My Brother’s Faith: Understanding the Beliefs of Others Without Compromising Your Own

A Book Review, By Chaplain (Captain) Andrew E. Calvert, US Army

Fisher, Carlton. My Brother’s Faith: Understanding the Beliefs of Others Without Compromising Your Own. Wetumpka, AL: Peace Fish, 2014.  308 pages.

The drive to love and its opposite—fear—is predominant in Carlton Fisher’s approach to understanding the others’ religious worldview. In his book, My Brother’s Faith, he emphasizes that love for the other drives out the fear of the unknown. The one who is adept at loving improves personal resilience and understands the other’s spiritual practices without compromising personal beliefs.  Environment and heredity shape a worldview.  A spiritually mature person is able to find satisfaction in relationships, purpose in life, and comprehension of his own worldview.  Fisher’s volume is summarized in eleven words: Understanding a different worldview requires a clear comprehension of your own.

Fisher instructs the reader to understand the context of his spiritual health by posing the following questions: Where and when are you from?  Who and what do you come from?  How do you fit in that source?  The answers to these questions establish a three-continuum scale operating simultaneously: 1) the stages of spiritual growth, 2) the stages of love, and 3) the level of certainty versus mystery in religious practice.  Using an introspective understanding of these scales, Fisher constructs a framework to approach the beliefs of others and an approach to disparate people as a whole.  Finally, the author pulls the various strings of thought together to make sense of the spiritual journey.

Spiritual maturity, the first scale, is lofty and takes time. Much like other cycles of life, spirituality exists in loosely defined stages: disorder, duty, doubting, and discovery. Disorder is the infantile stage of seeking happiness or entertainment over meaning.  Through maturation, spirituality transitions to duty attempting to apply meaning to ritual practices. Some people transition from duty to doubting; doubting allows for the ‘why’ questions.  The doubting stage is difficult and leads to three ends: a return to duty, an abandonment of faith practice, or to a level of greater maturity—discovery.  Discovery is still a search, yet the goal is to learn, and the fear of the unknown is less important.  A person can move in and out of these stages over a lifetime.  He may practice in duty and then doubt and after may draw on discovery throughout the course of a day or in a matter of a few minutes.

The stages of love are similar to spiritual growth. Fisher, drawing on Bernard of Clairvaux, describes the growing ability to love in four ways: 1) love self for self’s sake, 2) love God for self’s sake, 3) love God for God’s sake, and 4) love self for God’s sake. The lens of love changes as we see others and ourselves the way God views us.  Hard work and time are necessary to strengthen the ability to love and move away from fear—or at least not to allow fear to have control.

Fisher’s third scale calls a religious practitioner to own his own faith. It is this scale that largely shapes a religious worldview.  Although a group of people may commit to a similar faith, each approaches the door of his faith with unique feelings, thoughts, and nuances.  For some, faith has little to do with certainty, rather faith is embracing wonder and mystery.  Others would say a handful of ideas are certainty in religious faith, but the existentialism of wonder and mystery are more important.  While some have much more certainty in faith and do not spend much emotional energy wondering about supernatural mystery.  The final group would leave little room for mystery saying that real faith and real knowledge go hand-in-hand.

After the faith practitioner identifies his level of certainty versus mystery, adherents to various religious faiths fit somewhere on a nuanced scale identifiable by four signpost markers, which is Fisher’s approach to the beliefs of others. ’My worldview is the only way’ represents the view of others outside the realm of another’s faith as error.  ‘My worldview is closest to the truth’ embodies those who concede that people with another worldview may know enough truth to experience God’s grace.  ‘My worldview is more enlightened’ characterizes people who do not generally make absolute truth claims and who possess a high tolerance for another worldview.  Lastly, ‘all worldviews are relative’ represents those who reject exclusive religious truth claims and validate any worldview as long as it does not hurt others.

The matter of respecting others, Fisher’s approach to people, is often more connected to an individual’s spiritual and emotional maturity than his worldview. Someone may adhere to an exclusive faith, yet still be an inclusive person.  We do not have to respect beliefs that we do not agree with to respect the person who holds such beliefs.  It is quite another matter to hate the dogmatics and the person.  Fisher argues judging others solely on ideology risks being offensive to those who hold such beliefs and hampers the process of building relationships.  When self-assessing solely on systematic theologies, religious practitioners miss opportunities for deeper self-development and frustrate potential personal growth. If the agenda for peace is to make others homogenous with one belief system, then the pursuit of peace will fail.  It is not necessary to have the same worldview to get along, but it is necessary to seek understanding.  Fisher advocates the liberal use of stereotypes acknowledging the use as normal human behavior.  He urges the development of an abundance of stereotypes allowing the interpretive individual to draw on a large breadth of categories to generate sympathy.  Fisher simply states, “We are complex.”

