The Power of the Word: Chaplain response on Thanksgiving Day

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.

Mark Campbell and Shelley

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.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy, and to learn more about endorsement for a wide variety of chaplaincy specialties, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Do Hard Things: Memories of a Cavalry Spur Ride

By Chaplain Sean Callahan, Fort Bragg, NC

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!

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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.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy, and to learn more about endorsement for a wide variety of chaplaincy specialties, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

How You Spend Your Days: Chaplain tracks numbers that really count

By Mark Mitera, Hospice Chaplain, Athens, Ohio

Just to satisfy my own curiosity about how I’m spending my time during the week, I’ve been tracking the following statistics for July – December 2018:

(1) Total number of hours of direct patient contact: 478.65 hours.
(2) Total work days this period: 113
(3) Hours per day of direct patient contact: 4.24 hours per day.
(4) Number of patients visited: 489
(5) Average length of visit: 0.98 hours per patient.
(6) Number of deaths: 107
(7) Number of funerals conducted: 9
(8) Number of Bibles given to patients: 28

One of my blessings is the increase in the number of hospice patients I am seeing on a regular basis. During my last report, I asked you to be praying that the Lord would allow me to see more of the patients on our hospice census. I was seeing approximately 70% at that time.

As of this past month, I am now seeing 85% of my patients and feel that I’m having a significant impact in their lives. I give all the glory to God for making this happen, because there is nothing different that I am doing. If I offer spiritual care to a person and they decline, then I need to honor their desire and not see them. I thank you for your prayers and ask that you continue to pray for me in this area.

Another blessing is being able to preach at two small country churches in my area twice per month. Although I make it clear that I’m a CBAmerica chaplain, the United Methodist Church (UMC) District Office is glad to use me for pulpit supply. Since this past July, I have been preaching a 9:30 service at Bates UMC (with attendance of 20-25), followed by a 10:45 service at Shade UMC (with attendance of 15-20). They are small in numbers, but I’ve come to love the people there, and they call me their pastor even though I only preach there every other week. One visitor even commented that the service felt more like a Baptist service (like her Baptist church in Florida)!

Please pray for me that the Lord will continue to use me to faithfully preach his Word. Also pray for the people in these small churches that they will be encouraged, that they will grow in their faith, and that they will be motivated to effectively share their faith with others.

I also consider it a great blessing for me to minister to my hospice patients, to be able to clearly share the gospel with them, and to be able to pray for them that they would truly come to know and love the Lord before it is too late for them. We have lost 107 of our patients in the past six months, and many people outside of hospice can’t understand how I can continue doing this ministry. It is only by God’s grace that I continue to do this work of ministry. Rather than focusing on the terminal illnesses of all my patients and realizing that they will possibly die within the next six months, I consider it a privilege to be able to spend a short amount of time with them through meaningful conversation, spiritual music, Bible reading and prayer.

Please pray for my hospice patients that they might call on the Lord in their time of need, and that they might come to truly know and love Him.

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Join us in praying for Chaplain Mitera’s hospice and pulpit supply ministry. May he and our other 195 CBAmerica chaplains continue to follow the example of the Lord Jesus who came to seek and to save those who are lost and dying.

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

 

Spiritual Resilience in Athens: Chaplain Reinforces Morale in Ancient Ruins

By Chaplain Daniel Moen, Athens Greece

Happy New Year from Greece!

I’ve attached a storyboard from a recent event we did in Athens. I took 29
Soldiers in partnership with my Hellenic counterparts to tour Athens and
explore some historical and biblical sites. It was a fantastic trip.

 

Join me in praying for Chaplain Moen and his Troopers on this unique deployment. Pray for safety in the air and on the ground for this heavily armed Cavalry unit.  Pray for successful training and interaction between U.S. and Greek forces.  Pray for loved ones back home who eagerly await their Soldiers’ safe return!

