August 28, 2007

A Long Journey

To get into the Army as a Chaplain is not necessarily an easy task. As a Chaplain I have to be endorsed by a denominational body. Since our church is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) I knew that I would go with one of the two agencies. I had a feeling that we would go thorough the CBF since Laura had been divorced and since I did not attend and graduate from a Southern Baptist Seminary. I contacted the CBF and was waiting to hear back from them. I talked to a missionary friend of ours and he told me I should at least check with the the North American Mission Board (NAMB is the SBC endorsement agency). I called the NAMB and the stated issues would not keep me from being endorsed through the NAMB. I still waited to hear something from the CBF. I sent an email to the CBF, no response. I called and left a message, no response. I finally talked to the coordinator and he told me that he would call me back the next day. He finally responded, three months later. After waiting for more than a week I took this as a sign that God had closed the door to the endorsement through the CBF. I prayed that God would shut doors that he wanted shut and I saw this as a door that He had shut. We began the process of being endorsed by the NAMB.

There was a lot of work that had to be put into the application to be endorsed. One of the things that worried me the most was when it asked for references. These references would have to be from people within the church. I had only shared our story with the Mace and Thompson families. Take a deep breath. One by one I sat down and told those that I needed references from. All were very supportive. I asked that they would keep this to themselves until I shared it with the church. I wanted the news to come from me and no one else. They respected my wishes. Now I had to wait for the complete application to be assembled and presented to the NAMB Chaplaincy Board.

We also officially began the application process for the Army. There was not a real big hurry since it was only June, I needed to loose weight and the first opportunity for me to go to basic would not be until January 2008.

Confirmation continued to come.

Maxine Shockley, who is a member of our church and a good friend, bought this card for us. She felt as though God had guided her to get it for us. After she purchased the card it was misplaced. Later, she found it and then sent it on to us. I am amazed at the words of the card and its timing. At another time it would not have had the meaning that it did. I had prayed for confirmation and this is another confirmation of God's calling in our lives. Maxine sent this to us not knowing what God was doing in our lives. She was not one of the few who knew.

As from the beginning, Laura, Victoria and I were all on the same page. We knew God was calling us and we were responding. I had struggled with the issue of the possibility of death while deployed but God had put me at ease. I knew that no matter what I was in God's hands. If I was supposed to die there I would and if not I would not. God is in control.

However, my concern for Laura and Victoria was present. Who would help them while I am gone? It did not take long to get the answer to that question. We were headed to the Home School Convention in Richmond and I felt God urging me to take the current edition of On Mission to read. The main topic of the issue was for come back churches. I wondered what God had for me in the edition. We had some free time that afternoon and I got out my reading material and turned to the table of contents. Then I realized that before me was the answer to my prayers and concerns. If you would like to read the complete article click on the following link.

God heard my prayers and concerns for Laura and Victoria. I knew that God was assuring me by letting me know that there are churches that have ministries specifically for those left behind. I believe we will be close to such a church while I am deployed.

We have come so far, yet, we have so far to go.

Wind Blowing in Storm of Confirmation

As I stated in my last blog, the winds of change were blowing. Through the homeschooling group and the local Baptist Association we met the Mace family. The Maces had come to our area of Virginia when Katrina ran them out of Louisiana, where Chance was getting his seminary education. Chance is a United States Army Reserve Chaplain. I remember a couple of conversations that Chance and I had about his ministry in the military. He told me about the ministry and I thought it was a wonderful ministry. On another occasion he asked if I wanted to become a Chaplain and I laughed, it may have been nervous laughter, and told him that I was not interested. If I had to be in the Armed Services I told him I would want to be on a ship. That way I could send missiles into combat zones from many miles away. It was these conversations "seeds" that God used to change my heart and steer us toward the military.

It is hard to explain how God began to transform our hearts and minds. It becomes even more difficult if you try to explain it to someone who has not experienced God moving mountains in their own lives. I will do my best to explain it and hope that the Spirit of God will help you to understand.

