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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
By Captain Don Roy, US Navy, Retired, Civil Air Patrol Chaplain
Fallen Soldiers March exists to help Veterans and their families who are suffering from PTSD and other consequences of war. We offer biblical counseling and, when appropriate, also provide service dogs to our wounded Veterans. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and we offer our services free of charge. Please visit our website for more complete information: www.fallensoldiersmarch.com.
Our Veteran counseling network is made up of biblical counselors who are certified by either the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) or by the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). We also have counselors who are military chaplains who may not be certified by ACBC or IABC, but who hold to the sufficiency of Scripture in counseling.
We provide biblical counsel in-person when possible, but also counsel via Skype when appropriate. If you know a veteran, or a family member of a veteran, who desires counsel, please encourage him or her to complete the counseling information request form on our website: https://fallensoldiersmarch.com/counseling-information-request/
CAPT Don Roy, USN (Retired) served for 30 years in the US Navy. He is an ACBC Fellow and serves as Director of Northshore Biblical Counseling and Training Center in Slidell, LA. He also serves on the Fallen Soldiers March Advisory Board and is a CBAmerica Chaplain for Civil Air Patrol. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have been married for 39 years and have 10 children and 11 grandchildren.
“CBAmerica Chaplaincy networks with biblically sound organizations to provide resources to our national association of churches. FSM is a trusted counseling agency focused on the needs of Veterans and their families whose services can be accessed locally or remotely via Skype teleconferencing. Using technology, isolated Veterans can access counseling support from any computer, tablet or smartphone. I recommend adding FSM to your list of Veteran counseling resources to use and share.” Chaplain Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy.
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.