”

Warrior-Chaplain Retires

West.Retire2Though June 15 was his “last day on the job” as senior pastor of the USA Army White Sands Missile Range New Mexico Protestant Chapel, Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Brad West, and his wife, Susan have their sights set on “what’s next?”

I had the joy of taking the West Family out to dinner, the evening before Brad’s retirement ceremony on June 4, with their daughter, Natalie, her husband and son.  I listened to stories of family travels, the challenges of separations due to Brad’s several deployments, plus discussion of hopes and excitement of the future.  It was a fun time of “pre-celebrating” the ending of a fruitful 23-year military career, and launch into next phase of life and ministry.  The love and levity of the mealtime gathering spoke volumes of the flexibility and commitment this family had to one another and to their chaplain husband, father and grandfather.

The next day, I drove 60 miles due west of Ft. Bliss, Texas to the 500-seat chapel where Chaplain Brad and Susan had ministered the past two-plus years.  I arrived early enough to present them with a framed painting of the Lamb of God set in the frame of the Cross.  On the reverse side was a Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation presented by the Board of CBAmerica for their many years of faithful and fruitful ministry service.  (See photo).

Then I found myself a seat near the rear of the chapel, as I had to leave before the end of ceremony to catch my plane home. (White Sands is not the end of the world, but you can see it from there!).  People began to arrive for the 3:30pm ceremony.  Among the first were the Commanding General and Command Sergeant Major of the Installation.  Normally, the “Garrison Commander” (a colonel) conducts such ceremonies, and when unable, the next in command steps in.  But not this time.  Today, another active member of the Protestant Chapel would officially “retire” Chaplain West, the Commanding General, himself.

While I waited, I would soon learn why.  People of all types began to filter in, Soldiers in uniform, some with their families, found their seats in what looked like their usual Sunday seats.  Civilians, workers and supervisors, recognized by their dress came in with teenagers, children, and a few infants and toddlers.  It struck me that it looked much like a civilian church, with people of all ages and stages of life.

One man came up to greet me, he must have been a chapel usher, and when he didn’t recognize me, I explained that I was Chaplain Brad’s endorsing agent (director of chaplaincy) for CBAmerica.  When I said that, he moved me to the side.  He looked me in the eyes and said, “I want you and your denomination to know something; Chaplain Brad saved my marriage.”  With teary eyes he briefly shared how early on Chaplain Brad detected a problem and challenged him to “man up” and be the head of his family.

Walking off, another person greeted me and asked if I knew how and why Chaplain West was assigned to the White Sands chapel.  Shaking my head, he explained that he had been serving on Ft. Bliss, and hour east, when the Army chaplain assigned to White Sands died by suicide.  My mental file searched back to a story about an Army chaplain who died by his own hand, and I realized it was Brad’s predecessor.  Army leadership were aware of the devastating impact on the chapel congregation, and looked for the right shepherd to come and gather and heal the stricken flock of believers.  Though not an assignment many would anticipate, Chaplain Brad West was the shepherd needed.

I sat down.  The ceremony began, the National Anthem played, and the incoming chaplain prayed, before the Commanding General (from memory) rehearsed Brad and Susan’s entire military career.  A believer himself, he quoted Scripture, and referenced his time under the preaching and pastoral care of one of the “Army’s finest chaplains.”  Following this 25 minute tribute, the chapel was called to attention, and Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Bradley A. West was awarded the Legion of Merit for his outstanding decades of military service, including the rebuilding of the White Sands Protestant Chapel.

I slipped out and raced back over the white sands to the El Paso airport.  Boarding my plane, I belted in and pondered what I had just seen and heard.  I thanked God for allowing CBAmerica to endorse and field effective, godly chaplains like Brad West; and prayed that he and Susan would find new opportunities for ministry in the Northwest CB Region where they plan to settle near Bend, Oregon.

I encourage readers to send congratulatory emails to Brad and Susan at Bradley.allen.west1@gmail.com.  NWCB Churches interested in utilizing Chaplain West’s family life, counseling and pastoral skills are encouraged to contact him directly after July.

Report submitted by Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy, CBAmerica.

Matters of Life and Death

thCAD8B2WOBy Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy

Chaplain, First Lieutenant (Promotable) Matt Laun, of the New York Army National Guard is stationed at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base.  His mid-year ministry report caught my eye.

“It has been a difficult year for the 2/101 CAV (Air “Cavalry” Unit with helicopters). In February 2015 we lost a young Soldier to suicide. In March we lost a Soldier who fell asleep at the wheel while driving in to drill. In May we lost a young Soldier due to a motorcycle accident. Yet, in all of these events, God has provided abundant opportunities to support Soldier’s families, grow closer to our Squadron’s Soldiers, and share the love of Christ.