For more stories about and by CBAmerica chaplains – military and civilian – go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy.  To learn more about endorsement as a chaplain, email Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

When I Was in Prison, You Visited Me: Chaplain Brings Ministry Home

By Chaplain Jerry Levizon-Hughes, Jail Ministry, with Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy

Andy Meverden writes: “Last year, while reviewing Jerry’s ministry update, I picked up on an amazing story. Out of concern and compassion for an incarcerated mother of three, Jerry volunteered to take her daughter* into her home. Wondering how this would work out, I eagerly anticipated her follow-up report. Read ‘the rest of the story.’”

“The biggest blessing in the last six months is that the gals I have seen in jail or out, keep in touch with me. They aren’t concerned about me just stopping by to see them, whether they aren’t doing well, and end up back in jail or in rehab. Whatever the situation, they want me to come see them. ‘Thank you, Father for keeping these doors open!’

In January, I will meet Christina who is coming out of a nearby correctional facility through our HGO program (Home for Good in Oregon). She has asked for a mentor in our area, and the pastor at the prison called me.

Josalyn* has been in our home for 11 months, I call her my ‘God daughter’ because it was God that put us together. It’s been especially hard on her. It’s not easy losing family and she has struggled trying to keep her siblings nearby. However, God is good; and with a whole lot of prayer, Josalyn’s siblings ended up just a few blocks from us – huge praise!!!!!!! and thanks to Jesus. (This is Josalyn this past summer learning to drive on a riding lawnmower!)

I haven’t been in our jail since October, as there have been no requests. Most gals when they leave the jail don’t contact me unless they are in need, and only if they still have my info. However, if they end up back in jail, they will look me up or ask for some other chaplain to come see them.

  • Please pray for the gals I see in jail and the ones I write to at a nearby correctional facility. I don’t know their story, but they all have one.
  • Pray for Josalyn as she is still struggling emotionally. Pray for her mom, Kim, and her siblings.
  • Pray for the gals in rehab, crisis homes and mental health treatment. Many have not yet put their trust in Jesus. ‘It’s a process,’ as one gal said!
  • Please pray for my husband and me; for the extra work and stress this ministry places on our marriage.

Thank you,

Jerry

Join me in praying for Jerry and her husband, Jim, as they nurture and care for Josalyn, in addition to the female inmates. It’s one thing to spend time in jail, listening, counseling and praying with adults. It’s quite another to take in an inmate mother’s child.

For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. If interested in learning more about endorsement for a wide variety of chaplain specialties, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

The Ultimate Leap of Faith: Paratroopers Accepting Christ

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

For Katie and I, these last few months have been wrought with transition, radical adjustment, long work days, but also great joy. In each of the first three full months that we have been here at Fort Bragg with the 82nd, a Paratrooper has surrendered his life to Christ. Three Paratroopers who have, in a very real sense, taken the ultimate leap of faith.

In the 82nd community, Airborne operations are our bread and butter. We train to jump and jump into training. We take the typical battle drills of an Infantry Brigade and execute them as part of complex airborne insertions. We afford the Army a capability to react quickly and decisively, behind enemy lines. And the longer we stay in the community, the more jumps we rack up.

I have learned, however, that for most Paratroopers (including myself) the nervousness that can accompany a jump never completely goes away: the sunken feeling in the stomach, the racing heart, the sweating palms, the moments of real fear when faced with exiting an aircraft while in flight. In those moments we choose to have faith in our Jumpmasters, in our parachutes, and in our pilots. We convince ourselves that our training is sound, our equipment has been checked and re-checked, and that when we exit the door our chutes will deploy, and we will safely land on the ground. And so, when we receive that green light, “Go,” all fear washes away and we surrender to muscle memory and the moving chain of human bodies, and we leap out from the aircraft into the sky.

