Keeping Distance in Kosovo

COVID-19 impact on life and ministry

By Chaplain Jason Dong, Oregon Army National Guard, Deployed

Greetings from Kosovo!  Unfortunately, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 occurred on one of our bases here in Kosovo.  (Approximately 60 cases have been reported in Kosovo with 1 death.)  Restrictions on movement and social interaction where I’m located have increased to include the closure of the gym and increased precautions in our dining facility.  (See picture below for the strange and sad way we are required to eat in our dining facilities.)

Our task force continues to move forward with the mission.  There is a heightened sense of awareness as Kosovo’s prime minister was removed from office two days ago in a vote of no confidence.  Patrols and presence continue, and Soldier morale seems stable.  It helps that the border finally allowed the mail through so Soldiers are receiving much anticipated packages.

The limit on social interaction has made it challenging for the Unit Ministry Team.  I’m learning to navigate the world of social media to reach our soldiers and families with encouragement and hope.  Please pray for wisdom and discernment as I seek to engage in this new way (for me!).  I’m thankful we have such technology available to us and the ability to stay connected with family (see eating hamburgers pic 😊).  A few Soldiers have expressed a hunger for fellowship and getting into the Word which is encouraging.

Praises/thanks:  1)  Sustained health  2)  Mail arrived  3)  God’s continued provision  4)  Technology to keep us connected

Prayer requests:  1)  Wisdom, discernment in navigating ministry under these circumstances  2)  Open doors and open hearts of Soldiers  3)  Good health  4)  Peace and health for all our families    

Quote of the Week:  “…The righteous shall live by faith.”  –Romans 1:17

Thank you for your prayers and partnership in the faith.

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Jason’s update underscores the spread and impact of the Coronavirus on the life and ministry of our chaplains. Join me in thanking God for the wellbeing of Jason and his troops and asking God to reveal His wisdom and opportunities for ministry under current restraints.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, visit us at http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/ For information brochures on chaplaincy and endorsement, email Director of Chaplaincy, Randy Brandt, at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org.

Jesus our Hero

Pastor-friend’s long-term prayer for chaplain-friend

By Chaplain Greg Uvila, LCDR, US Navy,Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, WA

Recently at the CBNW annual enrichment conference we experienced phenomenal preaching and teaching by Pastor Jeff Vandestelt.  He wisely articulated what “Everyday Evangelism” is.  Pastor Jeff challenged us in many important ways; particularly one stuck like Velcro to my soul, “In all of your personal stories make Jesus the hero!”  What grand encouragement!  Yes?  Yes!

Greg Uvila and Andy Meverden

Incarnational

Clearly the Scriptures proclaim the mystery of incarnational ministry, the reality that we can be the arms and legs of Jesus for others right here, right now.  As we do so, we are a hero in their midst, not the hero, that’s Jesus’ spot.  Right?  Right!   Nevertheless, through God’s enablement we can powerfully “hero” into the lives of others.

My Hero

25 years ago, (I know, I just turned 60) I had the honor of working  alongside a CBA youth pastor Mark Claudson (currently Senior Pastor at First Baptist LaGrande, Oregon) in the greater Vancouver, WA area.  Through crazy summer camps and sleepless winter retreats we schemed and connived our way into the lives of high school students- two spiritual pied pipers offering hope to a generation, although not really understanding it, really needed Jesus.  What an honor to run alongside Mark!

Over two decades later, while at the 2014 CBNW renewal conference, Mark and I connected and got reacquainted, catching up on family news and ministry shenanigans.  Before I left that conference, he said “I’ll pray for you man.”  You know what?  He did!  Amazing, right?  Stick with me.  I didn’t see Mark until this year’s (2020) conference, which, do the math, was 6 years later.  He ran up to me like the prodigal Father did his son, “Greg Uvila!?  I spun around, locked eyes with Mark, warm smile, gentle eyes “in hand,” “I prayed for you Man…”  I was incredulous, “What, really, after 6 years?” I didn’t know what to think or say, I just muttered a simple, sincere thank you. 

You know praying for others is heroic.  It is servant-hood.  It is Christ incarnate.  Pastor Mark is my hero, little “h,” not capitol “H,” that designation only belongs to our precious Savior, Jesus.  Once again, we got caught up on family history and ministry shenanigans. 

Spirit Intrusions

Normalcy for me as a “middle manager” in the USN Chaplain Corps consists of a routine ripe with administration and mentorship with regular interruptions of Sailors who are in some sort of mess or crisis.  This day was no different, deeply engrossed in some “important” report God knocked on my office door.  God you say?  Yes, He routinely shows up, disrupts, interrupts, barges in, with the same playful glee and energy of a preschooler wanting to show off her coloring.  These Spirit intrusions remind me continually of what the calling to Chaplaincy is all about- Sailors, with hearts and souls, people whom God loves passionately, unconditionally.

The Idea of Living

I won’t soon forget this particular disruption.  My very normal day gave way to the abnormal, surrendering willfully like a newborn puppy under the watchful eyes of her mother.   The sailor before me was in her 20s, like many of those whom I serve, a single parent.  Her presenting problem, unfortunately, has become all too common- she was highly suicidal; sadly the idea of living was far more daunting than dying. 

