Little Eyes Are Watching

How a Navy Chaplain’s wife supports her husband

By Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, US Navy, 7th Fleet, Yokosuka, Japan 

When her first child was only six months old, Melissa’s husband received orders to the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in the 7th Fleet at Yokosuka, Japan.  After the three of them arrived, it was only two weeks before he had to be flown out to sea.  With their household goods being delivered to their new home on that same day, she stood in the doorway holding their baby as she kissed him goodbye and asked “how can I pray for you?”

Things did not slow down for Melissa and her family the entirety of their tour. They did not get to do all the traveling that they had hoped to do or experience the culture like they imagined they would. When her husband was out, her distance from the US and the opposite time zones even made relying on extended family for support difficult. Between deployments they were blessed to have another little girl and when the baby was only two weeks old, Daddy had to leave again. Her husband would be absent more than he was present for the first year of their new baby’s life. With her husband being deployed for two out of three Christmases, birthdays and anniversaries, this was fertile ground for bitterness to grow but she did not let it.

Melissa had a firm belief that God had called them to this ministry for a purpose. As her husband would communicate the challenges, she would partner with him in prayer and as he would share with her the testimonies of how God had answered, she would join in the celebration.  Of course this was not hidden from God’s eyes but it was also not hidden from the eyes of their little girls. Instead of focusing on the time that he was away, Melissa would celebrate the time that he was present. She would make a big deal about Daddy coming home from work, or Daddy calling on the phone… so, deployment homecomings… were nothing short of epic!

Their now 3-year-old daughter makes up songs about her “so handsome Dad” and sets aside her favorite dress “for when Daddy comes home.” When their now 15-month-old daughter gets sad she points at the iPad and says “DaDa” because looking at pictures of her Dad is her go-to comfort (besides her “Pacie.”) How could their Daddy be their hero when they hardly know him and rarely see him? It’s because of a wife who chooses celebration over bitterness and chooses faith over despair. Children learn to live life through what they observe, and this Dad owes his hero’s status to a wife who treats him like he is one and has convinced his daughters that it is true. – Thank you, Melissa!

Join me in praying for Jonathan and Melissa as they await the soon arrival of baby number three! Include the various families of CBAmerica’s 200 chaplains scattered around the Globe.

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


Last-minute Good-byes

Text reply from recently released inmate

By Jerry Levizon, Chaplain to female inmates, Pacific Northwest

This New Year’s Day I woke up early to take Misty to the train station in Klamath Falls Oregon. On Monday December 30, Misty was released from jail after serving 6 months. I began visiting Misty in jail three months prior.

The morning of her release I was there to help with transportation, but what she needed was shoes, socks, and clothes. Did I say I love to shop! Next stop, food stamp office, and Walmart where she purchased a phone.  Last stop was the Gospel Mission for a place to stay. I lured Misty away from her  friends who were also leaving jail that morning with a McDonald’s breakfast…everyone agreed for Misty not to pass on that!

Nevertheless, the next day Misty did not follow through.  We were  supposed to meet up, so I could drive her to the mental health office.  She was a no show.  Misty had a friend named Angie who was also there at Misty’s release; but Angie only wanted help from Misty to get her man out of jail!  

My concern was that Misty had met up with Angie and she was gone for good. Oh well!  My work for the Lord was done, so I thought! That night on New Years’ Eve, I got a text from Misty saying that she just wanted to spend some time with Angie and her friend’s man before leaving the area. Misty’s mom sent her a ticket for home, and Misty still needed a ride to the train station on New Year’s Day at 8 a.m. “No worries.” I texted.  I could do that!

That night I prayed that Misty would be ok, and for the Lord to protect her from the Evil One who wanted her back in his grip. This morning I was up before my alarm and read a text from Misty. She was at a Motel 6 and needed a ride to her friend’s place to pick up her stuff and then the Mission for her meds before getting on the train.

I was up, dressed and out of the house before sunup, and wondered what Misty had gotten herself into. She was at the Motel 6 with a gal I had never met. “What’s up?” I asked and Misty said that Angie and her man began to party, and Misty wanted no part of it.  So she called another friend she met in jail who was also struggling to stay sober, and together they rented a room.  A Hallelujah! Moment!

I gave Misty’s friend, who she spent the night with, a ride home, then  picked up Misty’s stuff from Angie and the Mission. Making it just in time for her train ride home. Misty thanked me. We hugged and I said that I was proud of her choices. I told Misty that God puts people in our life for a reason, but you must make the choice to change; how God wants to help you. “He is not going to force you Misty!” I said. “He designed you for a purpose and it wasn’t to live in the streets and wander aimlessly as you have done.” I went on to say God will love you more than anyone on this earth ever could! More than your father who won’t love you.

