By Chaplain John Hatfield, Rhode Island Army National Guard
“For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10)
A day of “small things” was a blessing to my soul last quarter. I was asked to provide support for a MP* memorial ceremony on Veterans Day. The ceremony was modest and those in attendance were few. The morning was cold and if you happened to be watching from afar, nothing about this gathering would have gotten your attention. Events like these are often seen as unimportant and “small” – even by those in ministry.
Yet, three things happened on that cold morning that made this day of “small things” a blessing. First, I was able to pray and minister to current soldiers in the unit as well as several retired MP’s. All who seemed very happy to see a Chaplain. Second, I was able to speak of the Lord to many who rarely (if ever) have contact with a Christian or a Chaplain. Third, I was able to thank them for their service and show appreciation to those who serve and have served in this special branch. It was a blessing to listen to their stories and establish new relationships. These opportunities made a day of small things a great blessing to my soul.
• For a great work of the Spirit to revive souls in the Rhode Island National Guard.
• That the Lord will open doors to preach the Gospel and open hearts to receive it.
*Note: MP = Military Police whose motto is “Of the Troops and for the Troops.”
For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, military and civilian, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. To learn more about endorsement for one of our many chaplain specialties, email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sweet smells of Thanksgiving turkey wafted through the air as Shelley and I arrived at our son’s home to celebrate the holiday with him and his family. The lovely pre-dinner hors d’ oeuvres, and even better conversation, changed with the ring of my cell phone. Yes, it was the hospital and they were calling me to respond to a death … on Thanksgiving Day.
The beauty of the late autumn drive helped to calm my outlook as I rehearsed portions of Scripture that may be of help to the mourning family members. At this point I knew nothing about the deceased or the family, only that a death had occurred and, per hospital policy, the on-call chaplain was called to respond.
Making my way to the nursing station I checked in to be sure of the room and was directed accordingly. That emotion filled knock on the door reminded me of so many times I had to knock on doors as a military chaplain to assist in delivering bad news. This time the knock was answered with a kind but sad family with the body of their recently deceased loved one present.
Soon I became aware that this was a religious family, albeit not of a biblically orthodox faith. Spending some brief moments to greet each family member, the grieving spouse began to share about the deceased. Sensing that this family would welcome some Bible verses, I proceeded to share some short, poignant selections of Scripture about the salvation offered through Christ and the Father’s home in heaven for those who believe. The family nodded their appreciation, adding much about their faith group and the good works of the deceased.
Also sensing that this family would welcome prayer, I asked if I may pray with them and they gave hearty approval. Following the prayer I made sure that they knew where to turn for funeral home assistance and how they could contact a chaplain in the future. They gave warm, thoughtful words of thanks and I departed.
No sooner was I in the hallway than one of the extended family members followed me from the room with tearful eyes to offer profound thanks for reading the Word of God. This one went on to explain years of prayer for the family, that they would know our Savior, and that the Scripture reading had resonated so well at such a difficult time. Yes, this presented another opportunity to witness to our Lord’s saving power, reflecting the faithful prayers of this one family member.
As I drove back to join my family for Thanksgiving dinner (yes, they saved a plate for me!), I reflected once again on the amazing privilege of witnessing for our Lord and Savior at such a time, and with people with whom I would normally not have any contact.
Only God knows the final outcome of the seeds planted that Thanksgiving Day by reaching out to people in need with Jesus’ truth and love!
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 NASB
Please pray for our 105 military and 90 civilian chaplains scattered across the nation and around the world.
As unique as the Airborne community is, my unit is part of the Airborne Cavalry Regiment. Essentially, they function as the reconnaissance element of the Brigade: scouting out areas ahead, behind, and all around the Brigade to provide actionable intelligence for the fight, as well as to seek out and destroy enemy reconnaissance elements. As a result, we come with a lot of vehicles and gunners. For us, typical Airborne operations entail not only dropping humans from the sky, but our gun trucks and scout vehicles so that we can be quick and highly mobile.