Finally, Fisher applies his exhortation to responsible religious practice in the process of forgiveness leading to reconciliation. If reconciliation is to take place, one has to start with the other’s perception.  If the wall is to be torn down, the spiritually mature and aware person begins by removing a brick from his side of the wall.  When people on the other side see a brick or two removed, perhaps they will begin to remove the bricks from their side.  As the wall is lowered, all may be able to look across the divide and see each other as they really are.

Fisher’s work is well thought out providing an honest framework for interacting and seeking understanding among various religious worldviews. In fact, a careful study of this work is an extremely helpful catalyst in understanding a variety of conflicting worldviews.  Consider the debates around Church and State or the ideological conflicts between Republicans and Democrats.  What if participants applied Fisher’s principles to the historical conflicts among whites and blacks, Catholics and Protestants, or Christianity and Islam?  Our nation needs the help of mature, seasoned religious leaders.  Chaplains are trained and poised to provide leadership in peace-making and peace-building.  Chaplains can stand against fear and exemplify the love of God and love of man.  Carlton Fisher’s book, My Brother’s Faith, is indispensable for the professional growth of every chaplain.


Ch (Capt.) Andrew E. Calvert is a ten-year veteran of the United States Army. He is a 2008 graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas, with a Masters of Theology and a 2002 graduate of Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas, with a Bachelor of Arts in Interpersonal Communications. Chaplain Calvert is endorsed by CBAmerica.


GIVE AND TAKE: How a Patient Visit Refreshed a Chaplain’s Soul

By Chaplain Gordon Ruddick

The first patient I saw yesterday was not someone I could do anything for. He had died just a few minutes prior to the start of my shift. Since I was in the office and this was one of my patients I was notified of the death. I made my way up to the room at the other end of the hospital.

It had been a sudden death. Not unexpected, but it had slipped in while the son was out of the room and quickly taken this man. I met his young-adult daughter who was sitting on the couch gently crying.

I did what I could to provide support for the daughter and then the son after he reentered the room. The visit was short, the time was spent sharing what they needed to know, and then I was gone as I sensed their need to be alone with dad.

Another day of giving had begun. Now I am not complaining at all. I love my job and the opportunities it gives me to be a loving, caring presence with people who really need that. And so often I am thankful almost beyond words for the opportunities that come my way. I get more than I ever give. But giving is needed.

It had not been a hard day. Sometimes, once in a while, they are. Today had been a day with a lot of variety, which is also why I like being a chaplain. It seems that sometimes I am supposed to receive a bit that I don’t see coming.

I guess this was one of those days.

The last patient I saw yesterday was someone I almost decided not to even try to see. I noticed an order to see her for “anxiety.” She was listed as “no preference,” which is the largest denomination in our part of the country. She also lives in a foster home and has a schizoaffective disorder, meaning that sometimes that can be a real challenge. And sometimes not. I went in.

She was trying to rest. That’s why I had hesitated. Not because of who she was or what I might find.  I saw the sleeping mask just being pulled over her eyes. I understand when people need to rest. But this time I felt I needed to make an exception. I introduced myself. When I said I was a chaplain she was very receptive. And then I noticed what she was listening to. She had her tablet turned on and was listening to contemporary worship songs, most of which I knew.

We sat for a while softly talking on occasion about where she lives and so forth. She told me about her church connection. I actually know some of “her people” and so that was pleasant. Mostly we sat hand in hand and sang some worship music about loving and wanting God’s presence no matter what is going on in our lives. I could sense some of the troubles in her life, some of the loneliness and sorrow, the desire for love and acceptance, the anxiety she sometimes feels. And I could identify with many of those at times in my live as well. We sang about how great our God is. That one is actually one of my favorite songs! We sang about receiving help right in the midst of hard times.

The pager beckoned and my visit needed to be shortened a bit. Worship time was about over. I offered to pray for her and she received that with gladness. She thanked me for coming. I quietly said to her, “No, thank you. Do you know that this has been the best part of my entire day? You have blessed me more than you could know. Thank you!”

