For one Kenyan, military service a testimony of faith
November 21, 2011
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan -- You may have guessed by his accent that Chaplain (Maj.) David Waweru is not native to the United States of America. But, where is he from? How did he find himself serving in the U.S. Army and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom?
"I was born and raised in Kenya, Africa, in a small village about 20 miles west of the capital city of Nairobi," Waweru, the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade chaplain. "I went to primary school in the village and later went to high school in Nairobi."
Waweru, now a resident in Harker Heights, Texas, said after graduating high school, he began working for local church organizations. One job in particular, he said, jumps out at him as the most memorable.
"The job that really stands out to me is when I worked for Campus Crusade for Christ," Waweru said. "This job stands out to me because that is when I had a lot of time with American missionaries, and I believe that is where my interest in coming to the United States began."
Waweru said he worked there for 2.5 years working with local church workers teaching them how to plan church services and build churches.
It was during his time with Campus Crusade where Waweru said he felt the call to become an ordained minister for his church, the Anglican Church in Kenya. He then left to begin school at the Bishop Kariuki Bible College in Kabete, Kenya, to train for ordained ministry.
While he was attending the college, Waweru said he met his wife, Christine, who was born in the United States, but raised in both the U.S. and Kenya. David and Christine had been attending the college for the same reason, to become ordained ministers.
He said they began getting to know each other and eventually started dating. However, their time together didn't last as long as they would have liked.
"One year later, Christine was offered a scholarship for a school in the United States," he said, "so, she took it and returned home to the United States to continue her education toward her bachelor's degree in Christian ministry."
Waweru, still in Kenya attending the Bishop Kariuki Bible College, continued his education and kept in touch with Christine through letters and phone calls every once in a while.
Waweru completed his degree at the Bible college and transferred to St. Paul's University in Limuru, Kenya, to obtain a bachelor's in divinity. All through this time, David and Christine kept their relationship strong even though they were on opposite sides of the world.
"I think this time apart helped us build trust," Waweru said, "and I feel this was good training that helped me in becoming a chaplain in the years to come."
He also said he believes, even though he had no way of knowing at the time, this time apart was preparing him for his three combat deployments with the U.S. Army.
Christine returned to Kenya during David's second year at St. Paul's, and they decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. On Dec. 3, 1988, David and Christine made their vows to each other and became husband and wife.
"We got ordained at the same time," he said, "and began ministry together at the Anglican Church of Kenya."
After a few years, the Waweru family picked up and came to the United States together and David continued to further his education at Princeton University, N.J., to obtain a master's degree in theology.
"While I was at Princeton, I met a U.S. Army chaplain who was studying the same program. He and I became good friends during our time together, and throughout that friendship," Waweru said, "I guess he was recruiting me into the chaplain's corps."
Upon graduation, Waweru said he faced two choices, to continue his ministries in the church, or to become a chaplain in the United States Army.
"I decided to try a new venture," he said, "so I decided to become a United States Army chaplain."
Waweru received his commission as a first lieutenant on July 4, 1994 and is is now a major on his third combat deployment, and his first to Afghanistan.
His first was to Iraq in 2005, followed by his second back to Iraq in 2007.
Today, he is in Afghanistan with the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, serving as the brigade chaplain on FOB Spin Boldak, Afghanistan.
His mission is to keep the soldiers of the brigade strong and help them through their times of trouble.
"It is never easy," he said. "It is always hard to be away from family. With this being my third deployment, I have been better able to prepare myself and help others through my experiences."
The chaplain wants soldiers to know if they need anything, he is here to help them.
"I offer encouragement and insight based on my experiences," he said. "I encourage soldiers to work on their relationships while they are away from their families, and I encourage them to be spiritually fit."
At the end of the day, Waweru is happy he made the decision to become a chaplain when he could have otherwise made the choice to minister in the church as a civilian.
"I enjoy my ministry in the Army," he said, "I love soldiers, I love talking to soldiers, interacting with soldiers. I love being part of a bigger family than myself. We will suffer being away from our Families together, and we will pull through it together."