A Ministry Story from a Corporate Workplace Chaplain

By Chaplain Hank Fields
Corporate Chaplains of America (CCA)

Five months into my rounding schedule at one of the companies where I serve as a chaplain, I passed by Chris’ desk and he looked up at me and asked, “Can we go talk?”  Chris is man in his early thirties, articulate, and holds an important “people person” position in his company. We met in a private place on site and for the next hour and a half he shared his story, without much emotion and in a kind of matter-of-fact way.  He was obviously disillusioned with life and perhaps talking with a chaplain was a final shot in the dark to make some sense of it all.  He was wrestling with confusion, and frustration, and disillusionment all at once.

He started with the death of his younger brother six years ago and how his brother had just moved to Charlotte, NC to be near him and start a new life, then his brother dies suddenly.  Chris then moved into a heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal in his marriage.  Currently he was legally separated and the divorce would be final soon.

He spoke of the woman he loved, a three-year-old son he adores, and the revelation a year ago that his wife was having an affair with the contractor who was building their dream home.  He began to bristle with anger talking about being near the man who stole his wife and who is living in that home with his wife, and the anguish of only seeing his son every other weekend while having to listen to his boy say good things about his “other daddy.”

Then he shared his Christian faith and how he has tried to stay faithful to God even though he’s angry and confused by it all.  He had all kinds of correct knowledge about God but seemed to talk about God like he was keeping God at a distance. The good thing was he wasn’t going to abandon his faith.

There was so much to his story.  Where was I supposed to begin?

After confirming his salvation experience, I asked him what troubled him the most in all. He said the anger.  I agreed with him and suggested one more thing:  His relationship to God.  I shared that although he knows all the correct truths, he seemed detached when he talked about God.  He said he couldn’t remember the last time he had a heart-to-heart conversation with God.

So, I proposed two things:  Complete a bible study on anger which I would tailor to his needs, and clear off an uninterrupted time and place to have an honest conversation with God.  Just say what he felt—directly to God—with no filters.  I told him God could take it!  Say it like it is in your heart and leave nothing hidden.

Some time passed and Chris was cordial but said little about what was going on.  He joined a men’s bible study I was facilitating in the workplace and became an active participant.  Recently he shared a testimony with the group. He referred to our conversation and said he did the study on anger, and took a block of time and got real with God, completely honest.  He shared that he woke up the next morning and all the anger he had in his heart toward the man who stole his wife was gone!  It just wasn’t there.  He said he could be in the same room now and treat him just like anyone else.  He knew that God did it and he felt so free!

A lesson in this for me is that as chaplains one of our greatest opportunities is to not only share what we know about God, but to direct people to God—and encourage them to be honest with Him.  I was reminded that power for spiritual transformation doesn’t lie within me and the employee’s contact with my wisdom.  Spiritual transformation lies in their encounter and relationship with God.  I might talk and share and guide and do all kinds of things, but it’s truly amazing to me what God can do in a person’s heart, in just an instant.

Rev. Hank L. Fields is a full-time chaplain serving under the ministry of Corporate Chaplains of America (CCA) whose mission statement is “to build caring relationships with others in the hope of receiving permission to share the good news of Jesus Christ in a non-threatening manner.”  Corporate chaplains provide confidential and permission-based care to owners and employees by “rounding” * once a week in the workplace, providing individual care sessions for those in need, and responding 24/7 in crisis situations. CCA chaplains serve over 450 companies in nearly 1,000 locations across 42 states.  Rev. Hank L. Fields serves five companies in the Charlotte, NC area.

Note: * “Rounding” is the practice of systematically visiting employees in their workplace; like a doctor making “rounds” of hospitalized patients. It is intentional pastoral contact with corporate members.

Hank Fields is one of many CBAmerica chaplains endorsed for ministry in the US market place. Join me in thanking God for CEOs and other corporate executives who see the need for pastoral care in the workplace.  From executive offices, to food processing plants, to manufacturing facilities (yes, even vehicle batteries), chaplains are operating daily as part of company employee assistant programs (EAP).  Pray that Hank will have eyes to see, ears to hear, and the words of God to speak in each encounter.

