by A Panel of OCF Members
As we interviewed several OCF members who have moved from the military into vocational ministry, we found their answers very insightful, and trust that you will, too.
Julia Brown: served as a U.S. Army aviation officer until 2005. She currently works as an administrative associate in the office of the Archbishop of Washington, DC.
Col Wayne Heinke, USAF, Retired: retired from the Air Force in 1991 and from the mortgage lending industry in 2004 before “retiring into ministry” with the International Network of Children’s Ministry.
Carol Kalmbacher: a lieutenant (first and second) in the Army Nurse Corps for two years, one of those at the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku, Vietnam, before joining Wycliffe Bible Translators.
LTC Wayne Kirkbride, USA, Retired: served in the Army before becoming a high school teacher in a Christian school in South Korea.
CH(Col) Dave Rathjen, USAF, Retired: after being an Air Force chaplain for thirty years, Dave has served in three different ministries.
What is your ministry and at what point did you transition into it?
Brown My ministry is basically the office work that is found in all organizations. In the military I approached the work I did as “ministry” in the sense that because we are called to serve Christ wherever we are, ministry is incorporated into our daily lives. So after seven years on active duty, the transition to a “church” job did not change my approach to work.
Heinke I am the Assistant Executive Director for the International Network of Children’s Ministry–which trains children’s pastors and hosts the annual Children’s Pastors’ Conference.
Kalmbacher I am a missionary wife and mother, serving with my husband in Southeast Asia, with the goal of giving one language group the Bible in its own language.
Kirkbride I teach at the International Christian School, Uijongbu. And I minister to senior officers at Camp Red Cloud, and to the soldiers and junior officers at Camp Stanley.
Rathjen After retiring from the military, I ministered in local churches for fifteen years. Then I served seven years as chaplain at the Casa del Rio retirement community.
What compelled you to choose Christian ministry following your military service?
Brown I was interested in directly advancing the gospel of Christ–looking for something to engage my heart more than my savings account.
Heinke There is a movement that encourages Christians who have reached “financial independence” (debts paid, kids grown, adequate retirement income) to use their training, skills, and experience to further Kingdom work while they still have good health and energy. After reading several books that support this concept, I searched for a place to begin my Kingdom work adventure.
Kirkbride The love of people and a series of opened doors.
How did your military life prepare you for your ministry work?
Brown Military training prepares its members to be leaders, to approach work with excellence and with a corporate perspective. It is a great place to discover strengths and weaknesses. Military life helped me to plan well–to think through contingencies and logistics for event planning. The people skills I learned prepared me for the different personalities, personal histories, and abilities I encounter.
Heinke Many Christian ministries have a shortage of employees qualified in support services such as finance, human resources, and administrationâ€”the Air Force had trained me in these areas.
Kalmbacher Being innovative, especially in the field where you don’t have many resources at your finger tips. Seeing that I could live and work in another culture.
Kirkbride It has taught me to be flexible in my approach, yet maintain the standards.
What are the best parts of your work? The most challenging?
Brown I really like being part of a ministry team. The most challenging aspects are maintaining kingdom perspective amidst rather ordinary details.
Heinke I only spend two days a week in the INCM office, so my greatest challenge is to accomplish what I feel I am called to do in this time frame.
Kalmbacher Best: seeing the light of understanding in someone’s face when hearing Scripture in their own language. Most challenging: being away from family.
Kirkbride The best part has to be meeting the soldiers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division as they process through Camp Stanley’s Warrior Readiness Center. This is the first assignment for many, and they are searching for something meaningful. The most challenging is the fact that I am away from my family again.
Rathjen The best is freedom to preach the Gospel! The biggest challenge is to always bring glory to God.
What advice would you offer to others considering moving from the military into vocational ministry?
Brown Consider what aspects you loved about your life and work in the military, your strengths and gifts, and what engages your heartâ€”then let God lead you!
Heinke It’s in serving others that we find true meaning and a sense of purpose. I would advise all who have the health and resources to “retire into ministry.”
Rathejan Be sure of the leading of the Lord.
“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope” Ephesians 3:20 (New Living Translation).