The Highs and the Lows

Chaplain Reflects on Blessings and Challenges

By Chaplain Roy Fondren, USN/USMC, Okinawa

Greatest blessing of quarter…

There are many; but I’ll zone in on one. As a former Marine Infantry Officer, being in the urban training areas/field is what we do!  And the ultimate auditor of a Marine’s fitness (Tactical, Physical, Emotional) is war!

And as a Chaplain, I recall Moses in Exodus 17 being overhead praying; interceding while his people were in battle below.  A few weeks ago, my Marines were in the field training and one Marine was sighting in a Machine Gun. With my “Sword” on me, I laid next to him and began praying over my Marines with my Bible Open… Unknowingly, a picture was taken, and it literally went “Viral” on Social Media.

For me, the glory of the matter is my Marines have heard me say time and time again the ultimate auditor of life on this side and the next is our Spiritual Fitness.  And for my Marines and the thousands that have seen and or shared the image, I pray they know 1) A Chaplain stands in the gap prayerfully, and 2) The God of this world has died and rose for them, and 3) They have been purposed for a heavenly existence.

It’s surreal to be a Chaplain. To be paid to do what I’d do for free…so that some may come to know Christ!  Please keep praying for Kingdom opportunities to avail. My son, Nate, recently pinned my Fleet Marine Forces Pin which was a TREMENDOUSLY emotional honor!  The kid is AMAZING!  He just shared Jesus with a female peer last night…the guy has a GREAT CALLING on his life!

Biggest challenge…prayer request: …the spirit of resilience.  I have been told twice in the last few months of rape/sexual assault within the ranks.  As one who doesn’t hide emotions well, I find myself frozen in anger… not as productive at initial onset.  I ask for the spirit of resilience and calm amid injustice.

Join me in praying for ministry opportunities like the ones described by Chaplain Fondren; for eyes to see and ears to detect the needs of the moment…and respond appropriately.  For more stories by and about CBAmerica’s 199 other chaplains, log on to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  To learn more about what’s involved in endorsement for a wide variety of chaplain specialties, email Andy Meverden, director of chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Touching Letters…Touching Lives

Ministry’s light in life’s darkest moments

Subject: Touching Letters

Dear Chaplain Meverden,

Of all the thank-you letters I have received, this has touched me the most.  The family requested me to pray for their dying retired Naval Officer before the doctor/nurse unplugged the life support.

After I officiated a Memorial Service for one of our aviators who died at a mishap, I got this email from the Command.  These letters are a constant source of encouragement and inspire me to continue to give my best for God and for our country. 

Stay Blessed. Shalom! 😊

<+><

Johnny Cometa
Lt Cdr, CHC, US Navy

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For information on endorsement for military and civilian chaplaincy, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

G’day Mate!

US Navy Chaplain Ministers Down Under

By Chaplain Ted Shields, US Navy, Australia

“G’day mate!,” was the greeting I received when I walked in the chapel tent at Tiger Hill. Tiger Hill was one of several bases that were established to support Talisman Sabre 2019. Talisman Saber involves joint exercises performed by more than 34,000 personnel participating from 18 counties, including Australia, United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. Talisman Sabre is Australia’s largest biannual joint military exercise.

Not knowing the extent of this exercise, I was under the impression I would be the only chaplain and my squadron would be the only ones present at Tiger Hill. Yet, when I arrived, I came to a base that had about 1200 military members from several countries. I located the established chapel tent and was greeted by one Australian Army Chaplain and, to my surprise, one Australian Salvation Army Officer in an Australian Army camouflaged uniform.  I found out that not only was I not the only chaplain on this base, but I was going to work with three Australian Army Chaplains, one Salvation Army Officer, one US Army Chaplain and a US Army Religious Affairs soldier. This was truly a Joint Operation.

I quickly learned that the Australian Chaplains do not refer to each other by their rank or title, but by each other’s first name. To the rest of the Australian Army, they are simply referred to as “Padre,” even though they are not Catholic. I had several opportunities to provide ministry with these chaplains. We had two Sunday services, two Wednesday Bible studies, daily mass provided by the US Army Catholic Chaplain and a nightly ecumenical evening prayer service.