“You mean I blessed the preacher?” she said with a look of surprise. I assured her that was true more than she knew.  The “choir of two” was just what I needed to end my day, whether or not I knew it.  How great is our God, and what a privilege I have to live and sing that truth.

Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, adds:

Chaplain Ruddick, a seasoned hospital chaplain, cardiac patient, and lover of muscle cars, is gifted with a warm heart, listening ears, and beautiful singing voice; all of which he brings to each hospital visit. He has learned to rely on a developed sense of observation, guided by God’s Spirit to discern each patient’s need.  Seeking first to bless, he often comes away with unexpected blessing.

Gordon is one of over 40 CBAmerica chaplains ministering in the healthcare setting. For more stories of ministry experiences, go to For information on pursuing endorsement for chaplaincy, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at

Commissioning of the USS Colorado Invocation and Benediction by Chaplain Andrew Meverden

CBAmerica’s Director of Chaplaincy Andrew Meverden at the Commissioning of the USS Colorado a $2.6 billion Virginia class fast attack submarine at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, CT.

Chaplain Meverden is introduced at 7 minutes and delivers the Invocation at around 15 minutes and the Benediction at 1:12:00.

Click here for a good article with photographs of the USS Colorado.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Seeming Impossible Situation

By Chaplain John Hatfield, Rhode Island Army National Guard

Last quarter, I had a special need during our Annual Briefings that was met by a gracious God. I was asked at the last minute to give the suicide prevention brief for the Battalion. In addition to this tasking, I had to perform a wedding that afternoon.

In order to accommodate my schedule, the unit rescheduled all of the briefings for that day. In addition to these details, it was my last drill with this particular unit and I happened to be joined by the incoming Chaplain. Just as I was stepping up to the podium to give the brief, I was notified that there was a soldier in crisis down the hall.

For a moment I froze – what was I going to do? There were about 200 soldiers waiting to hear the brief, the unit had rescheduled the day on my account, I had a wedding to perform … but I had to minister to the soldier. I had a special need at this moment that I had not planned for.

Just then, I realized my need was already met by the LORD. His caring hand moved everything into place. Remarkably, not only was it providential that the incoming Chaplain was with us that day, but in addition, he informed me that he had just finished training on the brief and would be happy to give it.

My need had been supplied and by God’s grace, I was able to minister to the soldier in crisis. In this also the LORD supplied. He gave me just the right words to turn him from suicidal thoughts to taking control of his life and taking positive steps to change. While the soldier was not a Christian, I was able to point him to the One who was there for those in need – both small and great. He did not know that I was experiencing this reality at that very moment!

Chaplain Hatfield asks for prayer:

  • That the Lord would bless my labors at home with my children, as well as with my new unit – the 43rd Military Police Brigade, Rhode Island Army National Guard.

For more stories about CBAmerica chaplains, go to  To learn more about what it takes to be endorsed as a reserve military chaplain, contact Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, at

Honoring the Fallen

Honoring the Fallen: Processing Death on Deployment

By Chaplain Sean Callahan, USAR Deployed to Kuwait


On 14 NOV we lost one of our Senior NCOs from the 306th Engineer Company. The death was non-combat related, but the effect of his passing was felt widely throughout the ranks. He was a full-time Soldier (AGR*) in the unit for almost 6 years, and had a huge hand in preparing them for deployment.

The death of a Soldier launched us into a flurry of battle drills, and as the Chaplain, I found myself running point on many of the actions. For those in the military, the Memorial Ceremony is a sacred event. It is essential to properly honoring the Fallen, and allowing the unit to grieve and move forward. As a result, the demands of the Command are extremely high, and all eyes are on the Chaplain because it falls within his realm of expertise. This was no exception, especially because this Soldier was the first (and only) loss we experienced during our deployment.

During the process, God was incredibly gracious. He brought a lot of key staff members together who could handle the tasks that I assigned them with ease, and often went above and beyond in order to solve the many issues that inevitably crop up. Thankfully, Andy** had connected me with a fellow CBA Chaplain prior to the deployment who sent me a Memorial SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that I was able to use in developing our own unit SOP. With that, the Theater SOP, and lots of prayer, I felt as prepared as I could be while in a position of leadership when the rest of the unit was reeling with disbelief and pain.