Part of the Cavalry tradition – hailing back to the days of horses and sabers – is to earn one’s “spurs.” To do this, the Squadron holds a Spur Ride. And what, you may ask, is a Spur Ride? In a nutshell, a test of grit and endurance. For us, it was a long, 36-48-hour mission replete with objectives, lots of rucking with heavy packs, and, of course, copious amounts of “smoke sessions.” In a way, they want to test a “shavetail’s” (that’s what they call non-spur holders) mettle. Do we care enough about the Squadron to learn its history and traditions? Can we endure long days, no sleep, and little food? Can we operate as a part of a team to accomplish our missions? Can we submit ourselves to the whims of spur holders who want to push us to our physical limits? If the answer is yes to all of these, and we Shavetails pass the examination, we earn our Silver Spurs, and forever becomes Spur Holders.
For a Chaplain, this is one of the times where we can really earn our currency in the unit. I’ve found that the greatest opportunities for ministry and growth occur when we do hard things. We learn more about ourselves, others, and God when we are pushed to our physical, mental, and spiritual limitations. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to get there. Other times it takes eating one meal a day, rucking with 80 lbs. of gear, and pushing a Humvee up a hill at 0300 to find out what we are really made of.
Questions like, “How do you stay so nice to everyone, Chaplain? I want to kill all of them right now,” are fairly common. The answer? By God’s grace. I may be frustrated inwardly, but I know that my witness is on the line, and that to be an encouraging, counter-cultural presence, I must rely on God’s strength instead of my own. And that’s the important lesson: it is possible to be a follower of Christ even amid difficult situations; even when I’m not feeling my best; even when I’m tired, hungry, cold, and wet. The beauty of God’s grace is that it’s a gift, and I don’t have to earn it. God freely gives it, and so empowers me to hang tough with the Paratroopers to be a light in this Airborne world – or whatever world He puts us in.
Hard things over and done with, I have some silver spurs to put on my jump boots, but much more importantly, I have some relationships that have gone much deeper than I ever thought possible. And, perhaps most important of all, I’m reminded of just how wonderful, mighty, and gracious a God we serve.
Please pray for: 1. The two Paratroopers who accepted Christ this Quarter. Continued Spiritual growth and healing. 2. Holy Spirit-led opportunities to share the Gospel with Paratroopers. 3. Our rock-climbing outreach event aimed at bringing young Paratroopers to a local rock gym for climbing during PT, breakfast, and a gospel message. 4. Katie’s pregnancy: She’s due at the end of May!
Please pray for Sean and Katie as they reach into the lives of Soldiers and family members in Sean’s unit. While you’re at it, remember our 105 military and 90 civilian chaplains scattered across the nation and around the world.
At the Winter Meeting of the CBAmerica Board, January 29th and 30th held in Laguna Beach, CA, Dave Whitaker was appointed President of CBAmerica. He is taking on the newly defined position:
“In recognition of the covenantal commitment of CBA, the President shall serve the member networks, facilitating national vision, coordinating and managing the network of national resources and services; he shall be a part of the selection process for any new Executive Director of a member network; he shall facilitate the expansion of CBA into more networks.”
Church ministry is woven into the fabric of Dave’s life. A “preacher’s kid” born in Iowa, Dave grew up in the East San Francisco Bay Area town of Pleasanton. After receiving undergraduate and seminary degrees, Dave served seven years as an associate pastor of his home church in San Ramon, CA, then thirteen years as senior pastor of Heart to Heart Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ. During the years in Phoenix, Dave received his Doctor of Sacred Ministries degree from Northland International University. Dave’s burden to return to the Bay Area led him in 2004 to become the lead pastor of Morgan Hill Bible Church, serving also as a volunteer chaplain with the Morgan Hill Police Department.
For over eight years, Dave served as the Executive Director of Next Generation Churches in northern California, one of eight regions in CBAmerica. Along with serving on the various boards of CBAmerica, Dave serves also as Vice-Chairman of Western Seminary.
Dave and his wife, Lanette, have been married for 37 years. Their daughter Kaylan lives in Manhattan and son Jonathan and wife Carrie, and their first grandchild, Sylvia, live in Brooklyn, NY. Dave enjoys hanging out with family and friends, reading, playing golf and playing with his Apple gadgets. Even more, Dave loves communicating the Word and is passionate about seeing local churches and pastors flourishing in the gospel, connecting people into a vital relationship with Jesus Christ.
Dave will continue as the lead pastor of Morgan Hill Bible Church but will be handing off his role of director of Next Generation Ministries with the appointment of a new Regional Director.