Several times the senior Australian chaplain would invite me to join him to visit other bases to meet other Australian chaplains and Army Officers. During the exercise, I was honored to represent the US Navy during the annual anniversary memorial ceremony for the Canal Creek plane crash, which is the second worst air disaster in Australia that happened on 19 December 1943 and took the lives of 31 passengers that consisted of Australians and Americans.

One of the most interesting things about this exercise were the people and the environment. It was special to walk to where my Marines were working and see kangaroos hopping around.

One thing I was not prepared for was the cold at night. Our summer months are their winter months. There were several mornings where I woke up to frost on the ground and not being able to feel my fingers and toes because of the cold, not to mention living in tents with dirt floors and not environmental controls.

But the days were pleasant. The Australians were warm and welcoming. They always had a smile on their face and loved to speak to Americans. One thing I found particularly interesting is the fact that the Australian Salvation Army is actually integrated into the Australian Army. They are not chaplains and do not provide direct ministry in the form of services or counseling, but they are there in a philanthropic capacity and provide things like socks, food and drinks to the Australian soldiers.

The focus of ministry for me was primarily my Marines. Ministry consisted of ensuring there was hot coffee provided, making supply runs for them to Rockhampton once a week (a two hour drive away), visiting the spaces where they were working both day shift and night shift and several on the spot counseling. After the exercise was indexed, the Marines and I transitioned from Tiger Hill to a base in Rockhampton. There, I coordinated with another US Army Chaplain to provide a cultural enrichment opportunity for my Marines.

We visited an Aborigine culture center where we learned about the Aborigines, watched an aboriginal dance and had the opportunity to learn how to throw a boomerang. After the cultural center, we went to an animal sanctuary were there was an opportunity to interact with several local animals including feeding kangaroos, emus, lizards, snakes and peacocks. Other ministry provided was taking Marines off base into town to enjoy liberty during the day. I was given my own van and instructed by the Marine Officer In Charge to get the Marines off base to experience the culture. Doing this opened up several opportunities to engage in conversations about Marines’ faith and their spirituality.

Talisman Sabre was a great opportunity to engage with chaplains and people of other cultures and to engage with my own Marines as well.

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Join me in praying for military chaplains who serve on every continent, on every ocean and time zone around the world.  For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, civilian and military, visit our webpage at http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  For information on what it takes to be endorsed for chaplaincy, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Those Four Words

Just like that, they were going to change my day

By Chaplain Gordon Ruddick, Hospital Chaplain, Springfield Oregon 

There I was, paying attention, at least fairly well, during what we call “discharge rounds.” Out of that mound of information can come hints, either directly or indirectly, letting me know who I might need to see today. But all that changed when those four words came blasting over the loud speaker : “Code Blue, Cath Lab!” Rounds suddenly became where I had been, not where I was going to be any longer. I piled my papers, excused myself, and moved out of the room. Quickly down the stairs one level to the third floor, two left turns, through a badged door, and I was in the cath lab hallway in the midst of a flurry of important people, looking for whoever was in charge.

I am the chaplain who works the cardiology floors, and so, whenever possible, I take any calls to the cath lab. It’s the area of the hospital that has my heart, you might say. The cath lab represents the possibility of life. And death. And who knows which one it will be? It is a place where mystery exists, where uncertainty is the only thing certain.

“You’re the chaplain” was the callout to me. My head nod affirmed that.  And so I was given the quick update, the family information, and taken back to the family waiting area to be with this concerned family. We moved to an inner waiting room. The one the dad had been in before. A room that had negative history for him.  Last time there somebody in his family had died.

The next two hours went by rather quickly. At one point in the process I had been able to go back to the actual lab and talk with a staff member, who provided a hopeful update for the concerned family. Sitting with, quietly watching, praying at their request. Just being there. That was my job at the moment. The doctor came in and gave a quick report. The situation was better now. Hopeful. Stents had been placed, blood flow was restored, and the patient was out of immediate danger. She had almost died. But not this time, at least. We could breathe words of thank you.   

I took this numerically growing group up a floor to the ICU waiting area, which was where the patient was heading. I got them settled and assured them I would be back soon to check on them, right after I did some self-care, which I also encouraged them to consider.