Soldiers and leaders alike were open to prayer and conversations during this time. Emotions were raw, questions abounded, and I was able to continually go back to Scripture in an effort to make sense of circumstances and provide true hope and peace to those involved. Memorials may be unwanted duties – because no one wants to experience a loss – but they are truly an honor to be a part of. God opened the doors to some gospel conversations with Soldiers who had never been open to those discussions before. Without a doubt, seeds were planted and I am trusting God to continue watering until they bear fruit.


Please join Chaplain Callahan in prayer for:

  • The Soldiers of the 854th Engineer Battalion as they reintegrate at home
  • Opportunities to share the Gospel
  • The Lord’s wisdom and discernment


For more stories of ministry by CBAmerica chaplains, military and civilian, go to To receive information on endorsement, contact Andy Meverden at



*AGR – “Active Guard and Reserve” (active duty Soldiers assigned to support Reserve and National Guard units)

**Andy – Part of my role as endorser is to support chaplains by providing ministry resources and networking them with other chaplains. In this case, I connected Chaplain Sean Callahan with senior Chaplain Dan Rice who provided current documents and guidance in Theater, prior to this sad event.

RESCUE COMPLETE: Ministry at the Right Time, in the Right Place, in the Right Way

 by Chaplain Gordon Ruddick, Springfield, Oregon

It was getting late in my day. Almost too late to see any other patients. But this one last guy seemed very important. He was a referral from another chaplain.

I had tried once today already, but visitors were in the room. That was definitely not the time to process pain with a patient. It’s often better to try at least the initial process with just the two of us.

This was pretty much my last opportunity for the day. One last shot. I have the next two days off.

So I went back up to the sixth floor again. I waited outside the room for quite a while as staff met his physical needs. As the nurse left and I identified myself she said “He seems to be more calm than he has been. This is a good time for a visit.”

And it was. When I introduced myself to Gary, I saw what I took as a look of relief on his face. Well, maybe mixed in with a bit of concern as well. After all, he didn’t know me or what I was there for. But he admitted needing help. He was confused and just did not know what was going on.

One thing for sure: he was afraid. He mentioned that he and his wife had been pastors many years ago. But now that time was long gone. And so was a lot of his health. And, it seemed, some of his hope was now missing.

Now he just had a lot of questions and concerns. Why couldn’t he think straight? Why did he think about wanting to die? And now he was afraid that God might not love him anymore or be happy with him or…or…he did not know what else. He just knew he was afraid.

I’m imagining he was waiting for a bit of judgment. The “I can’t believe you could be a pastor and not be able to . . .” That didn’t come from me. Instead, we normalized his concerns. Of course we feel fear when we are threatened, facing the unknown in our life, the loss of so many things we are used to. Who wouldn’t? Fear is the first feeling we feel in times of stress. Who am I now? What have I lost? What do I still have?

So, what to do? Stay there? How do we get out of that uncomfortable spot? Instead of focusing on our fears and failures, we centered on our Savior and his sacrifice. As I reminded him of God’s great love which never changes towards us he was able to find peace and calm.

We talked of the instructions of Jesus to a church in the book of Revelation, which gives us two things to do in the midst of trials and tribulations—let go of fear, and hang on to faithfulness. In doing that we focus our thoughts where they ought to be, to a place that helps us weather these storms.

As I often do, I sang him an old song. In fact, this one was from over fifty years ago, entitled “Over the Sunset Mountains.” That song talks about someday softly going to the arms of Jesus, the one who loves us so much. That will be a time when the trials and troubles will be over, the confusion and concern will pass, and the wonderful presence of Jesus will be there forever.

This is the hope, the thing that gets us through the hard days. These days will pass because they are temporary. Good thing. We have placed our hope and dreams in this savior, and someday soon we will see this come to pass.

Now that his focus was again in the right place, his face showed the calm in his heart. His words of gratitude were quick to come. His relief was palpable. Our prayer together was warm and real. What had I given to this man during this visit? Well, I had not given him faith. He already had that.

Later I thought of an old hymn from my childhood that seemed appropriate. It asks the question, “Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?” It’s a good question. But the question is, will it? That’s not just a theoretical concern.

Well, in this case I didn’t have to throw him an anchor. I just helped him tighten up the line on the one he had been attached to for so many years so that he could quit bouncing around so much in the waves! And as that took place he was able to find peace, the kind that “passes understanding.”

