Burial At Sea: Providing Hope and Closure

USS Makin Island Under wayIt was the most beautiful funeral I have ever led. Watching the final committal from the safety of the higher position, the stern gate, which normally is lowered for Amphibious Assault Vehicles, was now being opened to say farewell to a beloved shipmate one last time.

Moving along the waters just outside of San Diego at just 4 knots, the ocean sprayed up between the small gap made when the gate opens, surrounding the casket with a halo of sea spray and prismatic color in the morning sunlight. The sailors came to attention rendering one final silent salute as the water slowly enveloped the casket. One more wash of salt water gently swept over and pulled the casket out to sea. As it tilted up and peacefully sank into the deep, every sailor present fought back more than one salty tear.

It was at that moment I realized that all the time, energy, and effort in planning, coordinating and rehearsing was worth every minute. This was even more special to us because this was family. This was closure for a crew who had been mourning the loss of a well- known, well-loved, influential Master Chief who just a few months before was leading and mentoring sailors on board this very vessel.

Somehow through this ceremony, people heard the message of hope of eternal life taken from Romans 8. Somehow, no matter the beliefs of those present, seeing their brother in arms laid to rest enabled those present to move forward. Each one left a little more ready to serve with the confidence that in death just as in life, there is someone who cares. As a US Navy chaplain, I am honored to help bring this into the lives of those who sacrifice so much for our nation.

Very respectfully,

Aaron C. Carlton

Chaplain

LCDR CHC USN

This Farewell to Kyle article adds the Captain’s perspective with great photos of the ceremony…all the way to watching the casket float off the tail and out to sea!

Invitation to CB Northwest Annual Enrichment Conference

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Dear Shepherds,

It is my privilege to facilitate the covenant community family during our Annual Enrichment Conference, March 7-9, 2016, at Seaside, Oregon. Our yearly family celebration has become known as an event that is spiritually transforming, relationally engaging, and strategically purposeful.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Movement’.  Bruce Shelley, in his book A History of Conservative Baptists wrote, “Conservatives rather proudly spoke of themselves as a movement.  They had high hopes of going somewhere…”  Our covenant community has banded together to actively pursue a common vision.

We envision a covenant community of churches committed to the glory of God, centered on the gospel, changing our communities by being doctrinally sound, missionally driven, and culturally sensitive – which includes culturally appropriate evangelism, leaders mentoring the next generation of leaders, and churches planting churches through Great Commandment love, Great Commission purpose, and Great Confession dependency.

God has been faithful to accomplish much through our churches, but He is not finished.  This year’s conference will address three barriers to our churches being on mission.  Those barriers are materialism, comfort, and fear.  Pastors from our churches will teach God’s Word as it relates to these barriers, and we will illustrate how God is moving our churches through each one.

This gathering will appeal to, and is open to, anyone who wants to see Gospel-centered churches multiplied. Our hope is to see pastors, potential church planters, elders, church leaders, and next generation pastors and their spouses from all over the Northwest participate in this effort to strengthen the covenant community of CB churches.  Remember, this is not just another “pastor’s conference”, this is a special gathering designed to keep us on our previously-agreed-upon mission to actively pursue covenant community, holding each other accountable to live out our doctrine, polity, and philosophy.

The trustees will be contacting you to let you know of any necessary planning or coordinating specific to your region. If you are unable to attend this special gathering for any reason, please let your trustee know.

Feel free to share this opportunity to build a stronger and healthier covenant community with anyone you feel would benefit from these three days together in March.

If you have questions about the conference or accommodations, see us online at: http://www.cbnw.org/events/aec/.  You may also contact Jeremy Schumacher at jeremys@cbnw.org. If you have any questions about registration, please contact Jennifer Bertz at 541-451-4270541-451-4270, x21 or jenniferb@cbnw.org.

