By Chaplain John Hatfield,
Rhode Island Army National Guard
John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
These days it seems the word “hero” has lost some of its original uniqueness. We use it to describe sports figures or media celebrities. This past quarter, however, I was blessed to officiate a graveside memorial service for a real hero. His name was 1LT John Crouchley from Providence Rhode Island. During the Second World War, 1LT Crouchley served as a pilot of a B-24 Bomber with the 828th Bombardment Squadron 485th Bombardment group – 15th Air Force out of Venosa, Italy.
In June of 1944, after completing a mission over Bulgaria, Crouchley’s Bomber was critically hit by attacking German planes. His bomber lost engines on one side and lost the function of the autopilot. All nine fellow crew members were able to bail out of the plane while Crouchley held the plane steady. Moments after the last crew members parachuted out, the bomber crashed on a remote hillside in Bulgaria. All nine crew became POWs but eventually returned home safely. This story of heroism only became known recently. While Crouchley’s wife and son were no longer living and never knew of his heroism, his grandchildren and many of the descendants of the nine crew members were on hand to pay tribute to this remarkable man.
In my funeral remarks I noted that biblical love involves more than just feelings. It primarily involves sacrifice – “laying down your life.” This sacrificial love was expressed through actions of 1LT Crouchley who died that others may live. I noted that this is the central message of the Christian faith – that Christ laid down His life that others may live.
The funeral gained some attention in small Rhode Island. By God’s grace the local news covered the funeral and even quoted John 15:13 in their opening remarks on the evening news (see link below). In what some have found as one of the “least bible minded” states in the country, I was rejoicing that God’s Word was being proclaimed by the news. This man gave his life for his friends and was a true hero. May the LORD use his sacrifice to point others to the ultimate sacrifice and bring more into his heavenly kingdom.
By Mark Mitera, Chaplain, LTC, US Army, Retired – Current Hospice Chaplain
This season of life has been such a blessing for me as I serve as a hospice chaplain. My typical visits with a patient include having a conversation with them which includes their relationship with God, singing hymns and folk songs as I play my guitar, bible reading, and prayer. I meet many wonderful patients and family members and have found my ministry of encouragement to be very fulfilling. I loved serving as an Army chaplain for many years, but I equally love serving as a hospice chaplain.
The following is a summary of the past 6 months:
Number of patients visited: 544
Avg visit time/patient: 55 minutes
Avg hours/day of patient contact: 4.49
Number of deaths: 89
Funerals conducted: 5
Bibles (Gospels) given away: 59
Church services conducted: 19
My wife, Annette, and I took a trip to Washington State to visit my kids and grandkids for a week. We had a wonderful visit; we had the grandkids at our motel for sleepovers on several nights. We came back worn out; but had a great time! They’re all talking about coming out to Ohio next summer to visit us!
I continue to preach every other week at small country United Methodist Churches in my area. The district office has called upon me to fill the pulpit, even though they know I’m a Baptist minister. Attendance at each service usually ranges between 10-25 people, and I often play guitar at church as well. I’ve been able to fill the pulpit at the same churches (usually 2 per Sunday) until they find a full-time preacher. Since I have some consistency at the churches, I’ve been doing some expository preaching through the Gospel of Matthew.
1. For my daughter who is working on overcoming a drug problem. She has been sober for over 60 days, is back in church again, and is working on staying on track with her addiction program (counseling and small groups at an outpatient treatment program).
2. For my continued outreach to my hospice patients. I am currently seeing 81% of those on our census. Pray that they would come to know and love Christ as they face the end of life.
Join me in praying for Mark’s continued effective ministry
to his hospice patients and their loved ones, thanking God for his encouraging
musical gifts; and for his pulpit supply ministry to rural Athens Ohio
churches. May God continue to use Mark’s
presence, words, music and preaching to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to
the living and dying – that includes us all!
One of my favorite pastimes is rock climbing. I not only enjoy the physical challenge of scaling the rock, but the mental challenge of analyzing the “problem” and deciphering the best sequence of hand and foot holds to ascend it. After rock climbing for years, I’ve learned that it is a very communal sport: people tend to congregate at the base of the wall, talk together, attack problems together, and climb together. Even before coming onto Active Duty, I would spend Friday afternoons at a local rock gym, making friends and sharing the gospel with the guys I frequently saw there.
Again, faced with the challenge of creating opportunities for connection and gospel sharing with my Paratroopers, the Lead Climber program was born. I found out that a local rock gym held “Military PT” hours, where, for a reduced rate they would open the gym from 0630-1200, provide equipment rentals, and offer a belay class. The gym isn’t open to the public at that time, so the entire facility is for the group that reserved it. I had a thought: what if I could take a group of Paratroopers off post for PT, smoke them on the rock wall, and then offer them breakfast and food for the soul?
