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