Saturday, March 22, 2008

Military Chaplaincy - How do you know when it's the Lord's will for you?

I received an anonymous comment today asking the question, "how did you and your spouse, and others on this blog, decide to go this path?" and I thought this is a good question to put out there. If you are a chaplain or spouse, feel free to comment as well.

I don't really know how to answer it in a sentence or two, so I apologize in advance for the lengthy answer that I'm sure will come from trying to answer this question.

I'll start with a little background. My husband served seven years and eight months in the Air Force, from 1991-1998. During that time, God really began to work in his life. While in Germany, from 1993-1996, he was sent to Croatia for six months and it was there that he spent many hours reading his bible, praying and drawing close to the Lord. Once he returned from Croatia, we really got involved in an English-speaking church that was located close to the base, and we got serious about our relationship with the Lord. One particular day, my husband heard the Lord's calling and responded. At that time he had no idea what that meant, where it would lead or what it would look like. He only knew he wanted to serve the Lord with all his heart.

Once his time was up in the military, we stayed in the town we were living in because he was a youth minister. Later he was asked to be interim pastor at a small church close-by so we did that for about 10 months. During that time, we began to feel the Lord's leading for him to go to seminary, so we packed up and moved to Texas. Just a few months after he started seminary, we started a church. Some might consider that a bit crazy, but we felt the Lord's leading and obeyed. It was a small church, averaging anywhere from 50 - 80 people over the course of seven years. We had a lot of new Christians, many who came to know the Lord and had never been in another church before. It was beautiful, challenging, exciting, name it, we experienced it. But, God was in it and the people were wonderful. We couldn't really imagine ourselves anywhere else but, over the course of those seven years, there were times my husband asked me how I felt about him going back into the military as a chaplain. Most of the time, we would chat about it, but never see how it would be possible or good for our church or family. How could we leave the people we loved so much?

I believe every time my husband preached about something that had to do with the military he got emotional. I even had friends in the church who wondered if he would go back in and made the comment more than once that they could see him as a chaplain. His love for God and country was evident.

The more the conversation of the chaplaincy came up, the more we began to wonder if it was the Lord bringing it to mind or just a thought my husband was toying with. It was when it began to come to my mind without any prompting from him that I knew we'd better get serious about praying about it. At that point (about two years ago) we began to pray about it very fervently. We began to talk to our kids about it and asked them to pray about it. The twins liked the idea and the older two only requested that we wait until they finished high school. Amazingly, my husband finished seminary at the same time our oldest son graduated from high school, and our daughter graduated early, allowing her to be in college a full semester and out on her own eight months before we left.

From praying to walking by faith...

There comes a point when you must put feet to your faith. For us, we had prayed and asked the Lord to make it clear to us what we were to do. Ultimately, though, we had to take that step of faith and follow what we felt God was leading us to do. We've found over the years that when it's time to move God changes your heart for where you are and gives you a heart for where you are going. I can honestly say, though, this was one of those times where we struggled deeply with those feelings. Our hearts were torn. We began to question what would happen to our church and the people we had grown to love so dearly. We questioned whether it would be good for our children and our family. We questioned, but we moved forward.

The process to be accepted as a chaplain in the military is lengthy and grueling. You don't just sign up and go. First of all, you have to have your master's degree in seminary (min of 72 hours) to even be considered. My husband's seminary was 92 hours for a master's degree.
Next, you must be endorsed by your denomination's endorsing agent, pass your physical, go to a 06 chaplain interview, and so on. Each step of the way we felt more and more confident that this was the Lord's will. I'll never forget the way God spoke to me when we looked into it farther by attending a chaplain retreat. The closer we got, the more we opened up to our immediate families. Once we were certain, we told our church.

Telling our church was the toughest thing we've ever done. It was heart-breaking, even knowing it was the Lord's will, but it was another confirmation for us as they embraced us, prayed for us, encouraged us and sent us off to be missionaries to the military. I know it doesn't always work out this way, but I also know that we must follow the Lord, no matter what the cost. People won't always understand or accept this calling. In fact, it's not an easy one to accept because it can be dangerous and cause us to be separated from our families -- the two things many people have a hard time understanding that someone else would do.

Dear "Anonymous" - I hope this answers your question. I appreciate your question, and pray God will give your family discernment in regards to this path you are on. Several people I've come to know through my blog asked similar questions. Some are now on this journey, soon to reach their first post, while others are still praying and seeking the Lord's will. I am excited for all of you. Whether you join this special ministry, or stay where you are, it's an amazing thing just to serve the Lord. Thank you for opening up to me. If you would like to chat more via email, please feel free to leave a comment with your email address and I won't post it. That's true for anyone who leaves a comment with their email address. All comments are screened by me before posting.


cc said...

Hi Laura,

I appreciate your postings and for sharing how your family got to where you are. My husband has been in the rather long process of becoming a Navy chaplain for almost 2 years now and goes away this summer for Officer Training and some Chaplain training. While I am NOT looking forward to being without him while he is gone, I do feel God led us to where we are, therefore, we will led us through it.

Keep posting, I am learning a lot about things since finding your blog!


MaryLu said...

I'd love to get together today, or tomorrow, I've got the little ones scheduled at the sitter so I can have some "me-time" to get my act together before I leave.
You free today?

MaryLu said...

Thanks so much for meeting with me today! It was so nice to finally meet the lady behind the blog.
Come on over and read my latest post.
God bless you today!

Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for sharing your experience of your family's call into the chaplaincy (I know full well that it is a family ordeal). I am already deep in the process of signing up since I finish Seminary in May. Jenn really appreciates your friendship and support as well as your openness in your blogs. I appreciate how much you've helped her come to understand what it means to be a chaplains wife. Thank you so much for the MINISTRY of your blog!

C. Shirk said...

It's good to hear the story of how God led you and your husband into the chaplaincy. There are some similarities between your story and ours. Right now we are DYING to hear about whether Matt's packet was approved. The board met the 25th and 26th, so we expected to hear by now. How long was it before you heard the news?

Thanks again for all your insights. I really love hearing about your experiences and am inspired by your trust in God.