In Lead Climbing, one climber sets the route and hammers in
safety anchors, while another climber follows in tandem. They clip into the
anchors set by the lead climber, and if one falls, they are caught and
counterbalanced by the rope, the anchor, and their respective weight. The
concept behind the “Lead Climber” event is that much like actual lead climbing,
Christ is our spiritual lead climber. On every climb there is a crux: the move
or sequence of moves that are the hardest part of the climb. For us, that crux
is sin and death. We can’t overcome it. But when we trust in Christ as our Lead
Climber, the only one who has ever successfully conquered that crux, we can
move past the crux, finish the climb, and experience the blessing of a
relationship with God.
As a voluntary “spiritual fitness” event, Paratroopers who sign up understand that though they will get access to the gym and free breakfast, they will also receive about a 10-minute evangelistic message about Christ. I try to address relevant issues that the Paratroopers face by connecting climbing stories to deep truths from Scripture (we have currently been using some OT narratives), which culminate in a very clear gospel presentation of how Christ is our answer.
The response to the program has been overwhelmingly
positive, even from Paratroopers who are atheist, agnostic, or non-religious. I
think what helps draw them together is the community-building that occurs by
encouraging each other on the wall and tackling these difficult physical and
mental problems. Many of them have never climbed before and get hooked. For
others, they are meeting people outside of their immediate troop or company.
And according to many, they are encouraged or challenged by the message. For me,
the thread that ties it all together is the opportunity to build deeper relationships
and invest in them with a clear gospel message. My prayer is that through these
events, our Paratroopers will put their faith in Christ.
Join me in thanking God for creative outreach ministry by Chaplain Callahan and our other CBAmerica chaplains. Pray for God’s Spirit to use the words and relationships to reach members of one of the largest “youth groups” in America!
It was great being on the Pacific Crest Trail this year. Due to minor
injuries (Knee, Back Spasms) I made a safety decision to only complete 109 miles.
Over the last couple of months, I have come to understand that the actual issue
wasn’t that I had to carry over 20 pounds of water in many areas, but that I am
on a medication which causes dehydration. I was drinking more than twice as
much water as others and it wasn’t enough. This was the real main cause. Being
dehydrated in the desert isn’t a good thing. I want to share one of many
conversations I had while being “on-trail.”
Meeting A Stressing Hiker at the Water Hole
Getting back on the trail at Lake Morega, I was just getting warmed up about a 1/4 mile from the State Park gate when I came upon a hiker sitting at a picnic table by the water spigot. I gave a nod and then decided I’d exchange trail info with him. This is very common with thru hikers. When you see another hiker, you stop to see what they know about the upcoming trail. At my initial, “How’s it going today?” He gave the honest and dejected comment that he was really struggling. He had developed some bad blisters and that he had brought a 70-pound pack over these first 20 miles. He knew he had to get rid of some weight and get some relief for his feet. I was carrying only 30 pounds with my water and food at this time but could relate because I was just getting back on the trail after a knee injury that had taken me off a month before. My knee was better now, and I was feeling very good.
So, I counseled him that he did need to exchange his old Army gear for something lighter. And that if he took a day off he would find his blisters would heal. We talked about the difficulty of the last 5 miles and that it catches those of us off guard who are not in the best trail shape. I thought that was about as far as our conversion was going when he said, “Chaplain, I’m out here because I’m having trouble sleeping and dealing with my time in Afghanistan.” I listened to him share his pain. I gave him some comfort by sharing that he is in the largest group of Thru Hikers- Veterans recovering from combat. This group is as high as 15% of Thru Hikers. I also told him about my time on the Appalachian Trail walking with the Warrior Expeditions Veterans who are all trying to recover from PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).
We prayed together about his hike and that he would find peace in his pursuits. He also shared with me how he accepted Jesus when he was young and that he appreciated having me on the trail to talk with him right then. Apparently, God’s timing is just right. I heard from other hikers who had met him and had caught up with me that he was doing good in his hike and the blisters were getting better.
Being Trail Chaplain is much like being an Infantry Chaplain. You hike alongside the hikers, you carry your stuff, you do all the miles, but it puts you in the credible position of being there when they have a real need. Much like Jesus met the woman at the well, the conversations occur because we are where they are hiking and finding life is often not easy on the trail.
This year’s hike was much shorter than planned but I am blessed to have met these fine young people who are even now still making their way North toward Canada.
I also had a good trip to Trail Days in Damascus, VA where thousands of hikers have a reunion to encourage the current hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Met many old friends and as usual had many useful conversations.