Get some rest, my friend.  Jesus won’t ever let you go!


Across our nation, over forty CBAmerica chaplains serve in healthcare chaplaincy (hospital and hospice). They are a comforting presence and reminder of God’s loving care for the injured, sick and dying, and their loved ones.  For more stories of effective ministry in this and other chaplain specialties, go to  For detailed information on educational, training, and clinical requirements for endorsement as a chaplain, email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at

Sabbatical: An Army Chaplain Reflects on the Benefits of Study and Rest

By Chaplain Daniel Werho, US Army, Fort Bragg, NC

Prologue: “C4,” beyond the name of a popular plastic explosive, it also stands for the Army “Chaplain Captain Career Course.” It is designed as a respite following a new chaplain’s initial operational ministry at the battalion level; often including one or more deployments and OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) assignments. More importantly, it’s a time of study, reflection, and preparation for more intense ministry at the next higher “brigade;” and includes training in the supervision of two to five subordinate battalion ministry teams. It’s the starting point of an increasing administration and supervisory role in a military chaplain’s ministry career.

Daniel reflects on this training:

“Sabbatical. The past six months (and especially the past quarter) have been a true blessing. After the initial busy-ness of the first half of career course was complete, the pace finally slowed to the point that we could take advantage of being off the duty rosters, preaching schedules, etc. It was truly refreshing keeping in mind that my wife, Susanna, was finally feeling better with the pregnancy. We were able to take a step back from ministry and reflect on where we are and where we are going. I was able to read several books on preaching, leadership, parenting, and ministry all while being able to attend different churches (instead of leading them for the first time in a while; it truly does give you a different perspective). Now my kitbag* is full of energy, passion, and ideas so I’m itching to get back in the saddle with my new unit. I was finally able to meet and address my new BN this past Thursday (December ’17) and they seem like a great bunch that I’m looking forward to serving with.”

Please pray for:

  • Major Transitions.
  • New location, new unit, and a baby on the way at the end of March.
  • An anticipated stressful next 6 months and beyond.
  • Thankfully we are rested for it.

For more articles of the unique nature of chaplaincy ministry, go to  To find out more about endorsement as a chaplain, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at


*Kitbag is a military term for the repository of a Soldier’s specialty tools. Whereas an infantryman might carry night vision optical devices and weapons, a chaplain carries ministry resources, many also of a high-tech nature.

Pilgrimage in Poland

Pilgrimage in Poland: Where Church and State walk Hand-in-Hand.
By Chaplain Daniel Wilton, Illinois Air National Guard

Prologue: Eleven Illinois Soldiers/Airmen walked 360 kilometers over ten days from Warsaw, Poland to Czestochowa, Poland as participants in the Illinois National Guard State Partnership Program. The walk was the Polish Catholic pilgrimage to the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland where participants could view and pray before the world famous “Black Madonna” icon.

This event was part of the Illinois National Guard State Partnership’s religious leader engagement program. Along with other specialties, the state Guard chaplaincy interfaces with their religious counterparts in their partner nations. In addition to establishing relationships, these events enhance mutual understanding; religiously, culturally, and operationally. CBAmerica endorsed chaplain, Dan Wilton, was selected to participate in this unusual event.

Chaplain Wilton writes:

After eight days of walking in the pilgrimage our group became well acquainted with the sound and sequence of Polish Catholic masses as well as their priest’s prayers and worship songs along the journey. It was all in some ways familiar and yet still very foreign. Even as a Christian, there were times I felt unable to connect with what was happening because of the language and cultural barriers. I could tell our US group longed for English conversations and many of us also longed for a Christian worship service that we could understand and be full participants in.

Each evening, the whole military camp gathered to sing praises, get instructions for the following day, and receive prayers and words of encouragement from the participating chaplains, all of whom besides me were Catholic. I had the opportunity to stand next to chaplains from Poland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia as we took turns reading prayers or saying blessings in our own languages for the weary pilgrims in our group. Throughout these times, the international chaplains and I would encourage each other in broken English or in understanding looks as we did our best to follow the lead of our steadfast Polish priests.

Over the course of the walk, our team of Americans became very indebted to the kindness and care of our German counterparts. They had brought their own medic and physical therapist and were often in our tent caring for our blistered feet or hurting muscles. By day six or seven, I had talked with everyone in our US group about finding a time on Sunday where any who were interested could get together with me for a short Christian worship service in English. Because of our friendship with the Germans I extended the invitation to them as well.

