in From the Pastor

A Missionary to the Military

This week’s post is submitted by Nathan who is reflecting on his required Air National Guard training during August and September.

For just over six week this summer I was at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama to take part in the Air Force Basic Chaplain Course. This requirement was part of my ongoing military education. As always, however, the Lord was faithful to sprinkle several gospel opportunities over my training. I want to share three stories with you as a way to say “thank you” for praying for me, and for allowing me to be gone for six weeks! What follows are two testimonies and a challenge.

Class began every morning at 7:30. But a group of us got in the habit of gathering at 7:00 for a devotional moment to begin our day. When it was my turn, I took a single verse of Psalm 23: “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” I reminded us all that even though we can expect tribulation in a fallen world, we can also trust that the Lord will bring us through that dark valley and, better still, will be with us at all points along the way. Several chaplains mentioned, as the weeks went on, that this simple reflection had provided them with soul-steadying perspective.

One afternoon I was paired up with an enlisted Airman to do some visitation around the base. As we walked to our assigned building, I tried to get to know him a bit, asking about his religious background. He admitted that he had grown up in church but had given up going in college because “there wasn’t any reason to go…I didn’t see any life there.” The group we were going to visit was taking a test when we arrived, so he and I got to spend half an hour talking about the difference between some forms of religion and the life of the real Jesus. At the end, he seemed open to giving church another try.

The challenge came on our final day of class. The Air Force Chief of Chaplains, a Major General, had come down to speak at our graduation. He spent an hour with us discussing his vision for the Chaplain Corps. When there was time for questions, I asked him how he had come to land on that particular vision. In answer, he related a story about sitting with a well-known leadership guru and asking him what he thought the vision for the Chaplain Corps should be. As I listened, I kept thinking “but that is backwards! It is the Chaplain who should own this vision. He shouldn’t be getting it from an outsider. As I reflected on this answer, it struck me that we are tempted toward this same move in the church—asking culture what our vision for church should be, instead of listening to the One who bought her with His precious blood. This realization re-fired my commitment to follow Christ at all costs.