Something has kept you alive

I quickly awoke myself from the malaise of administrative madness and engaged her, “Something has kept you alive to this point; otherwise you would be dead, what has kept you alive?  The sailor responded curtly, without hesitation or emotion, “My daughter.”  “How old is your daughter?”  Her affect did not change, and with no emotion, she curtly responded, “Four.” 

For about 30 minutes I continued to engage her- seeking Christ’s help to stay engaged, focused, fiercely fighting the pull on my soul to get sucked into her same depressive state- the stakes were high and she needed a present, alert lifeguard, one who could confidently throw her that bright orange lifeguard ring and pull her safely to life’s shore. 

35

“Tell me, when will your daughter graduate from high school?”  She stoically calculated “2035.”  Again, showing little emotion, it was if we had been discussing the oppressive Northwest rain.  We momentarily sat quietly, both pondering the heaviness of the moment, then God showed up again, first with a gentle whisper, next as a confident coach giving clear, precise instructions.  “Here’s what I’d like you to do.  I want you to go to the store and buy a pack of 3”x5” cards.  Next, go straight home, go directly to your kitchen and locate your junk drawer and pick out your favorite magic marker.   You know what you are going to do then?”  “What?”  Again the same, flat, distant, desperate, lifeless tone, “You are going to write in huge print the number 35 on a bunch of cards and plaster 35 all around your home- on your bathroom mirror, on your bedroom dresser, on your living room mantle, on your fridge in the kitchen, on your computer monitor in your study.  Further, you are going to go out and put 35 on the dashboard of your car and on the glove box door, okay?” 

Soon our Sailor slipped away into the day with a sense of hope- I need to stay alive until my daughter graduates from high school in 2035 was her new mantra, her orange lifeguard ring.  As she got up to leave, my closing argument was simple, “Hey, after your daughter gets her high school diploma I trust and hope and pray you will choose life, that you will have the courage to stay alive just for you, what do you say?”  With that challenge, she slowly got of her chair and with the coyest of grins gave me a fist bump and said, “I think I can do that.”

A Month Later

About a month later my phone rings, “Hey Chaps, this is Laura (not her real name), you got a second?”   “Sure, of course.”  My mind is quickly on over-drive, my brain scanning through the files of the Laura’s I have known and do now know.  I remember the voice.  Yes, it’s the single Sailor who has the four-year-old… #35… the suicidal Laura.  “Hey, Chaps I want you to know things are going much better, but I’m really not calling for myself, I’m calling on behalf of my parents.  They just wanted me to tell you thank you, so “thank you!”

“Thank you, Mark, for praying, thank you CBA community for praying, “heroing” into my life and the life of our Sailors at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, thank you Christ, our Hero, for answering.”

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Join Pastor Mark in praying for Chaplain Greg and our other 199 chaplains scattered across the US and around the world in military and civilian institutions and communities. For more stores by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/.  To receive electronic brochures on chaplaincy and requirements for endorsement, email Randy Brandt, director, at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org

Ministry in the Balkans

Guard chaplain supports peacekeepers in Kosovo

By Chaplain Jason Dong, Oregon Army National Guard, Deployed

Greetings from Kosovo!  I hope this finds you in peace and good health.  We arrived in Kosovo five days ago.  Unfortunately, I’ve already become quite sick as the poor air quality reignited by chronic sinusitis into an infection.  Due to the coronavirus precautions I was put on quarantine for 48 hours just in case to make sure I don’t develop signs (i.e. fever or dry cough).  

So much has happened since the last update.  We finished our training in Germany.  I held two chapel services (chapel pics) there and we completed a 5-day exercise in “the field.” At the end of our three weeks there we were given a one-day pass to visit the surrounding area and I chose to visit the town of Regensburg (Regensburg/St. Peter’s pics).  It was established in 179 A.D. by the Romans and there was so much history to explore.

Before being quarantined I was able to tour our area of responsibility for this NATO mission (KFOR27).  It is a beautiful country, but sadly the effects of war are still visible in many forms.  (I will provide some pics in the next update.)  We met our interpreter Ivan, a Serbian, who is my age and lives in Northern Kosovo.  The mission of our task force of 227 soldiers is to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo.  My primary responsibility is to provide spiritual support to these U.S. soldiers.  However, I will have the ability to meet with local religious leaders to encourage dialogue and peace.    

Praises/thanks:  1)  We finally made it to Kosovo!  2)  God’s continued provision  3)  Turned 44 while in Germany  4)  interactions with soldiers 

Prayer requests:  1)  Healing of sinus infection  2)  Open hearts of Soldiers  3)  Preparation for weekly service (two each Sunday)  4)  Preparation for two weekly Bible studies  5)  Safety and protection for all during this mission

Quote of the Week:  “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”  –John 4:23

May the peace of Christ dwell richly in your hearts this week.

Sincerely in Christ,

Jason Alan Dong

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Join me is asking God’s direction and sustaining care for CH Dong and his peacekeeping Soldiers and their separated families back home.  While you’re at it, pray for the other 200 CBAmerica providing ministry of comfort and calm across the US and around the world, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains on the cutting edge of ministry, log onto http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/. For information on endorsement for military and civilian chaplaincy, contact Randy Brandt at chapbrandt@cbamerica.org.