Two of the Soldiers and their families are professed Christians which presented the opportunity to share the gospel with hundreds of Soldiers during counseling, funerals, and ceremonies. Everything has a cause. Many times the cause is our own poor decision-making, but our God has the amazing ability to give glorious purpose to all things!!”

Each ministry report form asks chaplains to identify at least one blessing.  Matt continues: “God has continued to present opportunities to be involved with community events as a Chaplain representing the Military. This includes Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Ministries, The National Day of Prayer, Grace Race Buffalo, memorial dedication ceremonies, and tomorrow 6/6/2015 I will have the honor of giving the invocation for a flag pole ceremony at a park in Niagara Falls, New York.”

I love Matt’s youthful enthusiasm.  He sees the problems facing the younger generation of Guard Soldiers, so he crafted a new ministry program: “In January 2015 I initiated a new Religious Education program. The initial stage of the training includes basic critical thinking. Please pray for this program as God develops critical thinking skills and opens doors for [spiritual] conversation with our young Soldiers.”

Pray for the Holy Spirit to sustain and guide Matt and the other 94 active and reserve CBAmerica military chaplains distributed across the US, in four overseas locations, and on ships cruising in hostile waters, as they deal with matters of life and death.

Contact Andy Meverden, CBAmerica’s Director of Chaplaincy, for information on what it takes to minister in specialized military and civilian settings; fulltime, part-time and volunteer. Email: chapandy@cbamerica.org

From Prison with Praise!

prisonBy Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy

Chaplain Evan Spencer’s career began in the active Air Force and meandered through the Air Force Reserve, as he entered the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  He’ll be the first to tell you it hasn’t been easy, but all along the journey he used his musical gifts to elicit praise from those he served.

His last report (January to June, 2015) recorded innumerable one-on-one visits, extensive pastoral counseling with Christian inmates, Bible Studies and coaching his inside group of “chapel volunteers.”  Chaplain Spencer dedicated a significant amount of time to discipleship of those inmates serious about the Christian faith.  As a result, he led two offenders to Christ and baptized five into His Name!

Evan lifts the curtain of ministry in his report.  Part of his great joy was that he “encouraged offender ‘TB’ over a period of time last year to start attending services.  He has since given his heart to the Lord and is a regular in the chapel ministry.”  In another situation he “ministered to ‘LL’ in counseling.  He was a Pagan who was into worshipping and serving the devil for most of his life.”  He said the way that Evan explained the Gospel caused him to think.  He has subsequently dedicated his heart to the Lord, and has recently been baptized.

Join me and the angels in Heaven in rejoicing over these “lost sheep” who have been “found” in the Federal Prison.  Pray for Evan and ten other CBAmerica chaplains currently serving in Federal, State, and Military prison facilities.  Thank God for the “quiet” spiritual revolution that is taking place in the hearts of many of those incarcerated with nothing but time on their hands.  Pray for our chaplains to wisely and effectively coach and utilize volunteers from outside and inside the high walls of prison, so that the Truth of the Gospel will be clearly heard, hearts penetrated and souls saved through Jesus Christ.  (Read Matthew 26:31-46 for Jesus’ words on the importance of prison ministry.)

If you sense God’s Spirit leading you into prison ministry, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy for advice on how to pursue this specialized chaplaincy ministry.  Email: chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Corban alumnus ministers in unique capacity

Ian%20Howarth%20700pxMen and women in the Army National Guard too often face civilian obstacles that challenge them personally, physically and spiritually.

They struggle with marital and financial challenges, as parents, in civilian jobs and more, all which affect military readiness. In 2010, Ian Howarth, ADP ’09, made a decision to help these soldiers and airmen through serving God and his country as a military chaplain.

He is now a captain in the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing at Gowen Field just outside of Boise. Although he joined the Oregon Army National Guard in 2010, it was a decision he and his wife, Allyson, had talked about since 2004.

“I was a youth leader and met a pastor going through the chaplaincy,” he said. “It struck me how much of an impact a chaplain has on the soldiers and airmen we serve.” Although Howarth started his adult life with a desire to become a teacher, and did so for several years, he said he also had a strong desire to work in ministry.

Howarth’s long-time friend, military retiree and fellow Corban alumnus Steve Fink, ADP ’09, had many open and honest conversations with him about military life and the role of chaplains within it.

“He’s really taken on that chaplaincy role,” Fink said. “He has the ability to deal with stressful, personal situations and putting people at ease.”

Being a chaplain isn’t all the media makes it out to be, Howarth said. One example he gave is the misconception that Christian chaplains can’t pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

“It’s a weird dynamic,” he said. “You work for the federal government and you are in the military, but you represent your faith. I’ve never been in a position where I have to compromise my faith to keep my job.” He is endorsed by the Conservative Baptists Association (CBA) and said the military allows him to follow the organization’s tenants when serving military members.