While Paratroopers may be accustomed to taking leaps from aircraft, they are not always so ready to take a leap of faith. This kind of leap means surrendering ourselves, and in that act trusting in Someone we can’t see, and we haven’t necessarily trained for. There are no Pre-jump procedures or PLF (Parachute Landing Fall) rehearsals that help prepare us for an encounter with God. We must choose to take a leap into the unknown, and only then will we find our canopies carried gently down by the hands of a gracious and loving Father. We have to choose to believe in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross, and in that truth finally be set free from the fear and chains that bind us.

Our joy has been to see these Paratroopers, many of whom were at a crisis point in their lives and faith, decide to trust in Someone other than themselves. And if there had been any doubt as to whether we were following in the direction and ministry God was leading, moments like this erase them completely. They bring into sharp focus the incredible purposes and plans of God and remind us of how gracious He is in allowing us to be a part of His process of drawing these young Paratroopers to His side, in making them a part of His eternal family.

For this reason, we magnify His name. For this reason, we rejoice in every single moment, even when it means being away from home or working late into the night. For this reason, we give thanks for the great privilege it is to be co-laborers in Christ within this Airborne community.

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

Oh, the Places That They Go: Navy Reserve Chaplain Ministers in Unexpected Places

By Chaplain Nick Dewhurst, USNR & Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy

Chaplain Andy writes: CBAmerica military chaplains constantly deploy around the world. Air Force chaplains typically deploy to an air base, Army chaplains to Army bases and Forward Operating Bases, and Navy chaplains deploy to Navy bases and air stations or ride big ships on the oceans.  So, one would expect a Navy Reserve chaplain to deploy to a base with Navy or US Marines.  But not this chaplain.  Chaplain Nick Dewhurst, with a background with Sailors (Sea Bees – Naval Construction Battalion) and US Marines, took a different path.  Following is his surprising year-end update:

Happy New Year!

August:

We arrived safely in Syria and hit the ground running.  We were embedded with the U.S. Army, so it was an adventure learning their culture.  I’ve heard too many “Hooahs” for my own good.  We initially started our ministry with a small “chaplain store”* and work area.  It was functional, but we saw areas for improvement to better the lives of the Soldiers here.  Throughout the month we began visiting Soldiers in our guard towers and built relationships with them by bringing coffee and snacks (Twinkies)!  We got to know them well and enjoyed working with a great group of guys from the Mississippi Army National Guard.

September:

My RP (Religious Program Specialist) and I were able to do a small sight-seeing tour of our area with the local SDF (Syrian Defense Force) commander. He told us of areas where he fought ISIS for several days straight with diminishing food and Ammo.  He’s a great person.  I have enjoyed sharing tea and meals with him.  We ministered to his people by sharing with them much needed boots and toiletries.  We were also able to give gifts to the local Syrian children.

October:

We thoroughly enjoyed making life better for those on deployment. One of the main tasks was managing the insane amount of Care Packages that came to the base. My RP handled the management of the “chapel store.” This was an awesome tool for ministry as it brought people into the store for a great many conversations.  It was such a joy to be able to put smiles on people’s faces during their austere deployment. We actively sought to meet the needs and desires of folks.  The personal touch really helped us engage the troops.

During our time here, we also have had a great time at our Chapel Fire Pit. We’d have s’mores and conversation and we constantly had 20-25 people show up and hang out with us on a weekly basis. We even got to celebrate the Navy’s birthday (October 13) with a cake. Since myself and my RP were the “oldest and youngest (and only) Sailors” we cut the cake.

November:

For fun we decided to do a “capture the flag” event. This was one of the most successful events we did. As a chaplain, we constantly reached out to everyone that came in to us, or to those we would meet during our “deck-plating” (Yes, it’s a Navy term ) It was awesome to hear that this event was made famous through the country of Syria.