The only way to know him, it’s to read his Word, keep praying and watch for wholesome, like-minded people he puts into your life. While on the train, Misty texted me her mom’s phone number and we vowed to stay in touch.

Join Jerry in praying for Misty; that she would follow Jesus, Misty’s Savior.  While at it, pray for CBAmerica’s 13 other chaplains serving at the Federal, State and Local level.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica’s 200 chaplains, civilian and military go to www.cbamerica.org/chalaincy. For information on endorsement for chaplaincy, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Persing Pioneer

by Phil Persing

Whew!

2019 is now history!  Reflecting on the past year,  it’s difficult to imagine that God could have packed any more excitement into it for our family.  The year began with a much needed reunion, as Phil returned from his nine-month deployment to Iraq on January 14. 

We enjoyed a family getaway to Florida, then Phil took advantage of several professional Army training opportunities in the following months.  In March, he completed instructor certification to teach marriage enrichment seminars for Soldiers. We were able to lead two of these weekend events for our Regiment in San Antonio during the fall, providing marriage relationship training for over 70 Army families.  Phil also had the opportunity to attend Fort Hood’s rigorous Air Assault School in April, and Family Life Chaplain Training (pastoral counseling methodology) for two weeks in July.

It has also been a year of bountiful ministry in Pioneer Squadron.  Phil had over 170 counseling sessions with Troopers throughout the year, and these meetings yielded rich times of prayer, searching God’s word for truth and guidance, confession and repentance for sinful, unhealthy behavior, and the forging of God-honoring relationships throughout the Army family. Phil joined the squadron on several field training exercises throughout the year, culminating in a month-long return to the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert.

Phil leading a 9/11 Memorial Service

Our family also continues to participate and serve in Fort Hood’s “Chapel Next” community.  We have found incredible brothers and sisters in Christ among this chapel family, and are thankful to contribute to a community on post that prioritizes preaching Scripture and following Christ in a world of competing priorities.  Fort Hood’s AWANA has also been a huge part of our family ministry.  Beckie has reprised her role as Truth ‘n Training Director (grades 3-6), and Phil teaches the Bible lessons for this group.  Gabe has been fearlessly serving as a Sparks leader (K-2nd grade), with his younger brothers still participating as Clubbers.

Speaking of the boys, they have discovered the joys of youth athletics here at Ft. Hood.  Three of them (Jack, Hayden, Clark) played on soccer teams this past fall, and the four oldest all played their first season of basketball this winter.  There are no lack of opportunities here, but the challenge as most families know is trying to fit everything in.

In late summer, we received news about our next Army assignment: Phil was selected for the residential Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, which will begin in June 2020.  CPE is a four-year commitment: a one-year internship with an academic cohort at an Army Hospital, followed by a three-year utilization tour at either an Army medical facility or correctional facility. 

This assignment will bring different kinds of challenges, as it involves chaplains walking through some extremely difficult trials with other Service Members and their families.  It will also present new academic challenges and prospects– candidates in the program are provided the opportunity to earn their Doctor of Ministry degree while serving.  It is reassuring to know the God who has led us to this ministry in the Armed Forces will continue to equip us for His work.

Phil playing music at the Regiment’s Dining Facility on Thanksgiving

 In late December, we found out that the initial year of CPE will take place at Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington.  So, come this spring, the Persing family will bid farewell to Fort Hood and travel to make our next home in the Pacific Northwest.  The next several months will be a time of tremendous transition as we look for a new house and prepare Pioneer Squadron for its next chaplain after Phil’s departure.

The Whole Squad at AWANA

So, that’s a small taste of the adventures God has led the Persings on.  We love and thank God for you, and treasure your prayers in this New Year!          

With Trust in Him and Love for You,

                                                  The Persing Family

                                                                Phil, Beckie

                Gabe, Jack, Hayden, Clark, & Timothy

And we have confidence in the Lord about you… May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”-2 Thessalonians 2:4-5

                                                      

Unorthodox Thanksgiving

Ten-hour Pass during Ranger School

By Chaplain Sean Callahan, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

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This year, Thanksgiving was quite unorthodox, both for our family and our ministry. I started  Ranger School in early November, and after receiving a “no-go” on patrols, received the news that I would be a Darby recycle for next cycle. What that meant for me and those in the same position, was that we would be in a holding status for the next three weeks until Holiday Block Leave, and then would be reinserted with the new January class. But this holding status wasn’t a walk in the park; we were restricted to the barracks, completed menial details every day, and passed the free time we did have reading or playing cards. We couldn’t leave Camp Rogers unless we received a pass, and thankfully the leadership gave the 125 “Ranger Prisoners” (as we liked to call ourselves), a 10-hour pass for Thanksgiving Day. Most of the guys didn’t have any family come down to visit, any means of transportation outside of taxis, or any place to go. My wife, Katie, and I hatched a plan.

