A Blessed Season of Life: Retired Army Chaplain Reflects on New Hospice Ministry

By Mark Mitera, Chaplain, LTC, US Army, Retired – Current Hospice Chaplain

This season of life has been such a blessing for me as I serve as a hospice chaplain. My typical visits with a patient include having a conversation with them which includes their relationship with God, singing hymns and folk songs as I play my guitar, bible reading, and prayer. I meet many wonderful patients and family members and have found my ministry of encouragement to be very fulfilling.  I loved serving as an Army chaplain for many years, but I equally love serving as a hospice chaplain.

The following is a summary of the past 6 months:

  • Number of patients visited: 544
  • Avg visit time/patient: 55 minutes
  • Avg hours/day of patient contact: 4.49
  • Number of deaths: 89
  • Funerals conducted: 5
  • Bibles (Gospels) given away: 59
  • Church services conducted: 19

My wife, Annette, and I took a trip to Washington State to visit my kids and grandkids for a week. We had a wonderful visit; we had the grandkids at our motel for sleepovers on several nights. We came back worn out; but had a great time! They’re all talking about coming out to Ohio next summer to visit us!

I continue to preach every other week at small country United Methodist Churches in my area. The district office has called upon me to fill the pulpit, even though they know I’m a Baptist minister.  Attendance at each service usually ranges between 10-25 people, and I often play guitar at church as well.  I’ve been able to fill the pulpit at the same churches (usually 2 per Sunday) until they find a full-time preacher.  Since I have some consistency at the churches, I’ve been doing some expository preaching through the Gospel of Matthew.

Please pray:

1. For my daughter who is working on overcoming a drug problem. She has been sober for over 60 days, is back in church again, and is working on staying on track with her addiction program (counseling and small groups at an outpatient treatment program).

2. For my continued outreach to my hospice patients. I am currently seeing 81% of those on our census. Pray that they would come to know and love Christ as they face the end of life.

Join me in praying for Mark’s continued effective ministry to his hospice patients and their loved ones, thanking God for his encouraging musical gifts; and for his pulpit supply ministry to rural Athens Ohio churches.  May God continue to use Mark’s presence, words, music and preaching to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to the living and dying – that includes us all!

For more stories by and about CBAmerica’s 200 chaplains – civilian and military – visit our webpage at https://cbamerica.org/chaplaincy/.  To learn more about endorsement for chaplaincy, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Lead Climber Events: Chaplain ends up climbing the walls

By Chaplain Sean Callahan, US Army, Fort Brag, NC

One of my favorite pastimes is rock climbing. I not only enjoy the physical challenge of scaling the rock, but the mental challenge of analyzing the “problem” and deciphering the best sequence of hand and foot holds to ascend it. After rock climbing for years, I’ve learned that it is a very communal sport: people tend to congregate at the base of the wall, talk together, attack problems together, and climb together. Even before coming onto Active Duty, I would spend Friday afternoons at a local rock gym, making friends and sharing the gospel with the guys I frequently saw there.

Again, faced with the challenge of creating opportunities for connection and gospel sharing with my Paratroopers, the Lead Climber program was born. I found out that a local rock gym held “Military PT” hours, where, for a reduced rate they would open the gym from 0630-1200, provide equipment rentals, and offer a belay class. The gym isn’t open to the public at that time, so the entire facility is for the group that reserved it. I had a thought: what if I could take a group of Paratroopers off post for PT, smoke them on the rock wall, and then offer them breakfast and food for the soul?

In Lead Climbing, one climber sets the route and hammers in safety anchors, while another climber follows in tandem. They clip into the anchors set by the lead climber, and if one falls, they are caught and counterbalanced by the rope, the anchor, and their respective weight. The concept behind the “Lead Climber” event is that much like actual lead climbing, Christ is our spiritual lead climber. On every climb there is a crux: the move or sequence of moves that are the hardest part of the climb. For us, that crux is sin and death. We can’t overcome it. But when we trust in Christ as our Lead Climber, the only one who has ever successfully conquered that crux, we can move past the crux, finish the climb, and experience the blessing of a relationship with God. 

 As a voluntary “spiritual fitness” event, Paratroopers who sign up understand that though they will get access to the gym and free breakfast, they will also receive about a 10-minute evangelistic message about Christ. I try to address relevant issues that the Paratroopers face by connecting climbing stories to deep truths from Scripture (we have currently been using some OT narratives), which culminate in a very clear gospel presentation of how Christ is our answer.

The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive, even from Paratroopers who are atheist, agnostic, or non-religious. I think what helps draw them together is the community-building that occurs by encouraging each other on the wall and tackling these difficult physical and mental problems. Many of them have never climbed before and get hooked. For others, they are meeting people outside of their immediate troop or company. And according to many, they are encouraged or challenged by the message. For me, the thread that ties it all together is the opportunity to build deeper relationships and invest in them with a clear gospel message. My prayer is that through these events, our Paratroopers will put their faith in Christ.

Join me in thanking God for creative outreach ministry by Chaplain Callahan and our other CBAmerica chaplains.  Pray for God’s Spirit to use the words and relationships to reach members of one of the largest “youth groups” in America! 