My RP and I had a chance to convoy to various bases around country and hold services in remote locations. As I was going around to people introducing myself, a soldier says, “I remember you! I played capture the flag at your base.” That is one of many compliments we have received on our work out here. I’ve told our chapel attendees many times that it is so important to be the “hands and feet of Christ,” as you may be the only Bible some people ever read. I think it is so true as a chaplain. The Gospel conversations, the counseling sessions, and the friendships have changed me for life!  We also enjoyed serving food for Thanksgiving and eating the wonderful food prepared by our DFAC (Dining Facility)

December:

We began celebrating Advent at the chapel. We had messages on Hope, Love, Joy and Peace and shared how Immanuel brought those things with Him at His coming. We did multiple chapel services with communion in December. The people obviously appreciated it! One of the sad things about December was that we had a lot of people rotate out.

When our Engineer Battalion left, we held a Good-Bye party for them. They presented us with a nice card.

 

New Year’s Blessings,

Nick

 

 

P.S. We heard this intruder one evening. Thankfully he was captured. He was as big as my RP’s hand!

 

 

 

*Chapel Store: This ministry team took over the task of receiving, storing and distributing Care Package contents (goodies) to area Troops. Like the typical American GI, they also shared with the destitute local population.  Not only did they use what they had to brighten the day of their servicemembers, but they brought rays of hope and joy to the oppressed people of Syria.  This is another example of the impact of sending Care Packages to our chaplains in support of their ministry to the Troops!

For more stories by and about Chaplains, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. To inquire about endorsement for military and civilian chaplaincy, email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

Ukraine: In the Midst of War

By Chaplain Bob Hicks, USAF, Not so Retired

LITTLE DID I KNOW

November 4 to November 22, I was in Ukraine for my fourth trip in four years.  Covering four cities, I spoke with groups of Ukrainian military chaplains, psychologists, soldiers, military academy cadets, in addition to widows and parents of fallen “heroes.”  Little did I know, just a couple of days after leaving Kiev, the Capital, the Russians would block access from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, capturing three Ukrainian ships, and holding 24 sailors as prisoners. In response, Ukrainian President Poroshenko declared martial law throughout several of the cities where I was ministering. Since I was close to the Black Sea and not far from the line of conflict, when I heard about this decision back in the US, I wondered if I could have been allowed to leave.

BACKGROUND

Known as a conflict between Russians living in the East (Separatists) against western oriented Ukrainians, the war is now in its fourth year. From the time President Putin took over Crimea and initiated the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, I have been sharing my experience with their all-volunteer chaplain corps.  I regularly speak on PTSD, Combat Moral Injury, and Reintegration issues (From Battle Mind to Home Mind). Ukraine has suffered over 10,000 combat deaths leaving many parents and wives of solders with little to no care from churches, communities and government. To fill the gap, several American organizations have stepped in for training and instruction for these chaplains. I have been honored as a retired Air Force Chaplain to be part of the ministering teams.  (As a civilian volunteer with CRU Military Ministry).

PLANES, TRAINS, AND TAXIS

My most recent trip I call “planes, trains and taxis.”  I spoke 32 times in the cities of Lviv, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhia, and Kiev, plus some side trips to meet with specific chaplains. I did four television appearances, one radio and a local newspaper interview. I spoke to hundreds of soldiers, a military academy, a Veteran hospital, a public high school general assembly, plus a city hall meeting of psychologists and Orthodox priests. In Lviv, I addressed Greek Catholic chaplains, and seminarians considering the chaplaincy.

WHAT GOD IS DOING

In a country with a history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, at the beginning of the war the only chaplains officially recognized by the government were Orthodox priests. Other protestant ministers, however, volunteered to go to the front, live with the soldiers, even take fire, with some being killed. Since very few protestant churches pay their ministers, these pastors would go on their own money, risk their own lives while serving their troops and leading many to Christ. Their commitment was a shining example of the love of Christ which began to influence even Orthodox priests.  As one of these priests told me, “at the front there are just chaplains, not Baptist, Orthodox or Catholic.”  Another one confessed, “I am Orthodox, but Protestant in my heart.”  So, this war is breaking down long standing denominational barriers and bringing about a certain unity of ministry. Christ is being exalted, the Bible studied, and confessions of faith being made.

