by CH(LTC) Marc Gauthier, USA
The ministry of a deployed chaplain is captured in one word–incarnational. It is ministry Jesus’ way. Just as Jesus came to earth in human form, chaplains are warrior priests who leave their homes and come to the military in soldier form.
Deployed chaplains share in the same sufferings as their troops. They experience the same lacks. They miss the same birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.
In a combat zone soldiers can rarely say, “Chaplain, you just don’t know what I’m going through.” Credibility is one of the cornerstones for the effective ministry of a chaplain. Once credibility is established, ministry doors open wide. Ministering incarnationally earns us the right to be heard. By God’s grace we model Jesus–and through doing this we have the blessed opportunity to tell them about the God who died for them.
I think of our work much like the ministry of Phillip in the book of Acts. He was called to leave the comfort zone of fruitful ministry in Samaria. The Angel of the Lord told him, “Take a walk on a deserted dusty road” (my paraphrase). Phillip obeys the angel’s voice and he is vectored to an Ethiopian government official ready to hear the words of salvation.
In much the same way, as chaplains walk among the tents, eat in the chow halls, and ride in the convoys, the Lord vectors them to those whose hearts are prepared to hear and receive the eternal message of Jesus.