However, Howarth also noted that the role of a chaplain isn’t centered on evangelism, but relationships. He builds camaraderie with those around him and uses his personal experiences to help them through many different challenges.

“I haven’t lost sight of where they come from,” he said. “I may not have the same military experience as they do, but I know what it is like to be a civilian. I know what it means to live paycheck to paycheck. I recognize the turmoil that happens in their marriages and with their kids and I am someone they can confide in.” Fink said soldiers are attracted to Howarth’s character and personality.

“He’s down to earth,” Fink said. “He’s got a phenomenal sense of humor. His heart is for kids and families. He is someone you can hang out with and feel comfortable to speak to. He listens and can put himself in places where the troops need him to be.”

Although he loves his role and believes there are Corban School of Ministry students who would make good military chaplains, he said there are important considerations. One, military chaplains need to be able to work with people from all faith groups including Catholics, Orthodox, Latter Day Saints, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and others. He also said that while Christian chaplains aren’t required to pray the rosary or offer Muslim prayers, they must be willing to help a soldier find someone who can meet their religious needs.

“It’s all about building relationships,” Howarth said. “My mission is to serve airmen and soldiers. There really is no other ministry like it.”

Read Article Here

Unintended Consequences

Gkordon Ruddick

By Chaplain Gordon Ruddick

Yesterday I spent some of my time on my designated floors thanking nurses for what they do so well with patients and families. As a chaplain I often work closely with them and definitely depend on them for referrals and input regarding who to see and what is needed from their point of view.

As I offered this to one of the young nurses she returned the favor. Her question to me was one I thought of for a minute before answering. She said, “Do you know how much you do is appreciated as well?” I told her I was aware of some of the times when the work of a chaplain is really what was needed. She went on to tell me her story, which I did not know and which touched my deeply.

She said she remembers the night not all that long ago when she was a new nurse working on this cardiac care floor. She felt like she had been “thrown to the wolves” that night. She had a patient who was not doing well. The doctor had come in and told the family he did not think the patient would survive the night. She herself felt overwhelmed. What to do? Were they open to a visit from the chaplain? Yes. It was the middle of the night. My call night. I received the page and called the number. The nurse answered and explained the situation. Would I be able to come and support this family in crisis? Of course I would. And of course I did.

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember that specific situation. There have been so many that they sometimes blur a bit. The nurse said I came in and spent some time with the family and prayed with them. She said she was listening outside the partially open door. That night, as I often do, I sang a song for them. She said it was “Amazing Grace.” As she heard those familiar words she pretty much melted into the wall and just received that old, simple, yet profound message and hope. And that got her through the night. The patient did not die, she reported to me, and in fact lived to leave the hospital. The family was pleased. The nurse was refreshed. She said whenever she hears “Amazing Grace” she thinks back to that lonely, hard night. And she is thankful.

My role as a hospital chaplain is complex in many ways. Sometimes my ministry is through words. Hopefully those things shared help address the spiritual pain that is present. At all times I am there to represent a loving, caring God to those who are not having one of their better days! As I get to share that amazing grace of God in what I say (or sing!) and in who I am, it seems others are touched by that grace as well. Unintended by me. But not by God. And that’s what often makes this ministry amazing and humbling at the same time.

And so this is an addendum to my chaplain report. It doesn’t easily fit into an existing category. But then much of what I do doesn’t. It doesn’t record a decision or a rededication or a baptism or a Bible Study. Where do I record this? Maybe we need a new category: “Middle of the night mysterious ministry, unintended consequences!”

 

A Chaplain’s Blessings Through the Rough Times

hospitalbuttonWords fail me as I reflect upon the privilege of working in some small way with the Lord through the CBA Ministry to share God’s heart towards us with others. Over the years, comments from many staff, patients and families have shared with me about how they experienced His presence, care and salvation in their time of trauma, even the dying, while I was with them. I was comforted and often encouraged by their responses to my ministry.

Numbers are necessary for reports but gratefully for our calling, yours and mine and the others, we are about the individual stories of God reaching out to individuals in need through our presence in their lives. I am remembering in my residency that so many people died after I prayed with them that it scared me until a priest told me my words helped them go to the Lord. I remember quietly saying to one man close to death to say “Lord I’m sorry, remember me” as the thief on the cross came to my mind.

Another time after being up 16 hours and wanting to retire for some sleep I became restless that things were not settled in the hospital so I got up and started walking around, actually I got lost, but I came across on one of the floors an elevator that took me to a young teenage girl sitting in the semi dark with her little baby.  She was waiting for someone to come and help her, like the lost lamb. Then I slept.

And I remember a teenager in the mental health institution I was at for about three years who helped me serve communion at his going home service. He and other teenagers put on an Easter event for the entire children’s building, something that had never been done before there. His family was astounded at his change since he had been placed there from the age of 10 years, but God touched him and his life like the possessed boy in scripture.