Praying Always, Never Give Up!
Luke 18:1
Dr. Mark A. Hoeffner
Executive Director CB NorthwestCB Northwest

2016 CBAmerica Chaplaincy Video

Across America, and around the world, CBAmerica chaplains serve in a wide variety of ministries, Federal State, and Civilian.  90 chaplains serve in all branches of the US Military (Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard & Air Force) and its components (Active, Guard & Reserve); plus the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Veterans Health Administration.  Another 50 serve in civilian chaplaincies in hospital, hospice, prison, law enforcement, fire, Veteran, and Wounded Warrior settings.  Another 20 seminarians are preparing themselves to enter one of these chaplaincy ministries.

Holy Order of the Inadequate (HOI)

The Gate through which God Enters
The Gate through which God Enters

That’s in the signature block of Chaplain Bill Brown, Director of Chaplaincy, and Manager of the Kairos Prison Ministry in a large State Prison in San Diego, California.  Since 2002, Chaplain Bill has seen the hand of God work in amazing ways.  I recently caught up with him and asked if he had any encouraging stories he could share.  This is some of what he said:

“I can tell stories all day long of God’s miracles that take place on a daily basis…At the last Kairos Weekend a lead litigant (inmate suing the state to meet the religious needs of Wiccans throughout the California Department of Corrections) came to Jesus and is now attending services and attending the class for new believers.”

He continued:  “A ‘general’ under the founder of the ‘Crips’ has been coming back into the prison where he was an inmate, as a chapel volunteer. For about six years God has been using him powerfully to communicate a message of hope for lasting change and purpose in life. His testimony is powerful, and he is available if you need a speaker to share what God can do.”

“A former ‘high priest’ in the church of Satan has been a member of our Praise and Worship team for a couple of years in the maximum security unit, and he is a leader in our evangelism team there.

“An inmate who was raised Muslim and was healed from stage 4 cancer in the name of Jesus, regularly brings Muslim friends to a Kairos Weekend, and we see Muslims coming to Jesus on a regular basis.”

Then Chaplain Bill shared an interesting story of ministry to Muslims in an unusual, loving way:

“For several years the Christian Volunteers have stepped up and given their time to supervise the inmates in the maximum security unit during Ramadan (Muslim month of fasting). Otherwise, they would not be able to have daily services. We build bridges of unconditional love, and combined with fervent prayer, the Holy Spirit does amazing things.”

Here are statistics for the first six months of 2015:

  • Worship Services – 390
  • Bill’s Personal Counseling (does not include volunteers who counsel) – 143
  • Bible Studies – 253
  • Other discipleship programs (new believer classes, Self-confrontation, praise & worship practices, prayer meetings) – 384

Bill shared an insight to what is making this ministry work: “Intercessory Prayer meetings are the place where we make progress. God hears and answers the prayers of His people.”

When asked to share what other believers can pray for, he listed three critical requests:

  1. For God to send one of His choice servants to replace me when I retire (Dec. ’16); and a smooth transition so that the program continues to thrive.
  2. For God to pour out His Holy Spirit and move mightily among inmates and volunteers.
  3. The salvation and discipleship of hundreds of inmates.

    R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility
    R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility

Some closing thoughts: Imagine you are the Lead Pastor of a 3600 person, multi-site megachurch, with three locations, and five church
facilities.  To carry out 200 monthly worship services, you utilize a staff of over 500 volunteers.  You showed up in 2002 as a Protestant Chaplain, and God has used you, a self-confessed member of the “Holy Order of the Inadequate” (HOI) to lead the development of what we see today.

How did this happen?  A second look at Chaplain Bill’s signature block reveals the “secret.”  There we also read, a second set of three initials “AIJ” (Adequate in Jesus).   Chaplain Bill Brown includes “HOI” and “AIJ” as a reminder that though we are all members of the “Holy Order of the Inadequate (HOI), when we rely on the Holy Spirit, we are “AIJ” (Adequate in Jesus), and able to do His will and work on this earth.

God is at work in amazing ways in some unusual places.  Someone said that when God was kicked out of U.S. schools, He went to work in the U.S. Prison System where He was still welcome.  Chaplain Bill’s reports supports that contention.

If you are interested in pursuing professional ministry in a correctional setting, or any other chaplain specialty, federal or civilian, contact Andy Meverden, CBAmerica’s Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org or check out our website at www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.