 

For more stories of creative and effective chaplaincy ministries, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on chaplaincy endorsement, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy, at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Lord, I Know You’re Busy, I’m Just Trying to Help

By Chaplain Joe Gomez
Law Enforcement Chaplain

 

Like Philip after witnessing to the Ethiopian Eunuch, Chaplain Joe Gomez of Hollywood, Florida, serendipitously found himself swept away to Ecuador!  How did he get there?  What is he doing?  How is he surviving?  Did he take his endorsement with him?  Read on to find out.

Dear Chaplain Andrew,

As per your request, some background on me, as you are new to the endorser role. I was born and raised in New York City of Puerto Rican parents, where my “Mountains” were skyscrapers like the Twin Towers, and Empire State Building. The “green grass” under my feet was blacktop and cement.  And no, I was not in a gang, enough said!!

My day of salvation was the first week of Dec. 1980 during a very tough time in my life. I heard the Word preached at a couple of churches,  on the streets of the South Bronx amidst the drug dealers, and children playing. Back in my lonely apartment I raised my arms towards Heaven, repented, and confessed Christ; as God come down from Heaven, died on the cross for my sins and resurrected. I am eternally saved.

Now what? This ex-Catholic, altar boy who played a monk at a Christmas pageant on East 29th St Catholic Church, had no clue what church to go to. God did.  He knows and sees everything but, “I’ll help Him cause he’s a busy man.”  So, riding the crowded, smelly NYC subway, I see a girl reading a Bible, and not-so-shy-me asks ” Where do you go to church?”

Well in the heart of the South Bronx I found my first Christian Church (right next to a Porno movie theater), with a chubby, ex-junkie, jailbird, Jewish, born-again pastor with a Puerto Rican wife that cooks pork. This became my first Christian church.  By the way, a year earlier I was stopped by cops right near the church for speeding.

For a long time in my “first love romance,” (with Jesus) I felt like I was walking on air. I couldn’t wait for Sundays, weeknight Bible study, men’s group, and Spring/Summer street evangelizing (because on cold snowy days you don’t dare stop anyone). I felt sorry for those who died without Christ in the winter!

As years went on, I grew in Grace, graduated into a Baptist, Reformed Theology, Calvinistic, Sovereignty of God, Zionist, New York Rican.

But in my heart, I knew I had to “GO” to another country to serve. Well like Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way,” praying, but helping God.  My wife and I visited Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guayaquil Ecuador, and our 2nd Island, Puerto Rico, surround by big ocean water, not like the Island of Manhattan, with little water, where I and The Donald were born.  Nope, never stole his hub caps.  Nobody’s.

Well when I “gave up” and let God do it, He directed me through the Computer and I found Pastor Leo and Semilla de Mostaza Baptist Church (Mustard Seed Baptist Church) in Loja, Ecuador.

Part of my prayer was to focus my ministry to Cops and Corrections Officers of which I was one, along with equipping the saints, counseling, teaching, and evangelizing.

Soon afterwards, Pastor Leo informs me that his brother Juan Pablo, and his wife were visiting Miami. I said, “Send them to stay with us in Hollywood Florida.”  So here he is, in my living room, and then I asked him what does he do for a living?  He said (totally unexpected to me), ‘I’m a Police Captain in Loja!’  What!!!??????  God must have been cracking up laughing!!  He selects the place, the timing, and sends the Police Captain miles across the Ocean, to answer my prayers; in my humble home in Hollywood, Florida.

Afterwards, all the Pastor’s family, kids, some leaders, and even a group of about 10 men came to stay with us on their way to a conference in Orlando Fl. We also visited Loja, Ecuador a couple of times, and stayed with them.

A loving, family-style, Christian connection was established, and three years later (I took my early, reduced social security) here we are in Loja, Ecuador, self-funded, since June 21, 2017. (We left just prior to hurricane season!)

Idolatry and apathy prevails in this lovely, clean, safe city of over 214,000, and just 1% Christians. Lots of work to do among police and civilians. ‘Mucho’ prayers needed; but here we sovereignly are, as God sings, like Frank Sinatra “I did it My way.”  He never was too busy for me…or for you.