I remember a young woman who wanted prayer before her surgery in the middle of the night and so I came. Hours later as I was about to leave she shared what was really on her heart,  that she thought God was taking her legs because she had not kept her promise to stop smoking. By the time she was discharged she beat everybody in wheelchair races in the hospital hall, and her faith in God gave her hope that she shared with others.

Then there was the talk with a young girl who wondered why she had been adopted. This was my first experience with the idea that God’s blessings come in ordinary, unusual, sometimes distressing packaging, for I said to her the people that are not in our lives are as much a blessing as those that are, as we in faith trust God’s love and goodness for us.

Vietnam Marine RECON 50th Anniversary Memorial

Vietnam

Photo is of the Vietnam Marine RECON 50th Anniversary Memorial

 

By Chaplain Jon Uyboco  

This past April, over 200 Vietnam Veterans gathered at Camp Pendleton to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the involvement of Reconnaissance Marines in Vietnam. It was a bittersweet time for many of these men as they were able to reconnect with old friends, but were also reminded of their brothers-in-arms who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

One of the highlights of the reunion was a Memorial Service that was held for all Reconnaissance Marines who have been Killed In Action since the Vietnam Conflict. It was a moving ceremony that focused on honoring the memory and sacrifice of these great men.

As the chaplain of this service, I was humbled to be in the company of so many heroes. As I was shaking hands with people following the service, nearly everyone commented on how meaningful it was for them to set aside some time to remember their friends. I pray that they found comfort in this remembrance and that the Lord used that time for His purposes in each of their lives.

The service ended with these words, “May we take heart in these solemn moments, for each of us will one day be brought to the grave. May our trust be in Him who said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.'”

 

On the Spot

As submitted by Chaplain Andy Meverden to the May 2015 issue of Military Officer

Through his quick thinking – and his knowledge of military lore – a chaplain in the Army National Guard is able to keep a Vietnam veteran’s burial honors on track.

At the height of the war on terrorism, most military funeral honors for Army veterans were performed by the National Guard. As a Colorado Army National Guard chaplain, I often served as detail leader, folding and presenting the flag to the next of kin.

One day I arrived, per regulation, an hour before the inurnment of a Vietnam veteran. The funeral director pointed out the site of the columbarium and shared specific details of this ceremony. The decedent, a Denver native, had only one surviving brother, who was homeless and mentally ill. The funeral home had helped the brother prepare for the service with a shave, a haircut, and a new suit.

Our three-person team met at the columbarium, did our typical recon of the site, rehearsed the ceremony – including the start of taps (to verify the electronic bugle’s function) – and then stood ready as the small procession approached.

Another soldier and I retrieved the flag and urn from the lead vehicle, then led the small group to the veteran’s final resting place. Following the pastor’s remarks and prayer, we came to attention, saluted the flag in slow, ceremonial fashion, and waited for taps to play on the “e-bugle.”

Our “bugler” triggered the play button and raised the bugle to his lips. The first three slow, solemn notes played – then abruptly stopped! My eyes widened as I realized that despite our previous test, the bugle’s battery had failed.

There was no time to change batteries, so picking up where the bugle had stopped, I sang, “gone the sun/From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky/All is well, safely rest/God is nigh.”

Three seconds later, I lowered my salute. We stepped up and retrieved, unfolded, and refolded the flag. I turned to the brother and knelt to place the flag into his lap, saying, “This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for the faithful and honorable service rendered by your brother.” Standing up, I offered a final slow salute, then bent down to offer my personal condolences.

With tears in his eyes, he grabbed my hand and said, “Thank you.” As I turned away, he stroked the flag tenderly.

Back at the parking area, the other two soldiers and I completed our after-action review. We all agreed on the importance of fresh batteries – and that memorizing the lyrics to taps wasn’t a bad idea!

Witnessing Changes in a Marine

 

thCAK7HPGSA CBAmerica Chaplain is motivated by the response of a Marine and how good our God is! As he explains:

“A Marine came to talk to me about a myriad of problems in his life. At one point he mentioned that he did not believe the Bible, but he felt as though Jesus wanted him to read it.

We talked about some of the reasons why he didn’t believe that the Bible was accurate, and I encouraged him to read at least one book to see if he still had any objections. He read one book, and he came back to me the next week a changed man!

He has not yet committed his life to Christ, but he is well on his way… it has been such an awesome thing to watch, and a great reminder about the power of God. This Marine is a completely different person- he has finished reading all of the gospels now (just two weeks later), and he is still going strong. He now believes that the Bible is true, and he has such a renewed sense of life!

Pray that God will continue to work in his life, call him to Himself, and give him the peace that he has been searching for. As for me, I am so excited to get to witness God’s work first hand!”