Since my first trip after the war began, almost every time I spoke, military and civilian psychologists would show up. Initially, I thought they might be there just to “check me out” as a possible security threat. However, now I realize after 70 years of atheistic, materialist, behaviorist thinking, the young psychologists are searching for deeper understanding about the nature of humanness. They seem very curious and open when I start talking about the “soul” and “combat moral injury of the soul.” Spiritual categories are new to them and they realize Post Traumatic events like combat are not solved through medication or psychotherapy alone. This leads to interesting discussions about forgiveness and soul cleansing, which leads to the work of Christ. Thus, I am seeing a refreshing openness to Christ as a personal relationship, not the dry empty ritualism some have experienced in the past.

One Ukrainian chaplain had such a heart for widows, he started a weekly care group for both parents and widows of “heroes” as they call them.  Most of these had no experience with Christianity. After several mid-week meetings, he brought church musicians to sing and play Ukrainian songs. As more widows and parents joined, he realized he had started a new church. (I’ve had the privilege of speaking a couple of times to these meeting).  Other chaplains began doing the same, and now it has launched a whole church planting ministry simply created from ministry to war widows and parents. Many have come to know Christ, while others still come for the fellowship and care. So, God is at work in the midst of this war!

I have already received an invitation to meet with commanders at the front during my next trip. I am so honored to share our lessons learned from the US’s decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with these fellow brothers and sisters in arms. My mission statement borrowed from the Apostle Paul is: “we have a God of all comfort who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we might be able to comfort others in theirs” (II Corinthians 1:3-4). So, we comfort out of our own afflictions and traumas in the name of Christ.

Chaplain Bob Hicks is one of many CBAmerica chaplains who continue to serve as “Chaplains for Life!” Rather than retire from ministry, he continues to follow the Spirit’s leading into dangerous places where his unique ministry skills are needed and appreciated.  Join me in thanking God for Bob’s commitment to Christ, and willingness to serve “where most needed” at this time in history.  Pray for the Ukrainian chaplains, soldiers, mental health professionals and “Gold Star” families who have lost loved ones, including chaplains to the Russian insurgency.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forged in Fire: The Saga of Hershey and Joe

By Andy Meverden, Chaplain, Colonel USA, Retired, Director of Chaplaincy

The week before Thanksgiving, I received an email notifying me of the death of Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Annello, US Army Retired, Korean war POW and Silver Star awardee. Joe lived in the Denver area where I met him several times. Shortly after the email, a friend of Joe’s family called asking if I would be available to officiate his military burial honors.  The next day I visited Joe’s Korean-born wife, Joan, along with their good friend, Jeff, a Gold Star father who lost his Green Beret son in Afghanistan.  I listened to the circumstances of Joe’s death and discussed the modified full honors the military would provide due to Joe’s valor award (Silver Star), along with my role as chaplain.  As we talked, I realized that this was going to be a “big deal.”  All burials are, but this one, due to Joe’s heroic wartime experience would be unique.

The book “Forged in Fire: The Saga of Hershey and Joe,” tells about two men; Hershey, a Japanese-American Army corporal and WW2 Veteran and Joe, an Italian-American sergeant, who exhibited amazing valor and self-sacrifice while fighting an overwhelming force of Communist Chinese soldiers during a difficult night attack on their positions. Both men led their squads in repelling wave after wave of enemy soldiers until their ammunition ran out.  Then Joe and Hershey ordered their squads to retreat with the wounded while they themselves covered their withdrawal with machine guns, rifles and grenades.

Joe and Hershey were captured and ended up in the same group of prisoners. When directed to march into North Korea, Joe was so badly injured, his buddy, Hershey carried him ten miles.  Falling behind, Hershey was ordered at gunpoint by his captors to leave Joe in a ditch to die.  After Joe’s amazing rescue by U.S. Army tanks, and Hershey’s release after a nine-month captivity in North Korea (for which he received the Medal of Honor), the two returned to the U.S.  There they reunited and remained friends for over sixty years.  I strongly recommend the book.  It’s an easy read but it will have you on the edge of your seat!