 

Love ya,

Joe Gomez

Pastor/Chaplain…by His Grace and Humor

“Saved to Serve”

Chaplainjoegomez@aol.com

MagicJack USA number 954-381-1922

Local home in Loja: 07 6060931

 

Chaplain “Andrew” continues: “While checking on the welfare of our chaplains in Florida and elsewhere during the recent spate of US hurricanes, I came up one chaplain short. Six of seven chaplains responded, all safe, but with varying degrees of local storm impact.  After 72 hours, Joe Gomez, of Hollywood, Florida, did not reply.  I became concerned that he might have been one whose home had been severely damaged.  As I started to research his area, I got this surprise email!  Not only was he safe, but he had recently moved with his wife to Ecuador!

The borders of ‘missions’ have been re-drawn by God’s Hand in modern times. ‘Foreign missions’ now takes place in the US, and ‘Home missions’ takes place overseas.  From its inception in 1952, CBAmerica Chaplaincy has been a hybrid of both ministries, operating among troops world-wide, and in different cultures.  Chaplain Joe and Raquel Gomez are examples of another, new variation of chaplaincy ministry – ‘retired relocation.’  Pray for Joe and Raquel Gomez as they settle into a new culture and ministry location.  Thankful for their Hispanic cultural heritage and Spanish language fluency, they hit the ground running!  Pray for ‘mucho fruit’ as the Holy Spirit empowers and directs their paths.”

 

For more encouraging stories of God’s work in and through CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. If interested in what it takes to be endorsed for chaplaincy, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Hurricane Harvey Relief in the Houston Area

Follow-up to a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Harvey requires an anchor church or ministry that has a passion to provide the framework for receiving, supporting and coordinating teams from outside of the affected area.  Crossover Bible Church of Houston and their partners, the Houston Church Planting Network are exactly what is needed to bring aid to churches and families needing assistance.  If you are considering engaging in the relief efforts in the Houston area by desiring to send a team here is a link:

http://www.hcpn.org/teamform

The following videos will help you grasp the scope of the work of recovery and the strategy that Crossover Bible Church has initiated.

Invitation to churches from Crossover Bible Fellowship’s Pastor Blake Wilson

Jeff Denlinger’s reaction to Houston devastation and challenge to churches to serve

WorldVenture/Crossover Bible Fellowship “He Is Able” Music Video

CBAmerica is receiving designated gifts for Hurricane Harvey and other disaster relief  efforts click HERE.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose; Fires in Western US and the Mexico Earthquake

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose; Fires in Western US and the Mexico Earthquake

Our hearts break for those who are experiencing such great loss of life and property in the face of multiple catastrophic events in our sphere of influence.  The number and scope of the current needs are so great that you and your congregation may feel paralyzed, not knowing what to do.

CBAmerica’s strategy in light of these needs is:

Encouraging individuals and congregations to consider initially giving to those organizations best prepared for early relief efforts.  Our early response agency of choice would be Samaritan’s Purse. Other options would include the Salvation Army, Red Cross and the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist).

To help meet long-term recovery efforts we are encouraging individuals and churches to give to CBAmerica’s ACTS Fund. Along with WorldVenture, we are partnering with Crossover Bible Fellowship of Houston and the Houston Church Planting Network.  They are an anchor relief church and organization that are receiving teams from church wanting to help (use this hyperlink to access a team form).

Mission Mid-Atlantic Director, Jim Leary is in contact with CBAmerica Churches in Florida in advance of Hurricane Irma’s landfall on Southwest Florida.  Pray for Parkway Baptist Church, Pastor Len Anderson, in Fort Meyer, FL as Irma is projected to have a great impact on this area.

We continue to communicate with our CBNorthwest Region in regard to the fires that are devastating the area.  Additionally, we will look to Missions Door for disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean and Southern Mexico.




Responding to Hurricane Harvey

Responding to Hurricane Harvey

How can we help?  In the face of a disaster like Hurricane Harvey, this is the cry of hearts inundated with images of the flooding and interviews of those displaced, having experienced the loss of all of life’s possessions. Our hearts are heavy, our eyes are teary and our prayers are intercessory in the face of so many loosing so much.

