Chaplains share insights into serving in the military
COMMAND asked a trio of chaplains—LT Jon Uyboco, CHC, USN; CH(MAJ) Todd Cheney, USA, and CH(COL) Marc Gauthier, USA—to share some insights and experiences of serving military men and women for Christ.
What are the most rewarding/most difficult aspects of your ministry?
Jon Uyboco: The most rewarding: sitting down to talk with young Marines about what it looks like to follow Christ in their challenging and unique environment. I love how raw and real these conversations can be, and I always walk away feeling energized by what God is doing in their lives.
The most difficult aspect: this job has no borders. My day heads off in unplanned directions every time I hear, “Hey, Chaps, do you have a second?” At home, whenever my cell phone rings (frequently), my kids’ first question is, “Daddy, do you have to go back to work?” It can be very tiring on me and my family. Every week I deal with combinations of suicide, divorce, domestic violence, depression, etc. Constantly empathizing with people who are going through these painful experiences within the context of 100 percent confidentiality is a very isolating feeling as a chaplain.
Todd Cheney: The most rewarding aspect is two-fold. First, it thrills me that even many years after I’ve ministered to a small group Bible study or chapel congregation, I either receive an email or bump into someone who thanks me for being faithful to teach the Scripture and exalt the Gospel. Secondly, it’s wonderfully rewarding to invest in the pastoral and ministry development of younger, less experienced chaplains.
The most difficult aspect: having to serve on a casualty notification team and provide pastoral care to a grieving spouse (or family) that their soldier was killed. Despite the difficulties, it’s an honor to provide God’s care and concern to those who are suffering loss.
One of OCF’s spiritual pillars is “Supporting the Chaplaincy.” What are some ways OCF members can support their chaplains, even if their religious viewpoints differ greatly?
Jon Uyboco: We are all co-workers, and God has brought us together in various commands throughout the military for a purpose—whether we are chaplains or not. Just like in any other setting, the body of Christ is designed to thrive in community. Yet, it’s often challenging to build any sense of Christian community. The best support OCF members can offer is to get involved with whatever sort of Christian community your chaplain is trying to build. Pray with and for them, and support, encourage and even challenge them. Chaplains need people in their lives who can lovingly get them back on track when they are getting too bogged down with other parts of their job by challenging them to focus on their primary mission.
I have found that most chaplains are very respectful of the religious beliefs of the people they serve. Rather than trying to resist the chaplain or avoid the chaplain, I would recommend involving them with the ministry that God has put on your heart. Work with them to become a lay leader, be supportive of the command's religious program, and pray that the chaplain will see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. In short, be the salt and light we are called to be.
Todd Cheney: I would recommend to have awareness. What I mean is that the life and ministry of a chaplain is no different than a local church pastor. Chaplains are susceptible to loneliness, isolation, and hurtful criticism. And I encourage OCF members to seek out their chaplains and genuinely ask them how they’re doing and how you could pray for them. I have personally experienced this type of care for the “caregiver,” and it was tremendously encouraging.
Who ministers to you? How can OCF and its members help you personally?
Jon Uyboco: I seek out mentors and friends. There’s not a very large OCF presence at my current base. But before I became a chaplain, I was blessed with some great OCF mentors at previous duty stations. I think OCF does a great job of bringing Christians of various maturity levels together in a supportive environment. It sets the conditions that encourage healthy mentoring and ministry.
Todd Cheney: My mentors provide pastoral care and regularly ask me how my soul is doing. One man has known me for twenty-five years; he and his wife have modeled a godly, biblically based marriage to Kristin and me. A Vietnam veteran has also been a faithful prayer partner since my youth pastor days. I come away encouraged and refreshed every time another retired Army officer and I get together.
OCF and its members can help me personally by praying for me and my family. And chaplains like me always welcome encouragement to remain faithful in preaching and modeling the Gospel.
Marc Gauthier: Pray for and with us. It is a tremendous blessing to know our military lay brothers and sisters have our back spiritually through prayer. Extend the offer of spiritual friendship to your chaplain. A retired brigadier general once said to me, “The two loneliest people in a unit are the commander and chaplain.” Being a spiritual battle buddy to your chaplain can be a huge encouragement.