Unorthodox Thanksgiving

Ten-hour Pass during Ranger School

By Chaplain Sean Callahan, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina

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This year, Thanksgiving was quite unorthodox, both for our family and our ministry. I started  Ranger School in early November, and after receiving a “no-go” on patrols, received the news that I would be a Darby recycle for next cycle. What that meant for me and those in the same position, was that we would be in a holding status for the next three weeks until Holiday Block Leave, and then would be reinserted with the new January class. But this holding status wasn’t a walk in the park; we were restricted to the barracks, completed menial details every day, and passed the free time we did have reading or playing cards. We couldn’t leave Camp Rogers unless we received a pass, and thankfully the leadership gave the 125 “Ranger Prisoners” (as we liked to call ourselves), a 10-hour pass for Thanksgiving Day. Most of the guys didn’t have any family come down to visit, any means of transportation outside of taxis, or any place to go. My wife, Katie, and I hatched a plan.

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We had been praying about how to serve in my current waiting period, and Katie decided that she would make the 7-hour (plus hours more of baby stops) drive with our 5-month-old to Columbus. She coordinated for a catering order from Cracker Barrel, received permission from the hotel to host the meal in the lobby, brought little decorations and festive table settings, and helped transport the Paratroopers. The guys were tasked with bringing drinks or their favorite desserts. Prior to starting the meal, I gave a devotion on Psalm 118 about being thankful in the waiting periods in life. We went around the table and expressing what we were thankful for, and then we all ate to our hearts content (which is a lot for a Ranger Student!). It was a fantastic time of fellowship and family, and one of the most treasured memories Katie and I have of our time in the 82nd.

I believe that is what God reminds us of in times of trial: that there are always things to be  thankful for, and sometimes the most beautiful pictures we receive of his character, love, grace, and provision come to us during times of failure, of great trial, or of waiting. While I didn’t want to recycle a phase of Ranger School and spend an extra month and a half away from family, I’m beginning to understand why God made it a part of my experience. The relationship building, opportunities to share (and live out) the gospel, and even hold bible studies have been plentiful. The perseverance through failure and reliance on God’s strength has been spiritually formative. The opportunities to share ministry with my family have been joyful and have brought us closer together and made me even more thankful for the wife the Lord has given me. The experience has been difficult and humbling, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I have seen how God can use even the most difficult circumstances to do extraordinary things.

Join me in praying for God’s strength and protection for Chaplain Callahan, his wife, Katie and infant son during this two-month absence of rigorous Ranger training.  Pray also for the other military (105) and civilian (95) chaplains as they serve in unique ministry environments.

For more articles by and about CBAmerica chaplains, go to http://cbamerica.org/category/chaplaincy/ .  For information on endorsement, email Andy Meverden at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

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