Send Us Your Best: CBAmerica’s Newest Army Chaplain Checks-Out & In

By Chaplain Phil Persing, with Intro by Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy

Every time we endorsers meet with the Military Chiefs of Chaplains; we hear the same thing: “Send us your best! We need your best!”

After ten years on the staff of First Baptist Church, Juniata, Pennsylvania, Pastor Phil and Beckie Persing (and their five sons) followed the Spirit’s leading into the Army Chaplaincy.  The first time I met the Persing Family was at Phil’s graduation from the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course (CHBOLC).

Escorted to my seat, I reviewed the program.  I looked for Chaplain Persing’s name, customarily listed in alphabetical order.  It wasn’t there.  Initially, wondered if there was a mistake, or worse.  Then I glanced to the top of the list.  Under the title: “Honor Graduate,” was Phil’s name.

The ceremony proceeded; speakers spoke, awards were presented, and the event concluded.  The class of newly graduate Army chaplains filed out forming two-ranks through which attendees would pass.  At the end of the sidewalk stood Phil next to other recognized graduates, most of them prior military, some highly decorated.  As I took his hand, I said, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  He replied, “Somethings are best left unsaid.”

Not only did Phil “check-out” in chaplain school, but he immediately “checked-in” to his first assignment at Fort Hood.   Following is his first family newsletter:

Continuing on Mission…

Hello from Fort Hood, Texas, where time seems to be flying by! The last several weeks have been filled with activity and intense preparation for the coming days. God has been consistently proving His sufficiency for our family as we are experiencing His blessings and finding He provides just what we need at exactly the right time. We hope that you are seeing evidence of His gracious love at work in your life today as well.

Chaplains Singing Hymns on Easter Sunday

April began with Fort Hood celebrating Jesus’ resurrection in a garrison-wide Easter sunrise service. Chaplains from the many on-post chapels came together to proclaim the hope we have over sin and death. Pray for the many in attendance who heard the gospel that day!

Several days later, Phil officiated and preached at a memorial ceremony for a young Soldier in his unit (apparent suicide). While we thank God that the service accomplished the chaplain’s sacred duty to “honor the fallen,” it was a sobering reminder of the struggles that all too many Soldiers are facing these days, and of the urgency to bring them a life-saving message of hope that all people need to hear and trust.

On April 19-20, Phil joined his squadron on an intense 28-hour long event called a “spur ride.” It’s a voluntary cavalry tradition that involves strenuous PT challenges, land navigating and ruck marching over 25 miles through the woods, conducting a simulated “night raid,” and memorizing significant dates and facts from the history of the 3d Cavalry Regiment. For surviving this ordeal, Phil was awarded his silver spurs (yes, it’s a set of spurs to be worn on uniform boots. Who knew?).

Gabe’s Car Took 1st Place in the AWANA Grand Prix

Our whole family has had its share of excitement this month. Our oldest boys recently designed and raced cars in the AWANA Grand Prix. Out of 21 racers, Gabe and Jack took home first and second place! The on-post AWANA program is soon ending for the summer. When it kicks off again in the fall, Beckie will be taking a leadership position in the “TnT” group (3rd-6th graders) — a position to which she thankfully brings much experience and expertise.

In late April, we were blessed with the opportunity to gather with some old friends for a week’s vacation near Branson, Missouri. It was a refreshing opportunity to see a part of the country we’d never previously visited, and to spend some time relaxing with loved ones.

This was especially important for our family, as we are gearing up for Phil’s deployment.The deployment plan will involve Phil ministering to Soldiers on mission in the Middle East. While there, he will be leading the morning worship service every Sunday, teaching a Thursday evening Bible study, providing counsel and pastoral care for Soldiers, and advising the command on issues that arise. The current schedule (which has undergone some changes, and could always change again) has Phil returning to Fort Hood in the fall.

Your prayers are certainly treasured during this deployment. First and foremost, thanks are due to God for calling us to a God-sized task for His glory– there is no better place to be than serving Him in the way He directs and equips.   Please remember to pray for the Soldiers’ safety, success in the mission, the salvation of souls, godly wisdom for the leaders, and the overwhelming assurance of God’s presence and peace for our entire family during the months to come.

With Trust in Him and Love for You,

The Persing Family:  Phil, Beckie 
Gabe, Jack, Hayden, Clark, & Timothy

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted! “
 
-Psalm 47:8-9  

Crisis Ministry: When a Sanctuary Becomes a Refuge

By Chaplain Brian Hargis, US Army, Hawaii

Below is the summary of events on 24MAY, concerning HMR* IMPACT Chapel:

At 1700 hours on Thursday, 24 MAY, Lisa, a resident of HMR, posted to HMR Spouses FB page; “White banged up Minivan speeding onto HMR with lots of police cars chasing!”

For the next several hours, I followed this thread as a flurry of comments were posted by HMR residents.  As the only chaplain residing on HMR, I had no idea that what was unfolding would result in great community ministry.

