Teach-Love-Care: A story of the Army Chaplain Corps
April 2, 2013
ZABUL PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN - Military chaplains come from all walks of life. First and foremost a chaplain is a soldier. It takes a special person to be a soldier, it also takes a special type of minister to be a chaplain. Chaplains are not only ministers but also counselors, colleagues and friends.
There are similarities between chaplains and civilian ministers because many chaplains attempt to make church services in a deployed environment mirror those of a garrison or even a civilian service. However, the unique role as a chaplain is accompanied by very unique distinctions.
"As a civilian minister, I was very church oriented, always surrounded by Christians. There wasn't much chance to go out and meet people of other beliefs," said U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Soojin Chang, a Southern Baptist chaplain for the 702nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "But in the Army, I don't have to go out and search for these people. They come to me and we discuss about our belief. There is a mutual respect with each other."
Though the role of a chaplain most resembles that of a pastor, chaplains can serve God in other ways. Many ministers feel led to work in missions.
"There are a lot of hurting people within the Army, and there are a lot of people that, if you go to them and you just care for them, they will open up and they will want to know more about faith, want to know more about God. Maybe they have had questions, but they would never step foot in a chapel. But because you are going to them where they work, they say 'Hey, I've got a question about this,'" said Capt. Joseph Mason, a Christian chaplain with 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Task Force 2-1 Cavalry.
"I see the Army as a mission field, not in the sense of going out to convert people - that isn't our job - but through honesty and genuine relationships," said Mason. "People asking honest questions and seeking god in an honest manner; I see there is a very missional aspect to the chaplaincy. "
Every job has aspects that are more gratifying than others.
"The greatest thing about being a chaplain is that you are planting the seeds of God's mercy, compassion and love," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jerome Fehn, a Catholic priest and the base chaplain for Camp LSA (Life Support Area), Kuwait. "Just like in the parable of the sower, I never know how the seeds are going to fall and it's important to know that my job is not necessarily to bear the fruit that may come a generation or two after; but my job is to plant the seed of God's word, love and compassion in the hearts and souls of as many people as I can."
"The toughest part of my job is my family, because they have to suffer long periods of separations just like I do," Chang said.
There are many tangible rewards to being in the military.The reward of being a chaplain is, however, not tangible.
"Having been with the soldiers, walking the walk with them, just being among them, and experiencing the same food, the same conditions, the same frustrations, the same worries, the same concerns; just being able to know you are with them, and you are one of them and their mission and their work. Being there when they are happy, being there when they are sad. All of these things are the most fulfilling part about being a chaplain," said U.S. Army Capt. Arles Curtis Sutherland, Seventh-day Adventist Chaplain for 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Combined Task Force Raider.