Just as my lunch was about to go into the microwave four similar words blared overhead: “Code Blue, Surgical ICU!” Different location, same effect. Lunch could wait. I just knew this was the same case and I needed to be there.

I was right. I quickly entered the ICU and asked which room was involved. It was hers. She had coded on the way to ICU. Her heart had stopped and they were performing chest compressions. Lots and lots of activity. Everyone doing their jobs well. The danger we thought had passed was more present than ever.  Nobody in that room was thinking about lunch right now.

The doctor in charge was orchestrating the situation well. I watched for a few minutes. No progress yet. I caught her eye and asked if I could bring family in. She looked at me and said, “Two. That’s it. Stay right with them.” I moved quickly to the waiting area and connected with dad and sister. I informed them of the situation and brought them back. We stationed ourselves just outside the room and observed the attempt to save the life of this thirty five year old mother of two young children. Observing active CPR is jarring the first time one sees it. I had my left hand on dad’s shoulder as he looked on and my other arm wrapped around the patient’s  younger sister, who had pulled in close under my wing and was quietly pleading, “No, Jesus, not today. This is not the day! This is not the day. You need to fight, sis. You need to fight. I can’t do this right now.” I stood by quietly providing a safe place for her to plead.

One more attempt was made, one more test, and then the moment arrived when the doctor had to inform us that her heart had no remaining function. The battle was over. The attempts stopped. The monitor went silent. And I held them in the swirling sea of tears and attempts by staff to console. 

A while later, after sitting and talking with the sister about what had happened and what might be coming, I heard a phrase from her that I will not forget. She thanked me. That’s not unusual. But what she thanked me for was what I had not heard before. “Thank you for holding me while I snotted on your shirt!” I just chuckled and said, “No problem. It’s just a shirt.”  A bit later the realization came to me: I’ve got another shirt. She doesn’t have another sister.” It puts things in perspective.

As a chaplain, I really cannot often be the “answer man” for people, because often there are no answers to the questions they are asking, or at least ones I have access to. And it’s not really what she needed, anyway. Maybe what I can be is best described as “anchor man.” In a swirling world, full of fear and frustration, I need to stay firmly planted.  Mouth shut, heart open. Maybe a few tears leaking out. Just being. Calm in the midst of chaos. Love in the horror of loss.

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Join me in thanking God for kind, compassionate hospital chaplains like Gordon who daily respond to people in crisis in Emergency Departments (ED/ER), Intensive Care Units (ICU/CCU), Birthing Centers and Hospice settings across America.  He is one of 28 hospital and 14 hospice chaplains endorsed by CBAmerica.  Pray for the Spirit’s direction in assessing and responding with Christ’s compassion and direction in each situation.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to our webpage at www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  To request a brochure on chaplaincy or what it takes to be endorsed as a chaplaincy, contact Andy Meverden, at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Uncle Sam Wants You…. to Pray about becoming a Chaplain!

So does the Lord Jesus;

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”


Just in from the Office of the Army Chief of Chaplains; 4 October 2019

Endorsing Agencies,

Thank you for the heavy lift last year for the Army Chaplain Corps.  Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 was the largest year for accessions in the Chaplain Corps in over twelve years.  You provided a myriad of ministers to answer the call to serve God and country!

FY 2020 will be even larger.  But with hard work from all involved, we will continue to provide Chaplains to meet the needs of the Army.  And we will close vacancies across the Army that have not been filled in numerous years.

CH (MAJ) Chris Wallace
Accessions Officer

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Uncle Sam also needs chaplains in the Air Force, Navy (Marines & Coast Guard), active duty, reserve and National Guard.  Other Federal agencies seeking qualified and endorsed fulltime chaplains include the Veterans Health Administration, Federal Bureau of Prisons; with volunteer positions in local FBI field offices.

At the State and local levels are another group of agencies seeking chaplains, full, part-time pastors who sense a call to medical centers, hospitals and hospice ministry.  Many local communities seek pastors to volunteer as first responder chaplains with law enforcement, firefighters and EMS.  Specialized volunteer chaplains walk America’s Great Trails seeking wounded warriors, ride motorcycles, minister to Veterans and other creative ministry venues.

For information on what it takes to be endorsed as a chaplain, contact Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.