Having been involved in relief efforts from Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy and flooding here in Colorado along Saint Vrain, I have some observations with regard to responding to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.

First, it is impossible to assess the totality of the disaster while it is still occurring.  The area of impact is experiencing complete infrastructure failure at this point.  Roads, water, sewer and electrical components continue to be compromised or destroyed. It will be several more days before Harvey is done. As disasters go, the current operations would be labeled as “Search and Rescue” and “Emergency Relief”.

There are several groups that a church can support that are well suited for these stages of disaster relief.  I would suggest that if churches want to engage immediately that they consider sending their support to Samaritan’s Purse.  Other early responders equipped to move into disasters in these early stages are the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Once these groups have done the work that they are best prepared do, the recovery stages can begin. The recovery stage, when people can begin rebuilding their lives, can only begin when basic infrastructure components are restored and people are no longer worried about safety and survival.

This is a long-term disaster that will require long-term support that over the next several weeks and months will move from “Search and Rescue” and “Emergency Relief” to recovery.  The recovery stage can have very distinct stages that require different support needs. Those stages are:

  • Early RecoveryThey have a place to get food and water and a temporary or transitional shelter that can withstand wind and rain. They can go about their daily lives, beginning to resume some kind of normal existence.
  • Medium to Long-Term RecoveryDuring medium to long-term recovery, the work of building permanent physical structures to replace tents, trailers, or plywood houses begins, as does restoration of social structures.
  • Community DevelopmentCommunity development is a means of improving on the “normal.” Traditionally, this phase is not considered part of emergency response.[1]

We are currently looking for strategic partnerships – organizations and churches that will become staging areas for ongoing relief.  Our long-term strategy will be prioritized by:

  • Helping churches that desire to minister to their communities as staging or resourcing areas of relief.
  • Helping families in those churches gain stability in their lives so that they can help minister to their community.
  • All the while looking for opportunity to share the love of Jesus with neighbors by helping them rebuild their lives.

Like Katrina relief, we hope to discover opportunities for churches to send teams to assist in recovery.

CBAmerica will be receiving designated gifts for Hurricane Harvey Relief CLICK HERE.

To give to Samaritans Purse Hurricane Harvey Relief CLICK HERE.

[1] http://reliefweb.int/report/world/phases-disaster-recovery-emergency-response-long-term

 

Making an Impact in Hawaii

Making an Impact in Hawaii: New Chapel Reaches Military Community

By Chaplain Brian Hargis, US Army, Schofield Barracks, Oahu

Second Quarter Ministry Report: April – June 2017

There have been so many blessings that it’s difficult to keep track. That’s why we started a Blessing Jar in our new Chapel program – Impact Chapel.  Each blessing can be written down and stuffed in the jar.  On Thanksgiving we will empty the jar and rejoice at what God has done.

In May, my wife, Tracy and I celebrated 25 years of marriage!  What a wonderful journey it’s been.

Our oldest son, Jordan, came to visit us for 6 weeks. Since he is in the Army National Guard, he could join me on the “Best Unit Ministry Team (UMT) Competition” that included Land Navigation (or Geo-caching for civilians), Field Services, an 8-mile ruck march, and flying in Blackhawk helicopters.  We have never served together in this capacity.  Jordan also played and sang for IMPACT Chapel on Sunday.  It was great!

God has given me great favor with the Installation Chaplain, and he has encouraged and empowered our growth of the new service for Hawaii called IMPACT Chapel. On Pentecost of 2017 (4 June) we launched the “official” theme.  We experienced numerous salvations and baptisms during this quarter, and most notable was the April Easter Beach Service where our attendance reached 210 and we had 12 ocean baptisms!   We meet on the beach every 3rd and 5th Sunday.

God continues to meet our needs and exceeds every expectation. We are too blessed to be stressed or depressed.