 

     

 

A Lesson on Personal Safety, from a WW2 Survivor 

Franca Silvana DiSacco, was born in Italy in 1930 in a small village outside Pisa.  The second oldest of seven children, she went to school through the sixth grade before the hostilities of WW2 closed it.  Her father, a stone mason, was sent north into Austria as part of Mussolini’s contribution to Hitler’s war effort.  There he was injured.  Walking home barefoot, he developed gangrene and arrived only to die in his wife’s arms.  Fatherless, Franca and her six siblings scrounged food to survive.  In 1943 she was shot through her left leg while entering an orchard guarded by the Germans; and was rescued by her two brothers and an approaching American Infantry patrol.  She recovered, and in 1946 was raped and impregnated by an American pilot at Darby Field.  In 1949 she married a US Army Soldier, Tech Sergeant Glenn Meverden, who brought her to America.  Together, they had seven children, three girls and four boys.  My mother knew war, and learned how to survive.

In the summer of 2002, I visited mama Franca in her small apartment in Green Bay, WI.  I had orders to deploy as the chaplain of a Special Forces (Green Beret) Battalion to Afghanistan.  As her oldest son, I felt it important to tell her face-to-face, and let her know that I loved her.  I called to tell her the date and time of my visit.  She was waiting for me with a light lunch prepared.  We sat down at her small kitchen table.  I started to speak, but she raised her hand for me to stop.  She looked me in the eyes and said: “You are going to Afghanistan; it is a dangerous place.  Remember tree (sic) things.” She held up her thumb and two fingers in southern European style.  “Number one: always be aware of your surroundings.  Wherever you go, look around at the people, notice what they have in their hands, look to see if they have something under their clothes, like a gun or grenade.”  With her thumb up, she extended her pointer finger, “Number two: I know you American soldiers, you will get tired of eating Army food and want to go into town to eat.  When you enter a restaurant, sit with your back to the wall facing the front door and look for a back door.  Watch everyone who comes in, notice what they are carrying and wearing.  Look for anything dangerous.”  Then her third and middle finger extended, “Tree (she maintained her distinct Italian accent), when you pull the pin on a grenade, you get rid of it real fast!”  She wasn’t smiling or joking.  She was speaking of her wartime experience.  In nearly 40 years of military experience, I’ve never heard a better briefing on personal security and Rules of Engagement.

I share this story out of concern for you and your families, during these dangerous “last days.”  Whether your chaplaincy is federal or civilian, you’re on a police or fire ride-a-long, in the ER, a prison facility, or a combat zone; whether on land, sea or air, in the US or abroad, please remember “Mama Franca’s” advice to her son.  Maintain situational awareness, be aware of escape routes, and, if attacked, throw whatever you have at your attacker.  Jesus warned us, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)  Take care and teach your children well.

-Chaplain Andy

I Have Controls!

Displaying Fitted to Fly.jpgNavy Chaplain, Roy Fondren, is currently assigned to the Naval Flight Training facility at Naval Air Station, Whiting Field.  To enable him to identify with both flight students and instructor pilots, he’s been placed in “Student Pilot” status.  Though fun and exciting, pilot training has its risky “moments.”  Following is a weekly devotional that comes out of one Roy’s recent training experiences”

Good morning Leaders.

Last week I had my first dance with the T-57B and I was MIND BLOWN with both excitement and nervousness!  ENS Heneveld and LT Ryan Ross (HT-18) were the SNA/IP Team I spent time with during the Brief, Pre-checks and Hot Seat.  During the Brief, I was taking copious notes and asking clarifying questions of some of the confusing language much like I did during Hebrew class.  I ended up picking up some foundational knowledge of the scheme of maneuver and functional operations of the helicopter and I was JUICED!!  I left the Brief excited and repeating Ditty’s such as “Tower, this is 187 and we are at Min Fuel,” “The TRIM is the magnetic brake that…” “Twist Grip full open not to exceed 40” and so forth!  I knew I’d get a chance to participate in the X with some Landing and Hovering but it was with complete humility that I even entered into the cockpit because I knew I was COMPLETELY depended upon Ross to keep my life safe and complete the mission.  He talked me through the Instrument Panel and EP’s before heading to Spencer where he demonstrated the pedals, collective, and cyclic before incrementally relinquishing them to me in the same order.  I lifted off and landed a few times pretty well which manifested a slight rise in confidence.  Then I was told to hover…  It took all of two seconds of trying to hover before there was too much left pedal, too much forward cyclic and too much collective compensation which resulted in the helicopter IMMEDIATEDLY doing the Funky Chicken.   :/

