In a land as old as time, rich in biblical history - site of Abraham's birth, Babel, and the beginning of civilization - modern-day chaplains have resigned worldly comfort and traveled across the world to spread the Word of God given centuries ago when this land was young.
Working Together to Transform North America
In the midst of Operation Iraqi Freedom, PCA Army chaplain Chip Huey submitted this report: “I’m writing this in the middle of an incredible sandstorm. The wind is blowing so hard, it’s like little gremlins are shaking the tent. My unit is located near the site of ancient Ur. We run a Convoy Support Center — really just a glorified truck stop. We service the convoys pushing north with units and supplies.
“We offer the Lord’s Supper twice a week, and I’m amazed at the power of this sacrament…I can literally see believers gaining strength. God’s Word is changing lives, and the troops truly look forward to hearing it preached.”
In spite of the miseries of war, deployed PCA chaplains agree that ministry is easier in circumstances like these. Men and women without any church background, as well as those put off by past experiences, begin asking spiritual questions and searching for significance. Living without frivolous distractions and facing injury or death, service personnel focus on eternal issues.
“We’ve handed out a lot of Bibles,” wrote Navy chaplain Phil McClimon, ministering to West Coast Marines with Combat Service Support Battalion 12. “For reasons of danger and peril or just plain separation and isolation, people have the unction and the time to delve into unexamined corners of their existence. Surrounded by America’s countless comforts, many people close the door to God; here the door is kicked wide open.”
God has used Phil to lead a number of people to receive Christ during this deployment. For example, his chaplain assistant, a Marine sergeant, who had never investigated Christianity and whose mother is a devout atheist, has become a believer. After several months of quizzing Phil and searching Scripture, she welcomed Christ into her heart. Others have begun taking their faith seriously or renewed previous commitments.
“During deployments, when soldiers focus on the eternal, lives change,” explained PCA Army chaplain Chris Faria with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “One man, who had been disillusioned by ministers in the past, asked me about spiritual issues even before we left. I baptized him the first week we arrived in Kuwait. Another soldier who had never graced a church in his life showed up at Bible study the other night. Seeds of truth are being planted daily.
“As the regimental chaplain, I also advise the commander on matters of Islamic religion inasmuch as they affect our stability operations. We meet with the mayor of Ar Ramadi and I serve on the Government Support Team, which means I deal one-on-one with city members involved with rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq.”
Chris’s wife, Brenda, like more than two dozen other PCA chaplains’ wives, waited at home — not the first time she’s faced life without her husband. His home base is Ft. Carson, CO, which deployed 11,000 troops in connection with the Iraqi war, and the couple have a home in Colorado Springs.
Brenda was prepared for Chris to be in Iraq for many more months. (Chaplains often remain longer than other troops because of their ministry responsibilities, and they sometimes become involved with peacekeeping operations.) How does she deal with the separation? “I depend on the sovereignty of God. I also think it’s important to have a right assessment of your own strengths and abilities and to know how to pace yourself. You need to accept support when it’s offered and reach out to others when they need to receive help.”
Cindi Brown, wife of PCA Army chaplain Ken Brown who was in Mosul, Iraq, kept the home fires burning at Ft. Campbell, KY, along with 30 other chaplains’ wives who serve with the 101st Airborne. Five of the chaplains are PCA; all of them were deployed to Iraq/Kuwait. “We (the wives) get together twice as much when our husbands are away,” Cindi explained. “Not hearing from your husband is really tough — the first seven weeks, I heard from Ken only twice.”
Ken has been an Army chaplain since 1981, so Cindi has had plenty of practice facing separation and uses her experience to minister to the younger wives. Involved with the Protestant Women of the Chapel, she is the Titus 2 advisor.
Separation from family is the universal tragedy of war, taking a huge toll on spouses and children. Chaplains say that it creates numerous problems — with children, marital relationships, even with everyday life — from getting the bills paid to keeping the car running. In fact, some service people are afraid to leave home because they consider their spouses untrustworthy or incapable of coping with the stress of separation. Since most military personnel are between the ages of 18 and 26, they often lack the life skills required to meet serious difficulties, and about half are without a Christian foundation. No wonder the most often asked question chaplains hear is “When are we going home?”
“The POWs endured not only physical pain, but also spiritual and emotional trauma because of war.”
PCA chaplain Steve Horning ministered to the wounded at Landstuhl Regional Army Medical Center in Germany, where military from the Middle East were transported for treatment, including the highly publicized Private Jessica Lynch and seven other POWs. Steve said that the majority of those entering this medical system didn’t have gunshot or other battle wounds. Their problems included illness, accidental fractures, or accumulated stress. Ministry teams met every patient.
Steve wrote: “I’ve seen the effects of the war come close enough to touch and hear. Young men have lost fingers, legs, and eyes; their bodies have suffered horrible burns. Our military women have endured ordeals they should never have to experience. Soldiers both young and old have been shocked to the core at the madness they’ve seen as they traveled through Iraq — the horrors caused by Saddam Hussein’s reign. It reminded me of the warning God gave Moses about what would happen if the Israelites disobeyed: ‘The sights you see will drive you mad’ (Deut. 28:34).”