Following Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Sheep, Chaplain Dennis Newton (USArmy, Retired) pursues lost, injured and wandering sheep on America’s great trails. Recalling his earlier days as an Infantry chaplain, he identifies with Veterans and Warriors seeking peace following the horrors of war. Pray for Dennis and his fellow CBAmerica chaplains who pursue those in need of the Good Shepherd.
By Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, US Navy, Yokosuka, Japan
I was able to be a part of the USS John S. McCain 25th anniversary and Change of Command Ceremony; and, also a ceremony to award Sailors for their heroic actions during the collision that happened 2 years ago this August.
If you search the anniversary on the web – I can be seen in the back ground behind Cindy McCain and the other speakers as they speak.
Japan (July 02, 2019) – Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday relieves Cmdr. Micah D. Murphy
as commanding officer during a change of command ceremony aboard USS John S.
McCain (DDG 56). Cindy H. McCain, wife of the late Sen. John S. McCain III and
ship’s sponsor, were among the distinguished guests in attendance. The ceremony
also commemorates the 25th anniversary of the ship’s commissioning. (U.S. Navy
Video Program Events: (Hours:Minutes:Seconds) 00:06:15 – Chaplain Jonathan Stephens,
Chaplain – Invocation
– Cmdr. Micah D. Murphy, Outgoing Commanding Officer
00:16:13 – Capt. Chase R. Sargeant, Thirteenth Commanding Officer (2013-2015)
00:22:01 – Capt. Jeffrey J. Kim, Tenth Commanding Officer (2009-2010)
00:27:40 – Capt. Jake K. Ross, Retired, Commissioning Commanding Officer
00:37:26 – Mrs. Cindy H. McCain, Ship Sponsor
00:55:04 – Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, Incoming Commanding Officer
01:00:50 – Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, Chaplain – Benediction
For more stories by and about CBAmerica
Chaplains, military and civilian, visit our webpage at www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy . For information on endorsement for chaplain
positions in the US Navy or other military branches, contact Andy Meverden,
Director of Chaplaincy at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Chaplain Randy Brandt, Senior Chaplain, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA
It is amazing how the Lord brings connections our way. Last March at the CBNW Annual Enrichment Conference in Seaside, Oregon I met a pastor who attended Denver Seminary the same years I did. We connected with stories of faculty, friends, churches in the area; and shared history as to what led us here over the last 30 years. It was a meaningful connection.
Fast-forward a couple weeks; this pastor calls and tells me he has a friend whose son-in-law was just sentenced to a 2-year incarceration at the military prison on JBLM.* He asked whether he knew of anyone who could help.
My new pastor friend tells of just having shared a banquet with the senior chaplain at JBLM and that it was a God-thing connecting us at that time.
I made a point to go visit the young man. He was on a spiritual journey, seeking answers and seeking God. I had the privilege of leading him to the Lord during our visit – God had prepared everything and it all fell into place. Praise the Lord!
Join me in thanking God for chaplains like Randy, who, regardless of rank, never lose their love for the hurting and lost and assertively share the Gospel with those in need. Pray for more “connections” for Randy and his fellow CBAmerica chaplains in military and civilian institutions across America and around the world.
Note:* JBLM – Joint Base Lewis-McChord (the new amalgamation of Ft Lewis and McChord Air Force Base)
By Chaplain Joshua Van Vlack, Oregon National Guard / Canyon Bible Fellowship, Lyons, Oregon
Solomon wrote, “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9.
I know that typically we send in updates quarterly for active and semi-annually for reserve chaplains; however, I wanted to let you know what has been going on with my wife and me over the last few months.
As you are aware, I was called to be the pastor at Canyon Bible Fellowship (CBF) in Lyons, Oregon back in March, and shortly thereafter I was notified that I would be deploying to the Middle East later this year. The church received the news of the deployment surprisingly well. There was an initial shock, understandably. However, we have been reminded, as a church, that God is the one who called us together. If He is the one who brought Karen and me to CBF, then He is in this deployment as well. The response from the church has been an absolute blessing. The deaconesses approached me about the planning of my installation service after the notification.
Much has happened since then. Last month, I began drilling with my new battalion, 2-218 Field Artillery. Their headquarters is in Forest Grove, OR, which is a city that is quite out of the way. I have one company in McMinnville, and two up by the Portland Airport. Living in Keizer, this makes for a lot of driving to get some “battlefield circulation”* each month. I have a battalion commander who had requested me for this mission and a staff that is glad to finally have a chaplain after being without one for a couple of years. So far, the adjustment to my new unit has been very positive, and I am eager to see what the Lord will do over the next year.