It was at that exact moment that I heard a voice say “I Have Controls” as the Helicopter began to spin out of control!  I instantaneously surrendered controls, fear-filled yet thankful I had a proven Pilot FULLY capable of controlling and restoring the situation!  LT Ross took charge, steadied the bird and my heart, and calmly talked me through where things went awry as he masterfully reset our course!  That moment revealed a practical and relatable truth with regards to our lives.  As free willed people, we have the ability to participate in our own lives by taking the controls and [doing our best] not to crash and complete the mission of life before us.  Or, we can participate in life by [placing our FULL trust in] God as our soul’s Instructor Pilot, as He successfully navigates our lives into the fullness of His will for us.   And rather than relinquishing controls [when] our lives begin to spin chaotically, we should daily seek to find and forever enjoy the confidence and peace experienced, when God has control of our lives’ as the Divinely proven IP!

Is there an aspect of your life that’s spinning out of control or not a smooth as you’d like it? Is God saying “I Have Controls?”  Is there a need for you to surrender your own will for the restoring instruction of His for your life? I pray that this week and forever more, as we participate in the plans and purposes of life God has for us; moment by moment we do so wholeheartedly trusting and allowing Him to guide our lives into His perfect will…not just when our efforts result in chaos.

Blessings and Respect, thank you for your service and early Happy Veteran’s Day!

Chaplain Fondren
LT/USN

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will guide your path.”  Prov 3:5-6 “Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me…” Prob 8:33-34a

Chaplain Fondren’s experience in flight training is a cogent reminder that chaplains face risky situations, daily.  Whether in the air, on land, or on or under the sea; whether visiting sick patients in hospitals and ERs, on “ride alongs” with law enforcement personnel, in prisons, jails, or on long dusty trails with veterans “walking off the war,” your chaplains expose themselves to a measure of risk each and every day.  Without faith and courage in the Lord who has the “controls” of life, they cannot perform their ministries.  Pray for that balance of courage and wisdom that is needed to carry out their respective ministries.

If you sense the Lord’s leading into ministry that is sometimes “on the edge,” contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@CBAmerica.org, or click the link to the CBAmerica, brochure entitled, “Endorsement: What Is It? What’s It’s Not.  How Long It Takes.”

Displaying CHC Fondren_Student.Aviator. Status. NAS.Whting.jpg

Veterans Day, Every Day: Visiting Colorado State Veterans Homes

Andy and MyraBy Chaplain, (Colonel) Andy Meverden, US Army, Retired*
October 22, 2015

Once a month, my wife and I help out with Bingo at the Colorado State Veterans Home on the old Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center grounds.  The once imposing multi-story, stone, Fitzsimmons Army Hospital is now dwarfed by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, Children’s Hospital, the infamous over-budget VA Hospital, and dozens of other structures of this emerging “Medical City.”   Except for a newly built Army Reserve Readiness Center, most vestiges of Fitzsimmons’ storied military past, are, as we say, “history.”  But in a small section of “Fitz” is a living national treasure; a place where old Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Merchant Marines, and their spouses come to “fade away.”

My perspective is unique.  For eight consecutive years, while serving as Command Chaplain for the Colorado National Guard, under Air Force Major General, H. Michael Edwards (Call sign: “Farmer”), the Adjutant General of the State of Colorado, I had the privilege of visiting all five of Colorado’s State Veterans Homes annually; in Florence, Walsenburg, Home Lake, Craig and the one in Denver at Fitzsimmons.  And almost always, weather permitting, we flew in by Blackhawk helicopter.  Our two-ship mission, loaded with Colorado Generals, State leaders, Army and Air staff, and me as chaplain, flew from Denver each year to visit some of Colorado’s senior Great Americans.