Sunday came and I had no real idea which rest break would work best for our English service. I assumed we would all observe the morning mass as we had all the days previous. We were in the town of Garnek, Poland and thousands of people were starting to gather in the city park for morning mass. It was then that I discovered that my German chaplain friend had a conversation with the other priests and had asked the leaders for our group to receive some accommodation in order to have our own Christian worship service in English. In a generous show of brotherhood and kindness one of the Polish priests told me in English “We are brothers. You have helped us. We can accommodate your service.” My German friend then led me into a side sanctuary of the Church of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary, and with the help of his chaplain religious services kit, I prepared the room for a protestant church service. With a smile, he let me know it would be the first protestant service ever conducted in that Catholic church.

While the Catholic mass was underway in the park, our group of Americans and Germans gathered in the side sanctuary of that church, and we sang some spiritual songs. We prayed. I preached from Psalm 29 and Luke 8:22-25 about God’s power over the storms in our life and the peace we can enjoy when we trust in Jesus. We ended our time with the Lord’s Supper and several stayed for a while to enjoy the quiet contemplation that room afforded us. The English service came at a good time for us all. I know it reinvigorated me to finish the pilgrimage strong, and I hope it had a similar impact upon the others present.

When I was asked to travel to Poland for this pilgrimage I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m a Baptist chaplain that can’t speak a lick of Polish, and I’m a slow walker to boot. But there I was taking step after step across the Polish countryside with Polish and other NATO military members.

I believe each member of our US group was impacted in some way by the generosity and kindness of the Polish people. I also believe we all took notice of how the Polish military exemplifies what a close partnership between church and state can look like.

In Poland, nationalism and religion are not bad words or avoided conversation topics. They are celebrated as a gift from God. I am thankful to have experienced some of their rich heritage of faith and persevering pursuit of freedom. It was special to walk the pilgrimage with other Illinois Guardsmen. I hope our shared experience will make us better Americans for our state, our country, and our God.

Respectfully submitted,

182nd Airlift Wing
Peoria, IL

Postscript: Chaplain Wilton’s experience was unique, to say the least. The US Military often works jointly with other Allied Forces. In those settings, it is common to interact and cooperate in military training and operations. With the current shortage of Catholic priests, US military chaplains will often request support for their Catholic service members, including Mass, Reconciliation, etc.  Participating in a 225-mile road march, is above-and-beyond the norm!

For more stories of chaplain ministry activity, go to To learn more about qualifications for military and civilian chaplaincy, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at

Reflections on Being Present in the Present

8 months in the Middle East

By Chaplain Greg Uvila, US Navy

Christmas is sneaking around the neighborhood – colorful lights encircle the rooftops, palm trees ablaze with white shimmering lights, yes, the most wonderful time of the year is upon us. Just last night we were scouring Amazon for some “necessary” Seahawk paraphernalia – you know, critical presents for the family.  Thinking presents, thinking presence, reflecting on God’s goodness in our midst, divine presence.

I’m fascinated by the idea of presence- full, primary color presence. As a CBA Chaplain, this is what gets me up in the morning, it is what gets my motor going, my synapses firing, this and a cup of “Joe” and I am good to go!  Offering some sense of Divine presence is what gets me up also in the middle of the night – a Marine or Sailor in crisis- the privilege of seizing the opportunity to bring Christ’s presence to the hurting, to those whose hope is flagging, to those whose “hope tank” has been on empty for 63 miles.

Presence for the Displaced – “Of course there is a spot for you on the worship team, more importantly there is always a spot for you at the center of God’s heart.” These basic messages I sought to convey to one of our senior leaders on deployment.  Recently she had been removed from her position at church as a worship leader.  Why?  She was newly divorced.  She was hurting, let down, discouraged, the church and God’s people had disappointed her in a humongous way.  By offering unmitigated presence (I hope) a God bridge was rebuilt to her heart, by which Christ was able to cross over and offer love and acceptance.  By the end of deployment guess who was an integral part of our worship team in Kuwait?

Side bar- this is what is so, so, valuable as a Navy/CBA endorsed Chaplain, we don’t have the trappings of church policy to get untangled from, we enjoy the privilege to wildly offer the grace of God in the grandeur of red, and green and blue.