One of the things that became a priority for Karen and me is moving from Keizer to Lyons. Initially, we were going to wait until after the deployment rather than deal with the stress of moving prior to the deployment; however, one of the biggest needs of the church is for stability, and we believed that we needed to communicate our commitment to the congregation in a very tangible way. So, over the last couple of months we have been in the process of putting our home on the market and looking for a new place at the same time. Even in this, God has seemed to bless. God has providentially led us to a real estate agent and a mortgage broker who are Christians. Both have gone out of their way to help us out. We now have an offer on a house in Lyons and have accepted an offer on our home in Keizer. If all goes well, we will close on both homes next week and be moving into our new home over Father’s Day weekend.
Last month, I had the privilege of speaking at a men’s breakfast at a church in Keizer. I spoke on the topic “Change of Mission,” and my key verse was Proverbs 16:9. Solomon wrote, “The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” I’ve discovered that, in many ways, being a Christian is like being a battalion staff officer. We plan various courses of action based on events and situations as we understand them; however, we submit those plans to our Commander for approval, understanding that the mission we are executing is His and not ours. Like any good commander, He can bless off on the plans, modify the plans, or present an entirely different plan, since He has a perspective that we do not have. Even though we may not always understand why the mission gets changed, we can trust Who is changing the mission, because, again, it is His mission and not ours.
be praying for my little church in Lyons. They have endured a tremendous amount
of conflict over the last couple of years. The church is a bit like Jerusalem
in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Please be praying that God will bring about
the healing and reconciliation they need as we seek to rebuild the temple and
walls, so to speak.
pray for Karen and me as we transition from Keizer to Lyons. Pray that the move
will go smoothly and that our church will continue to see our commitment to
for the search for an interim to fill in while I am gone. We have someone in
mind who has filled a similar role several years ago for a deploying pastor in
a different church and different state.
for Karen and me as we prepare for the deployment over the next several months.
as well for the soldiers of 2-218 as we prepare for the upcoming deployment.
Pray that God will open the doors of ministry for me, that I will have the
wisdom and insight to be able to serve effectively in the ministry to which God
has called me. Pray that I might see the fruit of gospel ministry with these
soldiers. I would love to be able to see soldiers give their hearts and lives
over to Jesus Christ, to see the Holy Spirit move in the lives of soldiers in
the middle of a Muslim country.
Pastor, Canyon Bible Fellowship
*Note: “Battlefield Circulation” – Military term describing intentional travel throughout an area of responsibility. In this case, it denotes a chaplain planning and making regularly scheduled and emergency visits to those in units under his pastoral care.
Chaplain Andy writes:
Joshua gave me permission to share this letter with our CBAmerica family. Rather than second-guess God’s timing of these two seeming mutually exclusive events, Joshua and Karen remain firm to both church and military commitments. Join me in praying this couple, this church and this unit through the upcoming deployment. Only God can make everything work out to His Glory!
By Chaplain Jonathan Stephens, USN to Andy Meverden
Here are the pictures from the Baby dedication that I performed for the youngest son of the Commanding Officer (CO) of the Navy Destroyer John S. McCain (DDG 56).
As I previously shared over the phone, there is a Navy tradition that any Sailor who has a child while they are stationed on the ship can have the christening or baptism on the ship using the ship’s bell. Afterwards the child’s name and the date are etched onto the inside of the bell.
The CO, a brother in Christ who is not from a faith tradition that does infant baptism, wanted to dedicate his youngest child to the Lord and still wanted it to be etched into the legacy of his ship. I explained that choosing to dedicate your child to the Lord and committing to raise him in the body of Christ is the substance of what is happening and that the ceremony to do that could take many forms.
So, on the day of the ceremony I explained to those in attendance that this was not a normal practice for me as a Baptist minister but that we wanted to use this tradition already in place to invite the ship family to witness the substance of this step of faith and public commitment being taken by the CO and his family.
The event took place on the forward deck under the main gun. The CO invited interested ship’s company and members of the base Protestant chapel community to witness and participate. Among other things, it was an opportunity to celebrate a moment in the ship’s life following the tragic collision that claimed the lives of ten Sailors on 21 August 2017 off the coast of Singapore and Malaysia, east of the Strait of Malacca.
Andy Meverden adds: On that fateful day, Chaplain Stephens flew to this damaged vessel in Singapore to minister to the crew. Following the tragedy, he worked long hours counseling and consoling Sailors and Family members of the USS McCain. The joint efforts of Jonathan and his wife Melissa touched the lives of many. The group photo of the women standing with the CO’s wife and baby are a testament to the strength and value of Navy chapel community overseas. Melissa is standing tall on the far left.