Resonating in my mind was the fact that in the military about 80% of our time is spent in counseling. I love the counseling setting. Then a crazy thought passed through my mind. It sounded to me that the military was a perfect fit for who I am as a person. But, I have a family and I do not want to die young and leave my family. For at least a few days there was an internal struggle...the battle was being waged in me. How would I tell Laura? How would I tell my mother? What about my daughter? So many questions and so few answers.

Laura being my best friend, I had to find a way to tell her. I do not really remember the initial conversation, but I do remember it's outcome. Surprisingly she was not shocked by what I told her. She agreed that the military ministry sounds like me. God was working in her life just as he was working in mine. After we had this conversation I told her and God that I needed confirmation. We were not ready to leave Menokin. We still have five more years here, right?

The next day Laura picked up the mail from the post office and I got a copy of the Religious Herald. Splashed across the front page was this picture entitled Front Line Ministry. Remember to be careful when asking God for something. I had asked for confirmation and here it was in my hands. I have attached links to a number of articles from the paper.

The winds of change had blown in a storm of confirmations. All of the above articles God used to confirm His calling upon our lives. About two days later we got our copy of the Northern Neck Electric Cooperative magazine. Here is a picture of the cover. I did not take these things as a coincidence. I had asked for confirmation and here it was, again. I know that many got and read these publications and they did not decipher anything from them. Yet, God had prepared us to receive these articles. Amazingly the confirmations are not over yet.

Now began the difficult task of figuring out what branch to serve in. We did not feel like God cared what branch we were to go into. Our first option was the Navy. That should not be a surprise based on previous statements. Laura went to school with someone who has been in the Navy for years and we communicated with him and his wife. After talking to them we did not think that was what we wanted. I was sure that I did not want to be a Marine. That left the Army and the Air Force. We first looked into the Army and felt like that may be the right branch but we were not certain. I got in touch with the Air Force and the deployments were easier for the family. The Air Force has 4 month deployments while the Army has 15 month deployments. Okay, lets go Air Force, yes? No. When I looked at the differences in the ministry I knew that it was the Army but how do I tell Laura? I asked God to help me and He did.

About a day or so later I asked her what she was thinking and she said her gut feeling was Army. Phew, thank you God, we were on the same page. Now was the question of Active Duty or Reserves.

Laura in here daily Bible reading read Luke 14:26-27; 33 and shared it with me.
Luke 14:26-27; 33 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

We were now both certain that we were to join the Active Duty Army. Why is that? Because our hearts greatest desire is to be Christ's disciples. From the text we discerned that if we loved anything or anyone more than we love Christ we cannot be his disciple. Were we willing to give up life as we knew it to follow Christ in obedience? Yes Lord, here we go! What now?

From the Beginning

"God called you into the Army," rolled off their lips before they had time to process my story. I know that it may sound odd or like I am psychotic, but God did call me into the Army. I am blogging this story so that family and friends can take the journey with us as we set out on the adventures God has before us.

I am a 34 year old Baptist Minister serving in a rural church in Eastern Virginia. Right before graduating from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, May 2002, I accepted the pastorate position at Menokin Baptist Church, Warsaw, Virginia. From the time we arrived at Menokin we had wanted to stay ten years. Part of our desire to stay that long was to be able to give our daughter stability throughout her years in school. One of the other reasons was our church had a decades old pattern of retaining a minister for five years and then going through the months long process to secure another one. I wanted to break the pattern. I wanted to make the most of the ministry God had given me and I felt like things would not really start happening until we passed the five year mark. Throughout my ministry there had been times that it would have been nice to leave because we were going through difficult times. However, I never felt like God had released me from the ministry at Menokin. May 1, 2007 marked five years of ministry at Menokin. In the beginning of May my wife said, "The winds of change are blowing." I laughed and said, "Yeah, right!" I had underestimated the power of a woman's intuition. By the end of May we were aware that the winds of change were gaining momentum.