Other blessings for the quarter included visits from friends and family, as well as conducting a Strong Bonds retreat for Single Soldiers.  I also traveled to Ft. Knox and visited 120 of my Soldiers there.  They are providing summer training to ROTC Cadets. I gave 3 field services and had a handful of counseling sessions.

At the end of May we Finished up 5 months of study on the Marriage Enrichment Workshop at Main Post Chapel.  Our average attendance was 15-18.  In August, I’m going to kick off a Biblical Parenting class.

Recently the promotion board results came out and I’m on it.   I should pin on Major in December or January.

We also sold our home in Louisiana, which was a HUGE burden lifted! Thank you for praying.

But for me, the biggest blessing of the quarter was with something very unexpected from my wife Tracy. She applied for PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) President, and was selected!  This is a big step for Tracy, and her sphere of influence is huge here on island.  She is an amazing woman who will do great things for the Lord and the ladies of PWOC.

Please pray for:

  • Continued strength and recovery from surgery.
  • Church ministry – salvations and growth.
  • Wisdom to lead and empower.
  • Favor with God and man.
  • Tracy – to lead and encourage ladies of PWOC.

 

For more ministry reports and stories of God working in and though CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  If interested in finding out about endorsement as a military or civilian chaplain, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Calling out to God in Desperation

Calling out to God in Desperation: Chapel Prayer Reclaims Lost Soul

By Chaplain Sean Callahan
US Army Reserve, Deployed

 

This quarter has been a whirlwind as we hit theater in Kuwait, and proceeded to spend nearly half of our time so far traveling to other locations (combat) where our Engineers are working. During this time, I’ve had the privilege of serving in Arifjan’s Zone 6 Contemporary Protestant Service with some really great Chaplains. But before I share how it relates to this chapel, I need to give you some backstory.

About 4.5 years ago, one of my Soldiers gave his life to the Lord after a long bout with drugs and PTSD. He accepted Christ in a mental health ward at the VA, and I proceeded to disciple him over the course of the 9 months he was in a PTSD program. He came out a changed man because of the work Christ did in his heart. He joined a video chat bible study I was leading, and was growing in leaps and bounds. Just prior to our deployment he felt God calling him to retire from the military and pursue a nursing career. Things were going very well: he was running after God, he was engaged to be married in the summer, and he was chipping away at his classes. I was forced to suspend the group as I prepared to deploy, but we kept in touch. Through the many years of discipleship, he had become a great friend.

In the beginning of June, I received a desperate message from his fiancé, saying that my friend, Neil, had stopped taking his medication and relapsed into drug use for the first time in 3 years (he had a very brief stumble before that, but had been largely clean for 4.5 years). He had gone to the VA twice but checked himself out each time and went back to the drugs. She hadn’t seen or heard from him in 2 weeks and was desperate for help. I immediately began praying and tried to reach out. Nothing. This was all the morning of the Sunday I was supposed to preach in the chapel. My sermon was on Pentecost and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I went to the service, troubled, but committing it to God in prayer. I preached, and toward the end of the message I felt God lay on my heart a challenge: if you really believe in the power of my Spirit, then have the church stand up and pray. I had the entire chapel congregation stand on their feet and told them the situation. I then called on them to pray along with me, and at the end, in unison, to pray the words, “God, please bring Neil home!” I prayed while everyone silently prayed with me, and then together we all cried out three times (for holy emphasis), “God, please bring Neil home!” I closed the service, went to lunch, and then went back to my room to pray.

A few hours later, Neil responded to my text [sent from Kuwait]. His first response to anyone in over 2 weeks. It was dark, and now he wanted to die on top of being in chains to the drugs. I texted him Scripture, encouragement, and tried to keep him on the line until he signed off. All the while I prayed and had others pray. Again, later, he responded. Then, he agreed to get help in the morning. I went to bed praying, but the next morning he didn’t get help. So, my prayer partners and I (to include his fiancé), kept praying. We prayed and prayed the prayer I had said in the service:

“God, open his eyes. Give him a moment of clarity, just one moment, when he can see the truth of his state and what you want him to do. Break the chains. Bring him home.”