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, log onto www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  For information on endorsement for chaplaincy ministries, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Wilderness Wandering: Divine Appointment on Pacific Crest Trail

By Chaplain Dennis Newton, Trail Chaplain

It was great being on the Pacific Crest Trail this year. Due to minor injuries (Knee, Back Spasms) I made a safety decision to only complete 109 miles. Over the last couple of months, I have come to understand that the actual issue wasn’t that I had to carry over 20 pounds of water in many areas, but that I am on a medication which causes dehydration. I was drinking more than twice as much water as others and it wasn’t enough. This was the real main cause. Being dehydrated in the desert isn’t a good thing. I want to share one of many conversations I had while being “on-trail.”

Meeting A Stressing Hiker at the Water Hole

Getting back on the trail at Lake Morega, I was just getting warmed up about a 1/4 mile from the State Park gate when I came upon a hiker sitting at a picnic table by the water spigot. I gave a nod and then decided I’d exchange trail info with him. This is very common with thru hikers. When you see another hiker, you stop to see what they know about the upcoming trail. At my initial, “How’s it going today?” He gave the honest and dejected comment that he was really struggling. He had developed some bad blisters and that he had brought a 70-pound pack over these first 20 miles. He knew he had to get rid of some weight and get some relief for his feet. I was carrying only 30 pounds with my water and food at this time but could relate because I was just getting back on the trail after a knee injury that had taken me off a month before. My knee was better now, and I was feeling very good.

So, I counseled him that he did need to exchange his old Army gear for something lighter. And that if he took a day off he would find his blisters would heal. We talked about the difficulty of the last 5 miles and that it catches those of us off guard who are not in the best trail shape. I thought that was about as far as our conversion was going when he said, “Chaplain, I’m out here because I’m having trouble sleeping and dealing with my time in Afghanistan.” I listened to him share his pain. I gave him some comfort by sharing that he is in the largest group of Thru Hikers- Veterans recovering from combat. This group is as high as 15% of Thru Hikers. I also told him about my time on the Appalachian Trail walking with the Warrior Expeditions Veterans who are all trying to recover from PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).

We prayed together about his hike and that he would find peace in his pursuits. He also shared with me how he accepted Jesus when he was young and that he appreciated having me on the trail to talk with him right then. Apparently, God’s timing is just right. I heard from other hikers who had met him and had caught up with me that he was doing good in his hike and the blisters were getting better.

Being Trail Chaplain is much like being an Infantry Chaplain. You hike alongside the hikers, you carry your stuff, you do all the miles, but it puts you in the credible position of being there when they have a real need. Much like Jesus met the woman at the well, the conversations occur because we are where they are hiking and finding life is often not easy on the trail.

This year’s hike was much shorter than planned but I am blessed to have met these fine young people who are even now still making their way North toward Canada.

I also had a good trip to Trail Days in Damascus, VA where thousands of hikers have a reunion to encourage the current hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Met many old friends and as usual had many useful conversations.

Following Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Sheep, Chaplain Dennis Newton (USArmy, Retired) pursues lost, injured and wandering sheep on America’s great trails.  Recalling his earlier days as an Infantry chaplain, he identifies with Veterans and Warriors seeking peace following the horrors of war.  Pray for Dennis and his fellow CBAmerica chaplains who pursue those in need of the Good Shepherd.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  For information on endorsement for chaplaincy (military and civilian) email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Chaplain Prays at Historic Change of Command & 25th Anniversary of USS John S. McCain

By Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, US Navy, Yokosuka, Japan

I was able to be a part of the USS John S. McCain 25th anniversary and Change of Command Ceremony; and, also a ceremony to award Sailors for their heroic actions during the collision that happened 2 years ago this August.

If you search the anniversary on the web – I can be seen in the back ground behind Cindy McCain and the other speakers as they speak.

Following is the link to the Ship’s 25th Anniversary and Change-of-Command Video: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/694853/uss-john-s-mccain-change-command-and-25th-anniversary-commissioning

Chaplain Stephens’ Invocation and Benediction can be viewed at 00:06:15 and 1.00:50 minutes respectively on the video.



Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet 

YOKOSUKA, Japan (July 02, 2019) – Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday relieves Cmdr. Micah D. Murphy as commanding officer during a change of command ceremony aboard USS John S. McCain (DDG 56). Cindy H. McCain, wife of the late Sen. John S. McCain III and ship’s sponsor, were among the distinguished guests in attendance. The ceremony also commemorates the 25th anniversary of the ship’s commissioning. (U.S. Navy video/Released)

Video Program Events: (Hours:Minutes:Seconds)
00:06:15 – Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, Chaplain – Invocation

00:08:31 – Cmdr. Micah D. Murphy, Outgoing Commanding Officer
00:16:13 – Capt. Chase R. Sargeant, Thirteenth Commanding Officer (2013-2015)
00:22:01 – Capt. Jeffrey J. Kim, Tenth Commanding Officer (2009-2010)
00:27:40 – Capt. Jake K. Ross, Retired, Commissioning Commanding Officer (1994-1996)
00:37:26 – Mrs. Cindy H. McCain, Ship Sponsor
00:55:04 – Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, Incoming Commanding Officer

01:00:50 – Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, Chaplain – Benediction

For more stories by and about CBAmerica Chaplains, military and civilian, visit our webpage at www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy .  For information on endorsement for chaplain positions in the US Navy or other military branches, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org