MNA Chaplain Ministries is devoted to recruiting and to providing PCA chaplains with spiritual counsel, as well as to seeking support from PCA congregations. MNA Chaplain Ministries coordinator David Peterson spends the majority of his time meeting with PCA chaplains throughout the nation, recruiting prospective candidates, and attending missions conferences. Assistant coordinators Beryl Hubbard and Stan Beach also commit much of their time to the same functions.
As Dave sees it, chaplains serve three key purposes: 1) to evangelize; 2) to pastor believers; 3) to present a Christian world view. “A chaplain’s chief responsibility,” he points out, “is to teach military men and women how to live and prepare them for eternity.
“To carry out that responsibility as effectively as possible, we need many
more PCA chaplains for all branches of the military, not only ordained pastors who can join right away, but also seminary students to enroll in the Chaplain Candidate Program. In addition, we urge PCA churches to participate in MNA Chaplain Ministries by adding us to their budgets and sponsoring and praying for individual chaplains.”
Praying for General Assembly:
And they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands. (Psalm 78:35,72)
Those words grace the cover of the 2003 devotional guide, 50 Days of Prayer for the PCA, the second edition of a trilogy conceived by Mike Ross, senior pastor of Trinity Presbyterian in Jackson, MS. Mike came up with the idea while on sabbatical in 2001. Studying the Psalms, he realized that these inspiring passages could be an ideal basis for a devotional book and discussed the idea with MNA Church Vitality coordinator Archie Parrish, who encouraged Mike to proceed.
For years, the PCA had asked leaders to pray for the denomination the week preceding General Assembly. Mike’s idea was to expand the seven days to fifty, starting with the National Day of Prayer in early May. With distribution of the new prayer guide, the entire PCA laity was invited to join in. As Mike developed the devotionals, MNA staff coordinated the gathering of prayer requests focused on individuals, agencies, Covenant College, Covenant Seminary, and other organizations of the PCA.
This year, John (Randy) Riddle, pastor of Grace Presbyterian in Conway, SC, distributed the 50 Days of Prayer devotional guide to Grace’s congregation. "I was glad," says John, "that the PCA expanded the seven days of prayer to fifty because it encourages prayer and also familiarizes lay people with the many facets of the PCA."
To enhance the guide’s effectiveness, John developed a weekly supplemental prayer guide as an insert for the worship bulletin, which included specific requests for the worship and work of the church, as well as for individual families. This practical tool provided not only direction
for prayer, but also an incentive for members to write notes of encouragement to individuals for whom they prayed.
As a longtime friend and prayer partner of Mike Ross, John said he knew the content of 50 Days of Prayer for the PCA would be exceptional and "highly recommends the 2004 edition next year for other congregations."
Church Planting: "Something wonderful happened on the way to Wall Street."
That was the title of Mark Roessler’s presentation at the MNA Church Planting lunch at this year’s PCA General Assembly. It refers to a life-changing incident Mark experienced thirty years ago as a graduate student at the Wharton School of Finance at University of PA. Two young strangers stopped him on a Philadelphia street to share the Four Spiritual Laws. Later the same day, he heard a gripping message by Christian philanthropist Art DeMoss and was led to receive Christ.
The result? Mark set aside his plans for an exciting career on Wall Street, deciding on an even more exciting career in personal evangelism. After Wharton, he went to seminary. Since then, Mark’s fervor has grown steadily stronger. Today, he’s pastor and church planter for Catalina Foothills Presbyterian, Tucson, AZ, where 40 percent of 1,000 adult members joined on profession of faith. "We need more people in the PCA with a passion for evangelizing the lost," says Mark. "Church planting is a great way to make it happen."
Urban and Mercy Ministries: Uptown Christ Covenant, Charlotte, NC, is dedicated to leading people to
Christ through meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Situated in the city, the church is well positioned to serve inner-city residents of diverse cultures. At the MNA Urban and Mercy Ministries breakfast, associate pastor Giorgio Hiatt talked about several outreach efforts, including a program of emergency care, an urban Young Life organization for high school students, and a recent multiethnic church plant, Christ Central Church.
In 2000, Uptown helped found Saint Augustine Academy, which provides excellent, affordable education for children through grade five, who represent varied cultures and backgrounds. Besides offering a classical curriculum and teaching a biblical world view, the school promotes reconciliation among different people groups and seeks to demonstrate a Christ-like love for all.
New MNA Ministry: Ron Haynes, director, and his wife, Judy, administrative assistant, have organized MNA Disaster Response. Their mission: answer God’s call to minister in disaster response by offering an opportunity for the PCA to provide assistance to those affected by disaster — by meeting immediate needs, helping rebuild lives, and sharing Christ’s love.
The Haynes recruit teams of volunteers throughout North America who can respond to victims of floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, man-made calamities, etc. At the same time, they coordinate efforts and establish links with appropriate resources in various regions.
During the Missouri tornadoes last spring, the Haynes and members of their church in Fenton assisted people facing property damage, cleaning up debris and providing food and comfort.
MNA Disaster Response requests your prayers, gifts, and volunteer efforts. For details and a brochure: 636-227-2612 or <RHaynes@pcanet.org>, or visit <www.pcanet.org/mna>.