Imagine approaching at 150 knots, descending from cruising altitude to about 300 feet above the Veterans facility, residents and staff gathered outside, waving and clapping, as we circled overhead.  After landing in a nearby field, 10-20 passengers “assault” the gathered residents, greeting, and catching up since last visit.  The staff looks on as uniformed personnel and other civilians work their way through those able to be outside, mostly in wheel chairs.  After a time, the Facility Director invites us in for a “visit.”  I usually pushed a wheelchair-bound Veteran inside.

Over the years, I’ve met Veterans from WW2, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, and their widows.  Some were missing limbs.  Many bald heads bore telltale scares.  Some could not speak.  Others told stories of service in the Pacific; its jungle-covered islands, and the sands of Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Tinian, Saipan, Okinawa, Guam, and the frozen Aleutians.  I heard harrowing sea stories from Sailors, Submariners and Naval Aviators.  Others spoke of Europe, fighting across North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, or up through Italy or Southern France. Some told of the horrors of Normandy, D-Day, D+1, D+2, and the fight across France into Belgium, the Battle of the Bulge, and eventually Germany. I was surprised by the number of aviators, pilots, crewmembers, gunners and bombardiers.  Some were shot down; most of these captured and imprisoned.  Others spoke of the cold snowy mountains of the Korean peninsula, and how they fought unprepared with leftover equipment from WW2 in “Task Force Smith.”  I heard of the horrors and heroism in the jungles of Vietnam.  Some were officers, most were enlisted.  All were great Americans who shaped our history and maintained our freedom.  And I was privileged to hear their stories first-hand. These annual visits became a highlight of my chaplaincy.

As the years passed, we would return and reconnect with the resident Veterans.  Many wanted to see “the General” who would spend time with everyone who wanted to see him; even those who didn’t know he was a “General.”  The nursing staff would often take me to the rooms of residents unable to get out of bed.  There I would kneel at bedside, visit, and offer a word of comfort or prayer.  Too often on a visit, we’d ask about a particular resident, and get the sad news of their passing.  We missed seeing them, sometimes by only a few weeks or days.  That was a sad part of our visits, yet we were thankful we got to know them while they were still alive.

Typically flying to two or three Veterans Homes each day, we were “herded” by the Deputy Director of Military and Veterans Affairs, USAF Retired Chief Master Sergeant, Mickey Hunt, and Legislative Liaison, Greg Dorman.  Occasionally, I was the last one to board the waiting helicopters, but usually it was “the General” holding up departure.   Both sons of WW2 Veterans, Maj Gen Edwards and I held the sacrifice of our parents’ generation in high esteem.  We treated these Veterans and spouses like we would want our fathers and mothers treated – according to “The Golden Rule.”  Often, while walking back, “The General” and I would share stories of those we had visited: “Did you meet that Army Air Corps pilot that was shot down over Germany?”  “Yeah, and did you meet the Veteran with 17 children?”

In September of 2014, I made my last aerial visits to all five Colorado Veterans Homes.  I asked two successor chaplains to come along.  On this last visit, I decided to take my time and let the other chaplains circulate.  I sat with fewer Veterans, asked more questions and listened more patiently.  Each story was precious.   Our last stop was Fitzsimmons.  Due to the new taller buildings adjacent to the facility, our skilled, combat-proven Army Guard pilots executed safe, yet technical approaches and landings onto the grassy field between the facility and tree-lined golf course across the street.  After the visit, with angelic skill, we flew straight up 100 feet before making our signature “victory lap” while waving to the Veterans, widows, and staff below.  As I waved good-bye, a tear ran down my cheek.  It would be my last “air assault” of a Veterans’ home.