Presence for the Priest – Everyday almost exactly at 1640 (4:40pm) the priest from one of our coalition partners, in this case Poland, would stick his head inside my office door and say, “Good afternoon Father,” which I in turn would respond, “Good afternoon Father.” When this first took place, shortly after “Father’s arrival,” I thought about correcting him, bringing him in line with my theological views, but then I questioned myself, “Would Jesus really clarify?”  Na, I thought, more important matters matter more to Jesus.  So I received the honor and respect from a fellow priest, a priest from Poland.  Presence empowering acceptance, presence empowering deferral.  The result?  I gained a friend, a comrade, a forever brother.

Presence for my body guard – Brad from Reno. As many of you know Chaplains are non-combatants.  According to the Geneva Conventions (International laws for governing war) Chaplains are considered non-combatants and therefore cannot pack heat, carry a firearm.  However, Chaplain’s Assistants can.  My assistant for my 8+ plus months in Kuwait was Brad from Reno, at least that is where he grew up.  He was actually on loan from the 11th Marine Regiment out of Camp Pendleton.  Five years from now most of my memories about Kuwait will dissipate as quickly as the dust from the many “dust abouts” we experienced throughout deployment.  However, there is one memory that will last forever, an eternal reminder of the tranquility which the presence of the Spirit brings when two people quiet their hearts before our Lord.  How did we do this?  Perhaps 2-3 times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, we would sit down and read author Max Lucado’s “I choose love” a descriptor of what it means to live the Spirit’s presence on a daily basis.  Divine presence offered to my assistant by simply, proactively, inviting him to sit with me and reflect, for a few moments, in God’s direction.

Praying and sitting in silence with Markus – As a Chaplain (Andy knows this all too well), there are many sacred moments we are called on to be there, to be fully alive there, present there, not somewhere else. These moments frequently show-up unannounced, stealth like.  No warning, they just mystically arrive at your doorstep literally and symbolically.  I had some of those while in Kuwait, one of them I will never forget.  I was two hours or so deep in my sleep- dreaming of being back home in the great Northwest with family and friends.  At any rate, my bedroom door boomed alive, the knocks I’m sure could be heard across the camp.  “Chaps, S-1 needs you now, someone died!”  I quickly scampered out of bed, with the same passion and frenzy of a fireman just hearing his alarm.  As I headed hastily down toward the COC (Combat Operations Center) I remember thinking, how could it be so hot at 1230 am?  Shortly thereafter I arrived.  Our Gunny Sergeant met me at the door, “Markus just received news that his son just died…” as the words tailed off, ripe in sadness and regret, GySgt pointed across the street where Markus sat.  His head was slumped over, buried between his knees.  I carefully made my way over to my friend, stooped over, touched his knee, “Hey bud,” “Hey Chaps,” “I’m so, so, so, sorry Markus.”  I don’t remember much more about that night- what I said or didn’t say.  But what I do remember is just sitting with him, present with him, in his grief, in his sadness, in his absolute confusion and bewilderment, present in the unimaginable present.

Presence for the Chaplain  I will never forget those early runs, those solo runs, just me, God, and Hillsong radio worship- thanks Amazon!  I followed the PT (Physical Training) trail as it wound out near the main gate- in the distance I could see the oil stacks of Kuwait burning, glowing across the eastern horizon, perhaps these were the same infamous refineries set ablaze by the Iraqis over two decades ago. When they invaded Kuwait and as a country we said, “Not so fast, not so much.”  If I ran the path out and back, twice, it gave me a decent cardio workout and it provided much needed time to worship, to pray, to clear my head, to renew, and at times pour my heart out to the God who loves to be present when I am seeking His presence.  Presence, the doorway through which God walks with us, talks to us, nurtures us, loves us, and blesses us.

Presence for the congregation Such rich worship we experienced at Al Jaber Air base in Kuwait. This occurred in large part thanks to my Air Force counterpart, Chaplain Rob Pitts, from Tacoma, Washington.  Under his kind, “all are welcome leadership,” the U.S. Air Force so graciously allowed us to use office spaces as places to counsel and worship spaces as spots to enjoy the presence of God and the presence of one another.  As we faithfully showed up, so too God.  The simple chapel was a place where we witnessed uniformed men and women worship and proclaim a new-found faith in Christ.  This was a home where we were honored to watch four Marines get baptized.  This was a place where tears were shed, prayers were offered, hugs shared and embraced, and communion received.

