KOROR, Palau – U.S. Army Pacific’s Task Force Oceania Unit Ministry Team spent the last two months in Palau spreading a message of faith, love and unity with the Palauan people.
“We’ve done so much during our time here in Palau. It’s truly been a unique and rewarding experience,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Daniel Leiter, the deputy task force chaplain.
“We’ve met with key leaders of faith to discuss matters of religion, which led to several invitations to participate in ministry activities. We’ve spoken at church services, Sunday schools, and youth sports camps, prison chapel services, drug and alcohol abuse symposiums and site visits of religious importance. We were also able to meet with government leaders on matters of religion and, along with local faith leaders, provided encouragement to the president of Palau, Surangel Whipps Jr., the vice president, his cabinet, and the governors of Angaur State, Ngarchelong State, the chief of police and the chief public defender,” said Leiter.
The Unit Ministry Team met with Palauan people from all walks of life, from religious and community leaders to the highest office of government. But their involvement with the community and the people of Palau went beyond simple meetings and extended to being accepted as part of the community.
“I eventually was offered the privilege of leading the president’s weekly Bible study, which led to an invitation to the president’s weekly press conference. During this time, the president of Palau expressed his appreciation for U.S. commitment to Palau and value of religious freedom,” said Leiter.
Treating people of all faiths with dignity and respect are among the most important aspects of being an Army chaplain.
“The majority of our engagements with the Palauan people were with the majority Christian population. However, a visit that was of particular significance to me was the invitation to tour the Islamic Center and learn about challenges facing the Muslim community in Palau,” said Leiter.
“The president of the Islamic Association in Palau and the local imam expressed their gratitude for the visit and interest in their faith, culture and customs. Since the Muslim population on the island is so small, they were grateful that we reached out to discuss issues facing the Muslim community in Palau, as well as ways that we can achieve mutually beneficial solutions together,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Martin, Task Force Oceania Religious Affairs non-commissioned-officer.
This recent UMT visit to Palau, was among a multitude of ways in which Task Force Oceania provides value to the Army’s mission in Oceania.
“Task Force Oceania is playing a pivotal role in demonstrating our commitment to the Republic of Palau through the coordination and execution of religious leader engagements, efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, engineering projects and training exercises. By having ‘boots on ground,’ Task Force Oceania is able to show a visible U.S. government presence that is active, engaged and determined to maintain a healthy and strong relationship between the United States and people of Palau,” said Leiter.