Last Wednesday, I accompanied my wife, Myra, who is the volunteer chaplain for the Rocky Mountain Submarine Veterans group.  She joined them several years ago as an associate member, and a few years later, they elected her their chaplain.  Last year I joined, as her “RP” (Religious Program Specialist – the Navy term for a chaplain assistant).  My main job is to drive her, and protect her from Sailors – just kidding!  Whenever I can, I like to help with Bingo.  I got to call the numbers once, but usually I help the residents who can’t hear or see very well.  I always come away blessed.

Today, I helped a 94 year old WW2 infantryman named Harry play Bingo.  He couldn’t hear the caller, so I touched the numbers and let him mark his card.  Sometimes I moved the card a little closer so he could reach it; just far enough so he’d have to stretch a little.  During the session, I asked him a few questions about his military service.  He struggled to tell me how he served under Patton and came ashore on the 2nd or 3rd wave into Normandy. When I thanked him for his service, he said, “I didn’t do much.” Yeah, right. He just helped save the world from fascist domination!  May God bless your remaining days on earth, until the Lord welcomes you into Heaven.

I’m thankful that God’s plan for my post-military career allows me time to visit Colorado’s State Veterans Homes!  I think it will make it easier for me, when my time comes to fade away.

____________________

*Chaplain Meverden currently serves as Director of Chaplaincy for CBAmerica, an association of 1200 churches across the US, that endorses 200+ chaplains in the Military, Bureau of Prisons, Veterans Health Administration, and Civil Air Patrol, as well as civilian hospitals, hospices, law enforcement agencies, State prisons, rescue missions, Veterans groups, motor sports and wounded warrior outreach.  His 26 years of Army Guard and Reserve chaplaincy prepared him for this undertaking, as did his visits to the Colorado State Veterans Homes.  Chaplain Andy’s wife, Myra, is a volunteer chaplain with the Rocky Mountain Submarine Veterans.  She was endorsed by CBAmerica in 2012.

Old Chaplains Don’t Die…They Just Redeploy Into Harm’s Way!

Bob 1In the military, it’s common for deploying service members not to be able to disclose their intended destinations.  But when retired US Air Force Chaplain Bob Hicks told me he was heading into a combat zone, I became a bit concerned.  He told me what he could, and then asked me not to say anything until he returned and could write a “sanitized” report.  I was relieved to hear that he was safely home.  Here’s a report he said we could post.

Chaplain Andy,

Last month I was part of a team requested by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense to do a seminar for their Chaplains, spouses, and other first responders serving in the “war” with Russian “rebels”.  In attendance was also various Ukrainian officers and those serving the front in other volunteer functions. This war began in April of 2014 when a demonstration was held in the Maidan Square in Kiev. This was a protest against the Russian leaning government which was turning the Independence of Ukraine into a Russian satellite. The result was President Putin occupying the Crimea and Eastern territory of Ukraine. In little over a year of conflict over 5,000 Ukrainians were killed.  One Ukrainian chaplain told me one of his chaplains was killed while posting a Ukrainian flag on the top of one their buildings. The observing chaplain was tasked to pick up his body parts!

For some background: there is no official military chaplaincy in the Ukraine.  Most non-Orthodox pastors have little education and no training in PTSD or war-time stress. As volunteers, they are not paid and have no medical coverage if wounded, injured or killed. Few have full time paid pastorates, so when they go to the front, their churches must provide for their families. The chaplains are used to shuttle supplies for soldiers and other chaplains to the front. (I took over 12 Camelbacks to give to chaplains since they are hard to find there). They also are involved in doing body identifications and facilitating transport back to their homes.

Our seminar took place at the Kiev Theological Seminary, and had about 150 registered participants. Though the original idea for this seminar came from contacts between the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, NATO and EUCOM, the three organizations forming our team were from CRU (Campus Crusade Military Ministry), Branches of Valor, and the International Association of Military Chaplains. The three day conference went day and night with everyone housed in close proximity which facilitated many long evening discussion.  We were well care for by our hosts and the hospitality and appreciation was a sincere blessing.