Presence for the “Be Back”As a Chaplain we are called to care, care for all, seeking to bring His presence in a variety of times and places. Sometimes showing unmitigated presence can be a challenge, usually the hardest times are the unexpected arrivals where you need to be “game on” in seconds, not minutes.  I just had finished preaching, chatting with folks, enjoying their friendship and relieved that the sermon was now in the hands of God for Him and the Spirit to do their work.  I glanced across the Chapel and there he was the “be back.”  In my flesh I thought he’s back again?  Not now!  I’m spent!  But the 30 year old Marine was sobbing, deep sighs, uncontrollable crying- I had to respond, my fatigue and frustration was quickly laid to rest, much like a football player who tosses his warm-up jacket aside when his number is called, it’s game on!  I quickly grabbed a chair, placed my arm on my friend’s shoulder, “What’s wrong?”  “Chaps!  Nothin’!  I’m just leaving Tuesday and I’m just so moved by our times together, the fellowship I received at the chapel here, my new-found friends, I’m going to miss it, miss you, miss everyone.” I was dumbfounded – amazed at God’s good grace in the midst of our sessions together and worship together- embarrassed too by my initial response to my tender brother.  Presence, you just don’t know its power and impact on others.

Presence with the Colonel – Deployment was long. What made it especially long was not only the length but the lack of liberty.  We had none.  However, we did have an officers’ social “Professional Military Education” with the Colonel which was very close to a liberty night in Kuwait City.  We got dressed to the eights “that’s close to the nines” and had a great time out.  It was amazing how close (within two hours of the air base) the real world existed- taxis, buses, high rises, hotels, malls, camels, people, people, some more camels and more people.   Did I mention camels and people?  At the conclusion of this “training exercise,” at the four star restaurant, with bellies bulging and appetites completely satiated, we were invited upstairs for a night cap “Turkish coffee.”  I thought Starbucks was on the strong side, right!

Allow me to digress. For most of us we are familiar with the traditions within the military.  It is a community replete with formalities and hierarchies.  As a Chaplain I am called to minister across all ranks- from the most junior to the most senior Marine, including the Colonel.  This night I had the honor of sitting next to the king, I mean the Colonel.  (No one was sitting next to him and I refused to see him go through the awkward seconds of nobody sitting with him, so, with his permission, I took the chair on his right flank).

So there we sat, making small talk, Colonel and Chaps. Much to my dismay, as this part of the evening played out and wound down everyone got the special coffee but the Colonel.  At one point, I asked the Colonel if he wanted some of the brew and he said, “Ah, don’t worry about it.”  But I knew better.  Further, you never leave the king, uh Colonel out.  Shouldn’t he have been served first?  Or at least been offered the first cup?  Seeking to be present with the boss (ya think?), I watched the attendants with the same undaunted attentiveness my German Shepherd, Tank, watches me as I deliver his biscuits.  Sure enough, the servers finished serving those seated on the North side of the room and then escaped, unquestioned, back into the kitchen.  “Not on my watch I thought.”  I got up and casually sauntered to the host and discreetly pointed the Colonel’s way, muttering discreetly but emphatically, “Uh, excuse me, you forgot someone, the Colonel!”  Moments later I was back in my seat with a server hot on my tail.”  “Coffee, Sir?” I heard the Kuwaiti ask my boss.  “Why of course, thank you.”  With a twinkle in his eye he turned my way and said, “Cheers Chaps,” to which I happily returned, “Cheers Colonel.”  Not a big deal, right?  Wrong!  Being able to receive a whole-hearted “Cheers Chaps” from the king-uh, that’s right, Colonel, was an incredible culmination to a challenging deployment, and a most awesome personal perk.

You know, going in, when we are with others at coffee, at breakfast, on the subway, at the gym, in the car, we never know the potential impact on others when we genuinely, sincerely, seek to be present in the present with them, right? Hey, what about this Christmas?  How about offering the King a present?  The gift of our presence, it is the greatest present we could ever give Him and it is a beautiful and glorious gift we give one another.

CBA Chaplain Greg Uvila was deployed to Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, from December 2016 to August 2017 with U.S. Marines and U.S. Air Force Airmen in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). Greg and his wife, Nancy, have been endorsed by CB America since 2009.

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