Chaplain (CPT) Phil Persing Regimental Engineer Squadron 3d U.S. Cavalry, Fort Hood, Texas
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend U.S. Army Air Assault School at Ft. Hood, my current home station. Affectionately billed as “The Ten Toughest Days” in the Army (a highly debatable statement, but it makes the point), Air Assault students are subjected to rigorous and relentless physical and mental demands. The training focuses primarily on helicopter operations, training Soldiers in everything from aircraft hand and arm signals to external load inspections to actually rappelling from Blackhawks. Graduates must complete an obstacle course, multiple written and hands-on exams, and two timed ruck marches (6 mi. and 12 mi.).
Participation in Air Assault School is completely voluntary. No one asked me or expected me to sign up for this. So, why would a chaplain care to subject himself to Air Assault School? Aside from the general fulfillment of pushing oneself to new levels and learning new skills, there are reasons why Air Assault School is a particularly valuable opportunity for chaplains.
Students Conduct Their Final Rappel From a UH-60 (Blackhawk)
First, chaplains are much more likely to “win a hearing” with other Soldiers if we go where they go and experience what they experience. I developed quick connections with fellow students during those weeks because we trained and suffered together. This opened doors for conversations about the gospel and our public Christian witness through words, as well as prayer with students as we approached the final assessments in the school.
Additionally, Air Assault experience has positioned me to be an informed encourager and cheerleader for future Soldiers in my unit who aspire to this training. It is yet another point of connection to develop relationships with those I serve, and I now know better how to pray for each one who goes through the school.
I thank God for the opportunity for this training—may He use it to declare His glory and goodness among Soldiers!
In most of the Marine Corps, Marines train to deploy. They often travel to different areas of the country to simulate conditions and train in those conditions so that they will be effective, should the call come for them to deploy.
But in PACOM (Pacific Command), U.S. Marines deploy to train. Marines stationed in the Pacific often deploy to different countries throughout Asia to get real-life experience and train in those actual areas through planned exercises.
One of the most well-known and established exercises is COBRA GOLD. COBRA GOLD is a multinational exercise that takes place throughout Thailand. During this exercise Marines hone their skills in different types of warfare simulations. Yet, one thing that is not as well-known during COBRA GOLD are the Community Relation Events that take place.
Community Relation Events, or COMRELs, are typically organized by chaplains, in coordination with community leaders of the host nation, to engage with the local population by providing services and hosting events.
This year, I had the opportunity to organize and participate in six separate COMRELs in the span of two weeks during my time in Thailand. Four of the six COMRELs involved going to local elementary schools to interact with the children. I was able to bring 50 Marines to interact with over 1000 children across 4 different schools. Interaction consisted in the Marines teaching English to the Thai children (with the help of local translators) and then leading games with them. The interaction with the children was such a blessing!
Another COMREL I organized was a local temple clean-up where Marines went to a Buddhist temple and performed beautification around the grounds of the temple. The final COMREL I organized was a beach clean-up at the base I was staying at. The Gulf of Thailand can be beautiful, but there is a lot of debris in the water and much of that debris washes up on the beach.
It does not seem like collecting the debris was a high priority for the Thai Marines. Therefore, taking the initiative of being good guests on their base and leaving it in better shape than we found it, made a positive impact on the Thai Marine leadership.
So where was the ministry in all of this? Was I out preaching to the masses about the love of Jesus Christ? Yes and no. One of my favorite expressions is “preach the gospel every day, and if you have to, say words.”
At every event, I was asked to introduce myself. To help them understand what I did, I explained to the children and teachers I was a “military religious man.” I explain to them, like a Buddhist priest, I am a Christian religious leader. I would also show them the cross that I wear on my left collar (we were required to be in Marine camo uniforms for the COMRELS).
There were many COMRELs conducted throughout the nation of Thailand and they were all coordinated and led by chaplains.
Many of these COMRELs provided school supplies to the elementary schools that were visited. Other COMRELs were actually building schools for children. It was a beautiful collaboration between the Navy and Army Chaplain Corps, the Seabees, Marines and local organizations doing life impacting projects and interactions with the local communities.
Although we were doing the community events in the hope to build relationships with the host nation of Thailand and not evangelizing, the fact the Thai population saw the chaplains out conducting and leading these events spoke of the love of Jesus. Seeds were sown in rocky ground.
Please continue to pray for the people of Thailand that more missionaries would come to do intentional evangelism. Most of the Thai people I met were devoted to their faith and practice in Buddhism. I suspect they would dedicate the same devotion to the gospel and spreading the gospel once they become a believer in Christ.
Chaplain Andy Meverden adds, “What Chaplain Shields didn’t mention was that during another exercise last year on Tinian, Typhoon Mangkhut struck their location, requiring Marines to shelter in place. Chaplain Shields stayed with his Marines to ride out the storm. This commitment to the safety and well-being of his Marines was communicated directly to me from a senior PACOM chaplain monitoring the operation from Japan.”
Join me in praying for the health, safety and effective witness of Chaplain Shields and his family currently stationed on Okinawa and for the other 198 CBAmerica chaplains – military and civilian – scattered across the U.S. and around the world.
By Chaplain John Hatfield, Rhode Island Army National Guard
“For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10)
A day of “small things” was a blessing to my soul last quarter. I was asked to provide support for a MP* memorial ceremony on Veterans Day. The ceremony was modest and those in attendance were few. The morning was cold and if you happened to be watching from afar, nothing about this gathering would have gotten your attention. Events like these are often seen as unimportant and “small” – even by those in ministry.
Yet, three things happened on that cold morning that made this day of “small things” a blessing. First, I was able to pray and minister to current soldiers in the unit as well as several retired MP’s. All who seemed very happy to see a Chaplain. Second, I was able to speak of the Lord to many who rarely (if ever) have contact with a Christian or a Chaplain. Third, I was able to thank them for their service and show appreciation to those who serve and have served in this special branch. It was a blessing to listen to their stories and establish new relationships. These opportunities made a day of small things a great blessing to my soul.
• For a great work of the Spirit to revive souls in the Rhode Island National Guard.
• That the Lord will open doors to preach the Gospel and open hearts to receive it.
*Note: MP = Military Police whose motto is “Of the Troops and for the Troops.”
For more stories by and about CBAmerica chaplains, military and civilian, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. To learn more about endorsement for one of our many chaplain specialties, email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at email@example.com.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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,
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!