On Tuesday morning, less than 48 hours from the time the chapel congregation prayed, he finally worked up the strength to leave and drove to the VA hospital. We had a voice call and I could hear the beginning of change in his voice. He was scared, but needed to get free. He said on Sunday he suddenly “woke up.” He was laying on a couch in a house, and suddenly realized what was happening. He realized he hadn’t eaten in days, he smelled terrible, and he looked even worse. He realized that he needed help.

We spoke every day for the two weeks he was in the hospital, and now he is checked into a 21-day PTSD program with the VA. When I talk to him, he sounds like the old Neil: the Neil who loved Jesus and pursued him with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. He has begun to pick up the pieces and get his life right. I believe that God woke him up that Sunday. I believe the Holy Spirit broke through that darkness and the chains that were holding him in place. I believe the Holy Spirit gave him the strength to face his shame and go get help. And now, I believe with all my heart, that God has brought him back like the Prodigal Son. He has continued His good work in his heart, and Neil is back on track.

I told the chapel congregation what happened the following week. People said they had chills listening to it. We all gave thanks and praise to God. Neil’s fiancé was beside herself with relief and thanks to God. She had been ready to give up all hope in prayer, but then God’s people prayed, and prayed, and prayed. This experience will forever remain in my heart as a reminder of God’s gracious presence, and the power of prayer when His people lift their voices together in intercession.

Distance is no hindrance to the efficacy of prayer. God heard a symphony of voices in Kuwait, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and other places, and intervened in Neil’s life in a small house somewhere in Long Island. God is awesome.

Pray for Neil, and his continued restoration. Pray for more opportunities to share the good news with Soldiers. Please pray for strength, as all the travel and the seriousness of some of the issues I have been dealing with in the unit are very wearying.

Pray also for Sean and his wife, Cindy, during this time of separation. Pray for health, safety, and good communication during deployment…on both sides of the world!

 

For more stories of God working in and through CBAmerica chaplains, check out our webpage at www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on what it takes to be endorsed for chaplaincy in the reserve components, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Mid-Deployment Update

 

By Chaplain Scott Noyes, North Dakota Army National Guard – Afghanistan, with Andy Meverden

Mid-point assessments are common in life; in navigation, corporate boardrooms, and even military deployments. Chaplain Scott Noyes sent in a brief, but exciting, mid-deployment assessment. His words are few, but the accompanying “Storyboards” with captions, give depth to their meaning and results. Scott writes:

My Greatest Blessings:

Surviving our first half of deployment has been my greatest blessing. Lots of moving parts here in Afghanistan; including our unit ministry team (UMT) movement. God has kept us safe in travel and has blessed our ministry. My chaplain assistant is a growing believer in Jesus Christ; and I was blessed to baptize him also (see photo below). As I encourage service members and civilians, I have witnessed God’s activity of change take place in many lives. God continues to schedule ‘divine appointments’ that I am able to witness and engage.

My Theme for this Deployment: “Not for busyness – but being about God’s business.” I am not interested in my plans – but God’s. And I have been blessed to sit front row to His show.

Pictures Worth Thousands of Words!

 

Please pray:

  • That I stop trying to please everyone; stop trying to do it all – but focus on the priorities of God; and that I stay energized in body and spirit.
  • Pray for my assistant Rick – that he continues to grow spiritually
  • Pray for our team – 136th CSSB (Combat Sustainment Support Battalion) team/leadership. I have encouraged our leadership to model with better ethics and morals. The tongue has given us much trouble.
  • And finally, pray for our families back home. That the Lord will give wisdom and discernment in managing those areas our Soldiers left void; strength and comfort in our absence.

Respectfully submitted,

Scott Noyes

Join Chaplain Noyes in prayer as he enters the second half of this deployment. Pray for the requests listed above, and especially that he and his team will “finish well!”

For more stories about frontline chaplain ministry, military and civilian, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.