Back to the burial: Wednesday, November 21, 1:30 p.m., Fort Logan National Cemetery, Shelter B, Joe arrived in a flag-draped casket carried on an open carriage pulled by two draft horses, followed by a rider-less horse with caparisoned boots (turned backwards). Six U.S. Army Soldiers of the 4th Engineers of Ft. Carson carried Joe into the shelter.  I welcomed the attendees, prayed prayers of comfort and committal, interspersed with readings from John’s Gospel, reviewed Joe’s service record, read his Silver Star Citation and prepared the group for military honors (Volleys, Taps, Folding and Presentation of the U.S. flag).  The Honor Bell tolled seven-times, with life-long friend and wartime buddy Cpl. Hershey Miyamura (MOH) assisting, followed by Amazing Grace played by a piper.  In my remarks I shared Jesus’ words: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NAS). Several loud “Amens!” echoed in reply. The loudest from a Medal of Honor recipient.

Storyboard with photos of the solemn event:

 

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

 

Chaplains at War: Training Ukrainian Volunteer Chaplains

By Chaplain Randy Brandt, US Army, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, and Andy Meverden

 

Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, writes: “War is hell on earth. The human cost includes not only the physical injury, and death of combatants, but also the lingering impact of its related emotional and spiritual trauma on returning warfighters, their families and loved ones. The current conflict between Russia and the Ukraine is producing many shattered lives, on the front lines and back at home. Part of the support the US provides our Ukrainian allies includes semi-official and volunteer training of chaplains. Once again, I was surprised by the recent report of one of our senior chaplains.”

Chaplain Brandt reports:

“I had the privilege of being the guest speaker for a group of 9 Ukrainian Military Chaplains back in August. What a joy it was to meet with and encourage these men, all of whom are volunteers (not paid military chaplains like we have in our Army) who choose to go to the front lines and serve the Soldiers on the battlefield because of a calling from God and a love of the Lord that compels them.

One of the guys was a Spetsnaz* soldier who fought in Afghanistan for the Russians and then became a special operations helicopter pilot prior to coming to the Lord and giving that all up to do the work of the ministry for the Lord in Ukraine. I heard lots of neat stories of service and sacrifice – some painful stories as well. Some of these men have lost family members during the invasion by Russian backed separatists in Donbas and Luhansk.

We had great fellowship and a chance to share testimonies of the great things God was doing in our lives and then I had the privilege to talk to them (through an interpreter) about Moral Injury and how the Local Ukrainian Churches can support and minister to the Soldiers and their families as they come back from war. We were hosted by a Ukrainian Christian Church and community near Seattle and were able to break bread with a traditional Ukrainian meal before coming back to JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) and providing a guided tour of our base museum and chapels.”

Chaplain Brandt asks prayer for:

  • Our daughters, Sarah and Rebecca are both needing to raise more support for their missionary endeavors.
  • Julie has had some on-going health issues.
  • I am starting up a new Bible study for our building here at JBLM; several hundred people work in this building and I’m hoping to touch a few.

 

Andy Meverden adds:

“Prior to the end of the age, Jesus said there would be many precursor signs, including “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). No matter what is going on around us, our mission is the same, and that mission is what Jesus says is a reliable predictor of the end times, “And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Join me in praying for the Brandt family concerns and ministry, including continued, effective Gospel ministry by Chaplain Brandt, and our other 195 chaplains, military and civilian. Pray especially for those military chaplains deployed in support of combat operations in various locations, along with these volunteer Ukrainian chaplains sent by their local churches to minister on their front lines of conflict.”

 

Director’s Note: *Spetsnaz is an umbrella term for special forces in Russian.

For more stories of and by CBAmerica chaplains serving across the US and around the world, got to www.cbameria.org/chaplaincy. For an informational brochure on endorsement for chaplaincy under CBAmerica, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.