Within an hour, Amber posted a picture of the two individuals wanted by local authorities….”These people are in my house someone call 911….” The two individuals, wanted by police, had jumped the security fence of HMR and entered her residence, seeking shelter.

Amber’s call for help did not go unnoticed.  Numerous residents following the FB thread immediately dialed 9-1-1 and alerted authorities to Amber’s home.
“I did” – Al
“I called” – Mary
“Called 911” – Natalie

Shortly thereafter, Amber, her husband and daughter were able to escape the home, leaving the wanted individuals inside. Alisianna, neighbor of Amber, replied, “I have Amber and her daughter.”  A few moments later, Amber chimed in, “I escaped, they are still in my house. My husband and my daughter and I got out.”

Amber, who is several months pregnant and experienced complications due to stress, was rushed to Tripler hospital by ambulance.

At approximately 2300, Alisianna contacted me through FB Private Messenger and stated that there were residents at bus stops and on the streets, and she sent me a picture of those in her garage.  Not sure how she knew that I was a chaplain, but word spreads quickly on HMR.

By this time, HMR Families near Amber home, had been displaced for approximately five hours.  No one thought it would take that long to apprehend the subjects, and considering that it may have been longer still, I posted, “If anyone needs me to open up the chapel, it’s available.  Plenty of room, kitchen, bathrooms and shower.” I was unsure who, if any, would come to the chapel, but knew that it could be a sanctuary.

Alisianna responded in private message, “Lots of babies out here with rain on and off. They just moved everyone further down the street. Main homes are empty. We have at least 20, sir.”

“Send them to the chapel.  I’m headed there to open it.” I stated, and I quickly put on my duty uniform for distinction in crisis, jumped in my vehicle and sped off to the chapel.  Meanwhile, Alisianna took to the streets and contacted the Military Police (MP) to inform them to head to the chapel. A few moments later Alisianna sent this message, “I sent everyone your way, and still sending.”

Simultaneously, CH (LTC) Niehoff was in contact with me from the 25th Division cell, as the conduit of information and direction.

Within minutes, residents began arriving at the chapel in small waves.  I directed personnel traffic as quickly as possible – the nursery was used by a family with a special needs child.  The Children’s Church rooms were used as sleeping quarters by another family.  The chaplain office contained a couch which became a bed for a pregnant lady and husband. The sanctuary became a safe-haven for another 10 residents to chat with each other about the evening’s events. Even the children’s play room became home for a family with two dogs.

I opened the pantries in the kitchen and brought out all the food we had to feed the residents.  We played the only movie available – Courageous – which was more than appropriate for the situation. Additionally, I found four sleeping mats tucked away in storage!

Jessica, a nearby resident, reached out to us….“Hey, y’all need some food for the people at the Chapel?  I have 2 pans of Tuscan chicken I can warm up and bring over.”

At midnight I caught a break and updated the FB post….”HMR Chapel is open as a relief HQ for displaced families. As of midnight, 25 people and 2 dogs are using the chapel as a community hub. We have coffee, soft drinks, chips, popcorn, and a movie showing (Courageous). Additionally, we have a nursery with diapers, bathrooms, a shower, kitchen, play rooms, sleep rooms and plenty of padded space available. I am on the scene for prayer and support.

We are your Ohana and safe-haven, and proud to serve you!

Chaplain Brian Hargis, Senior Pastor
IMPACT Chapel Hawaii

Around 0100, the situation was under control and the individuals were apprehended by authorities.  Residents were authorized to return to the residents except for three families, whose homes became crime scenes.  One of the families used my vehicle to return to their home and retrieve items – they were being placed at Wheeler Army Airfield in temporary housing.

In all of this, God could minister to these families in a special way through prayer and calmness that the chapel provided.

The aftermath: On Sunday, May 24th, four new families attended chapel services at HMR.  They were the displaced military housing residents who were ministered to three nights prior!  One of them was Amber, her daughter, and mother-in-law Shelly.  We spoke about the events and collectively prayed for Amber and the family.  Additionally, Shelly joined our IMPACT Chapel Prayer Warriors page on FB, and asked for continued prayer and support for the family.  Shelly also started a Go-Fund-Me account for the family.

v/r,

Brian T. Hargis
MAJ, Brigade Chaplain

*Notes: IMPACT Chapel at HMR (Helemano Military Reservation) launched 4 June 2017 under Chaplain Hargis’ initiative and leadership. Alternating between chapel and beach locations, many have come to Christ and have been baptized. On Easter 2018, they had the largest attended service of 194. It has been an exciting and fruitful period of ministry.  God used this “exciting incident” to capture the attention of local military residence and bring even more into God’s Family!

Pray for CBAmerica Chaplains around the world, who regularly respond to crisis situations; on the battlefield, in training accidents, operational incidents, individual and family crises. For more stories of ministry response, visit www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy for the latest postings.   For more information on endorsement as a chaplain, contact Andy Meverden, director of chaplaincy, at chapandy@cbamerica.org.