P.S. Sir, You are always asking for pictures…sorry that I am giving them to you all at once 😊. Today I was able to baptize one of the Sailors that I led to the Lord on deployment.
LCDR, CHC, USN
Staff Chaplain COMDESRON 15
Join me in thanking God for His sustaining grace in Chaplain Jonathan and Melissia Stephens’ lives. While still in temporary lodging, the USS Fitzgerald collision occurred on 17 June 2017, with a loss of seven crewmembers. After seven weeks of intense and exhausting ministry to that crew and their families, another ship in Jonathan’s squadron, the USS McCain collided on 21 August 2017 with a commercial vessel, resulting in ten more crew deaths. Only by God’s Grace were they able to work through these two tragedies. Pray for Jonathan, Melissa and their two young daughters as they serve the Sailors and Families of their squadron.
Chaplain Sean Callahan, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC
One of the challenges of military ministry is the fight to stay relevant. For the Chaplain, it becomes necessary to expand our sphere of influence beyond the typical services that accompany religious support. My commander has three big priorities: “Build the Team, Care for the Team, and Develop the Team.” The question, then, is how can I help build and develop the team in ways that are not only spiritually, but culturally relevant to leaders? I pondered and prayed for months, seeking some way to synchronize my gifts and passions with what the needs were around me.
The answer came in January in the form of running. For the 82nd Airborne Division, physical fitness is of the utmost importance. It keeps Paratroopers ready for battle by training the body and mind to operate under intense stress and fatigue. Up to this point I had done well with running with the faster unit ability groups, which in this culture equates to instant credibility. A Chaplain who can hang tough during difficult workouts is accepted. A Chaplain who can push young Paratroopers to go even harder is respected yet more. It struck me: what if I could gather together a team of Paratroopers every week to run, and use that time as an opportunity to share a devotional thought from Scripture?
I sensed this is what God was challenging me to do, so I put together a Physical Training (PT) Plan and gave it to the CSM (Command Sergeant Major). The plan laid out 3 months of weekly runs, all during PT hours in the morning. The idea would be that Paratroopers could come and PT with the Chaplain instead of their units. The training culminated in a half marathon in March. Paratroopers could sign up for the race and run it as a team. The CSM bought into it right away and before we knew it, the Gray Falcon Run Team (we are the “Gray Falcons” of the 2BCT Falcon Brigade) was birthed. Every Friday, or last duty day of the week, we met for distance runs ranging from 6 to 13 miles. The group started small but began to grow.
The Chapel service I am a part of wanted to get involved too. They sponsored run team t-shirts with the Chapel logo on the sleeve and our unit crest on the front. Runners who were committed to the team and trained regularly with us would get a t-shirt to wear as an authorized uniform for PT and races. The t-shirts did more than I expected to solidify our identity as a team. Enthusiasm grew, participation increased, and team members talked about “our” team all the time…and a whole slew of other Paratroopers bemoaned the fact that I wouldn’t give them a cool t-shirt unless they ran.
On March 24th, 5 of the team members signed up to run the All-American Mike to Mike Half Marathon. It was an incredible achievement for them and was something the Command Team highlighted to their superior officers. What I found more amazing is that the runners willingly listened to the devotional words, and we often continued in conversations about the Bible and spirituality throughout the day. To my surprise, Paratroopers began changing personal habits to fit the goals and identity of the team: they started drinking less, changed their diet, began running on their own, and even came out to “fun runs” on the weekend where we would run the river trail, and then grab coffee at Panera to talk about life.
Currently, we have 14 Paratroopers who regularly attend the runs, and it is growing. I have built some very deep relationships with the guys and have had numerous opportunities to share the Gospel message. More encouragingly, the Command sees it as something that adds great value to our Squadron as a whole, as it prepares Paratroopers physically, mentally, and spiritually to lead in their respective units. Sometimes it seems like they are more excited about it than I am! We are now training for a half marathon in June, and our first full marathon in the fall. We will also be representing the Squadron during the 82nd’s All American Week and 10 Mile Team run competition in May.
My prayer is that God continues to grow the team by bringing in Paratroopers who share a passion for running, so that we might be able to build healthy, authentic community and share God’s love with them. Lord-willing through this, many Paratroopers will put their faith in Christ, and the others who already know the Lord will be discipled into a more missional lifestyle.
Pray for Chaplain Callahan as he leads his soldiers to a
long-distance relationship with Jesus Christ.
Remember Katie as she is due to give birth to their first child the end
For more stories by and about CBAmerica Chaplains go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on endorsement as a chaplain,
email Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at email@example.com.
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!