By Lisa R. RhodesFebruary 25, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- Using the biblical story of Jacob from the Old Testament as an allegory for humankind's relationship with God, Chaplain (Col.) Steven Berry reminded an audience of more than 250 people at Club Meade that God is present everywhere -- even where we least expect.
"In the middle of nowhere, in what we might call a God-forsaken place, God was present, active and he knew his person," said Berry, the command chaplain for the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and Military District of Washington, D.C.
As the guest speaker for the installation's first National Prayer Luncheon held Feb. 17, the chaplain explained that God gave Jacob a message of "hope and assurance" in the barren desert -- a place where even Jacob may not have expected to receive God's blessing.
"And Jacob said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place. ... This place is none other than the house of God'," Berry quoted from Scriptures.
Traditionally, the Installation Chaplain's Office has observed the National Day of Prayer with a breakfast. But this year, the office decided to hold a luncheon so more people could attend, said Lynn Durner, the installation chaplain's secretary.
In his opening remarks, Installation Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kevin Stroop called the event "a very joyous and wonderful occasion."
"Anytime we come together as a group of people to pray, it's a great time, a sacred time," he said.
The event began with a musical prelude performed by the Chamber Clarinets of the U.S. Army Field Band, which also performed the National Anthem. Chaplain (Capt.) Travis Sears, the chaplain at the Defense Information School, gave the invocation, followed by a reading of Psalm 46 by Pfc. Andrea Dickerson, a broadcast student at DINFOS.
A highlight before the speech was a moving performance by the C.C. Carroll Male Chorus from the Argonne Hills Chapel Center gospel congregation.
In a speech that featured humor and humility, Berry cited the story of Jacob's dream in the middle of the desert to illustrate God's love for his creation, regardless of the circumstances.
"God promised to give Jacob the land on which he was standing and make him the father of many," Berry said. "It's surprising that this revelation and word of comfort would come where you and I would not look for it, where we might not expect it."
Berry said God may seem real to people when all is well. "After all, don't you expect to find God in a paradise or on a mountaintop'" he asked.
But when life takes unexpected and seemingly cruel and unfair turns, the chaplain said, that is when God's love and promise hold steadfast.
"We may cross many deserts and we may ride many bulls in the course of our lives, but somehow with God's promise, they seem no longer so God-forsaken," Berry said. "When we realize by faith that surely, according to Jacob, the Lord is in this place."
The luncheon ended with the prayer of the nation led by Sgt. 1st Class Buffie Hall, installation chaplain noncommissioned officer-in-charge, and the audience singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." The benediction was led by Senior Chief Tahriq Baker of Navy Information Operations Command Maryland.
"I thought it was very good," Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Larry Sexton, a research manager for the Asymmetric Warfare Group, said of the presentation. "God is everywhere, not just on the mountaintop."
Sgt. 1st Class Melody Ware of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion said the chaplain's sermon touched her.
"We look for [God] in other people. People idolize people .... and expect them to have the answers," Ware said. "But if you're strong and listen to God, he'll give you the answers."