 

When the Call Comes

Chaplain responds to worst US Naval Disaster since USS Cole

By Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, USS Fitzgerald, as told to Andy Meverden

“The first time I stepped foot on a ship, (one of my recently assigned ships) the USS Fitzgerald, DDG-62, I was lowered by hoist from a helicopter. We could not land, as the ship was listing at 5 degrees.  I was one of four people sent to the damaged vessel, along with the Deputy Commodore, Damage Control Chief, and a Medical Doctor.  300 Sailors were fighting to keep the guided missile destroyer afloat.  For the 15-hour ride back, I did non-stop counseling.  The first thing I did was conduct a ‘spiritual triage.’ I spoke with those in or near the damaged area, those who closed the hatch to the flooding compartment, and then those who were standing watch when it happened. Later, I asked the command, ‘Who do you want me to see?’  A bow to stern head-count revealed seven Sailors missing. “

The collision with ACX Crystal, a larger Philippine container ship, occurred on June 17th, about 56 nautical miles (64 miles) southwest of the USS Fitzgerald’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. Chaplain Stephens, continued: “When the ship finally made it back to port, the community had rallied at the pier.  Families provided food for the famished crew, and additional chaplains and counsellors stood by.  It was a base-wide response.”  Jonathan took a long breath.  “Family members of the missing crew members were frantic.  Divers went down into the flooded area, and found seven Sailors drowned in the berthing area.”

The next morning, Chaplain Stephens showed up in his dress blues for casualty operations ministry duties to formally notify and console grieving family members.  “The next ten days were a blur.  How do you explain the unexplainable to loved ones whose whole world has changed?  It’s not normal. So much damage was done; to the ship, the crew, and most significantly, to the Families of those who perished.  Everyone worked together; the base chaplains, casualty teams, the command, family support; all the while we were grieving, together.”  When I asked about the dignified transfer of remains back to the Sailors’ home towns, he said, “The Air Force team as Yakota Air Base handled the sendoff.  Air Force chaplains conducted the Dignified Transfer of the flag-draped coffins on the ‘Angel Flight’ cargo plane.  They did a great job supporting us.”

I then asked Jonathan about the local memorial service for the seven lost Sailors: “We had great command support for the base-wide service; from the Commodore and Senior Chaplain down. The Navy flew the Families out.  Five of seven Sailors’ Families came, along with Admirals from one to four stars.  The news media was kept out of the service, with only the Armed Forces Network allowed to cover and film the solemn event.  I thought for sure the command would have the senior command chaplain officiate the service, but Commander David Cline, senior chaplain, put me up front.  He and other base chaplains provided all the backup and support of this major event for over 750 people.”

His words were aired at the Washington, D.C. Memorial Service and provided healing and comfort to Sailors, Families, and the Nation. His message at the Memorial Service focused on the act of giving displayed by the seven Sailors.  He said, “So much has been given…But I want to say, for those of us grieving…at the end of the day, what’s given to us is not what is going to heal us.  True healing doesn’t come from what we receive; true healing comes from what we choose to give for others.”

When I asked Jonathan how he felt undertaking this difficult ceremony, he replied, “Lord!  I felt so honored to play a role in the work He’s doing during this great tragedy.”

Now a few weeks after the fact, I asked Jonathan how he and his young Family were doing? “Well, we weren’t even settled in quarters when the tragedy occurred. I had to leave Melissa and six-month old Louisa to fly to the ship.  Fortunately, we had just acquired a car, so I loaded as much of our baggage into it before I took off, ‘Go-bag’ in hand.  That next day, Melissa had to handle the arrival of our household goods, plus care for our baby.  I remember the last thing she said to me, as I left, ‘Tell me what to pray for.’  We have a saying in the Navy, ‘The whole Family serves!’  Because of her faith and commitment to my ministry, I could fully engage in my duties without worry, or concern.  She is a role model for military spouses in the time of intense crisis.”

Jonathan continued, “As for me, I have no routine yet. It was truly a “baptism by fire” at this new assignment.  This major tragedy has gone on for six weeks.  It’s been tough; no time to establish local community connections, a real struggle.”

When I asked Jonathan how people in our churches could pray, he gave me this list:

  1. Praise and gratitude to God. It was incredible to see what God has done in and through this tragedy. I didn’t lose sleep throughout the whole event!
  2. Going forward: for fellowship in the local base community – that support network we all need.
  3. I was so busy for so many weeks, I got off balance. I am working to get back into reading the Bible for myself. We all need that daily quiet time/devotions.
  4. To quote a friend, ‘The chaplain needs to fill up always and not just pour out.’