I taught on Moral Injury, Wartime Stress, and Battlemind versus Homemind. The last one seemed very helpful for the spouses in attendance in helping them to understand how war changes a person. Other seminars dealt with PTSD, Spiritual Healing, and Family & Women’s Issues. CRU’s International director, former AF Academy grad and tanker pilot, LTC Martha Jones, (Ret) was a real hit with the women as she shared her experiences as a female in the military. Each of the presenters was given their own personal translator who shadowed us the whole time. So even during meals and after sessions we could continue discussions.

Chaplain Issues Addressed: We met with a Colonel from the Ministry of Defense who is trying to gain official recognition for a chaplain corps with benefits. He was very interested in how the US chaplaincy was able to do “pluralism”. This was a hot topic since the state Orthodox Church is very powerful and 80% of Ukrainians belong to the Orthodox Church. However, most of the volunteer chaplains who deploy to the front and stay there with the troops are either Protestant, Catholic or Independents. The war has thrown them all together but they have never worked together before. The Orthodox come to do services but then return home afterwards. The Evangelicals and Independents are really carrying the load and doing the daily ministry. Another issue we faced was the issue of Chaplains carrying weapons (and using them). Some were, others not. Many Baptists in Ukraine are pacifists and it was quite a hurdle for many to even serve in the military. So some are there without the consent of their churches. Their Ministry of Defense had never addressed the issue but we referred them to the Geneva Convention since both Ukraine and Russia are signatories.

Final Reflection: When I returned home my wife asked me to describe the event. It took me some time to process my thoughts. My short version is: it is close to being one of the richest ministry experiences in my life. The participants were hungry for anything we had to share. Their spiritual life was incredible even while facing the prospect of death or occupation by Russian soldiers. I considered it one of my greatest of privileges to be there and try to help this struggling country.  In a sense, Ukraine became an independent nation when the Soviet Union collapsed. But now they are having to fight for their independence. It reminded me of our own history as a rag-tag army of volunteers fighting against the premier army of Europe, and English regulars. But I believe faith in God and His providence prevailed for us… hopefully for Ukraine as well.

Prayer: I pray for the Ukrainian chaplains and their families. I pray for their Ministry of Defense to authorize their chaplaincy. I pray there might be a positive peaceful outcome with the Russians who also face many trials and casualties.

Photos: Maidan Square Cathedral (where it all started); Ukrainian/Russian Tanks facing off at War Memorial (Ukrainian in blue & yellow); My Moral Injury Presentation; Group photo of some chaplains & Ukrainian officers.

Chaplain, Colonel Robert HIcks, USAF (Ret)

Bob 3 Bob 2

Hail and Farewell

Over the past several months, CBAmerica Chaplaincy said “Farewell,” and thank you to several faithful servants of Christ completing long-term ministries.  Chaplain Jan Michael Nace retired back to local church ministry in New York State after 30 years of fruitful prison ministry in Canada and the USA.  Chaplain, Lt Col, David Beseler retired September 1, after 26 years in the Army Reserve and Air National Guard in Washington State, and an equal number of productive parallel ministry years with the Washington State Department of Corrections.  Chaplain (LTC) Bradley West retired from Active Duty Army the end of August with over 20 years of service.  His ceremony was held in the White Sands Missile Range Protestant Chapel, after which he moved to Central Oregon where he is pursuing further ministry in the local church.  I had the honor of attending the June 4 ceremony.  Chaplain Pat Kreitler completed 18 years of industrial and hospital chaplaincy in the NW.  She decided to retire and return to Maine following a lengthy and difficult recovery from an auto accident.  Pat wanted to depart in stealth, but I think it fitting to honor her service and invite your prayers for her further recovery and transition.  Let us give thanks for their 97 years of combined service!

In the same period, we said “Hail!” to five new individuals of our chaplaincy family.  Chaplain Beverly Hartz, is the new CPE Supervisor at the Puget Sound VA Medical Center in Seattle.  Rev. Mike Eubanks of Denver was endorsed for hospice/hospital ministry, Rev. Mike Lones of Illinois for hospital ministry, Rev. Kevin Brown for industrial chaplaincy in the NW, and Chaplain, 1st Lt Dan Wilton was commissioned into the Illinois Air National Guard.  Pray for these as they seek, begin, or continue ministry in their desired specialty and location.