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We had been praying about how to serve in my current waiting period, and Katie decided that she would make the 7-hour (plus hours more of baby stops) drive with our 5-month-old to Columbus. She coordinated for a catering order from Cracker Barrel, received permission from the hotel to host the meal in the lobby, brought little decorations and festive table settings, and helped transport the Paratroopers. The guys were tasked with bringing drinks or their favorite desserts. Prior to starting the meal, I gave a devotion on Psalm 118 about being thankful in the waiting periods in life. We went around the table and expressing what we were thankful for, and then we all ate to our hearts content (which is a lot for a Ranger Student!). It was a fantastic time of fellowship and family, and one of the most treasured memories Katie and I have of our time in the 82nd.

I believe that is what God reminds us of in times of trial: that there are always things to be  thankful for, and sometimes the most beautiful pictures we receive of his character, love, grace, and provision come to us during times of failure, of great trial, or of waiting. While I didn’t want to recycle a phase of Ranger School and spend an extra month and a half away from family, I’m beginning to understand why God made it a part of my experience. The relationship building, opportunities to share (and live out) the gospel, and even hold bible studies have been plentiful. The perseverance through failure and reliance on God’s strength has been spiritually formative. The opportunities to share ministry with my family have been joyful and have brought us closer together and made me even more thankful for the wife the Lord has given me. The experience has been difficult and humbling, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I have seen how God can use even the most difficult circumstances to do extraordinary things.

Join me in praying for God’s strength and protection for Chaplain Callahan, his wife, Katie and infant son during this two-month absence of rigorous Ranger training.  Pray also for the other military (105) and civilian (95) chaplains as they serve in unique ministry environments.

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

Where Do I Start?

From Local Church Ministry to Prison Chaplaincy

By Chaplain Joel Van Sant, Federal Bureau of Prisons

Where Do I Start?

This is the question that was in the front of my mind when the Lord began to lead me from local church ministry to prison chaplaincy. Where do I start? I knew that there would be many challenges but I was not prepared for the openness and transparency found in prison. For a while, I thought that prison chaplaincy was going to be a much more difficult ministry compared to local church ministry. To my surprise, while prison is definitely a different setting for ministry and has its own set of challenges, it is truly a plentiful harvest.

Over the past decade, I have been in leadership positions in three different churches. Each time I have entered a ministry, I have had to learn the culture of the community, figure out when to schedule ministries during the week, and grow into the role of leadership set before me. The latter always seemed to take the most amount time. While I was prepared to bring pastoral leadership to each congregation, I learned quickly that such a role takes time as people need to adjust to a change in leadership.

This is not always the case in prison chaplaincy. On my Sunday at Federal Correction Institution (FCI) Fort Dix, N.J., I was surprised to find a crowd of men at the door of the chapel, waiting to start their respective worship services. I attended the Protestant worship service that afternoon and could tell that these men had a desire to bring their best before the Lord in their worship. The inmate led worship team included men with professional instrumental and vocal backgrounds. It was so overwhelming to see how God was using men like this to bring people into His presence in worship. One of the other chaplains at the facility preached and encouraged the men to grow in their praise of the Lord. At the end of the service, I talked with many inmates who wanted to meet with me at some point during the week.

The following days provided me with so much insight as I adjusted to this new ministry. I was amazed to find many of these men at my office door during the week. They came and sat in my office and shared their entire story with me. They told me of their offenses and also shared about how God has been working in their lives to bring them closer to Him. A few of these men even talked to me about some of the goals and desires they had for further ministry in the prison.

Overall, this entire experience has brought me much closer to the Lord and has taught me so much more about how God continues to grow His kingdom. Every Sunday, when I preach, I can’t help but think of the words of 2 Timothy 2:9, “the Word of God is not bound!” I am continually grateful that God has placed me in a setting where hearts are longing for a relationship with God.

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Join me in praying for Joel and his family as they settle into this challenging season of ministry within the Federal Prison system, as well as for CBAmerica’s fourteen (14) other chaplains serving in Federal, State and Local correctional systems.

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