I was glad to finally get a call from Chaplain Stephens from Japan. I took notes as fast as I could, so I could share his experience with you our faithful supporters of chaplaincy.  I urge you to lift Jonathan, Melissa, and baby Louisa to God in your prayers.  As you do that, remember the other 189 chaplains serving across the 54 United States, Territories, Commonwealth and the District of Columbia, AND spread around the globe in combat zones, sailing hostile waters, and often flying in dangerous skies.

For more stories describing the ministries of CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  If interested in learning what it takes to be endorsed for chaplaincy ministry, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Renewing the Shield of Faith

A Law Enforcement Chaplain’s Ministry Story

By Rev. Wylie W. Johnson, Pastor and Law Enforcement Chaplain

 

In Delaware County Pennsylvania, there are 43 distinct Police Departments, many of which are quite small. Even the larger departments are small by city standards. Each department is stove-piped in policies, promotions, retirements, etc. Competition and isolation are the inevitable results of this structure. Cops are also a very close-knit, clannish group. It’s hard to break in and to find acceptance. When an officer retires, regardless of rank, the isolation can become almost unbearable.

The Law Enforcement Chaplains of Delaware County (LECDC) work cooperatively and collegially to meet the spiritual needs of officers. Until this past year, I’ve been the LECDC Vice-president. We are especially cognizant of the issue of police suicides, among both active and retired officers. Sadly, in the past few years we have seen several officer suicides. In 2012, I had the privilege of instructing (16 hours) our chaplains in the Applied Suicide Interventions Skills Training (ASIST). I’ve also made suicide intervention presentation to officers from across the county.

Recently I’ve had the privilege to minister to John, a medically retired Philadelphia city cop who just lost his wife. John was despondent, and sought counseling from a licensed counselor in a neighboring township. The counselor asked if I could help. Although John had only served six years before his injury, and that had been more than 25 years in the past, he still self-identified as a cop. It is a truth that cops always wear the shield in their hearts, even if they’ve been off the force for years. When I called John, he seemed interested, and I made arrangements for him to come to the monthly POOP (Police Officers On Pension – P.O.O.P.).  luncheon. We prayed over the phone, and agreed to connect with each other.

These luncheons are usually attended by 30 – 50 retired officers, sheriffs and chiefs. For most of the men and women attending, it is a high point of their month. We chaplains bring a strong spiritual emphasis to these meetings with care for the sick, and bereavement arrangements. We also offer a hearty blessing on the lunch we’ve come to share. I share POOP duties with another CBAA pastor, Perry Messick; and Bob Kilmer, a local evangelical pastor. John was immediately welcomed and made some new friends. Here was a group where John could feel accepted. Retirees find commonality in their years of service, and their personal need to connect with others. Part of communicating the Gospel is the simple caring for each other, and John found this among retired officers who were fast becoming new friends in his old age. Our ministry of presence yields fruit because we are often the only pastors these officers know.

Rev. Wylie W. Johnson (pictured left, with Rev. Buccialia) was ordained by the CBAA of NJ in 1982. He has been the Law Enforcement Chaplain in Springfield Township PA since 2010. Additionally, he is the Chaplain for the Delaware County Chiefs of Police (since April 2013); and co-chaplains the local LE retiree group (Police Officers On Pension – P.O.O.P.). Previously, he served nearly 26 years as a CBAA chaplain in the US Army; and for the past 20 years has been the Pastor of the Springfield Baptist Church, Springfield PA.

 

Across our Nation, pastors and churches are reaching out to Law Enforcement and Firefighters. These brave men and women appreciate the respect and support of God’s people in their dangerous, daily duties.  Many CB pastors are volunteering as LE/First Responder chaplains in their communities.  Chaplain Johnson is open to contact [pastor@springfieldbaptist.net] from other pastors interested in learning more about LE/Firefighter (and retired) ministry.

 

For other stories and reports of CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. Those interested in learning about endorsement may contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.