Oliver Edwards, a former Charis Fellowship pastor who is now serving as a Charis Fellowship chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), had the opportunity this summer to serve in the Bold Eagle program as a temporary assignment. Bold Eagle is a unique way of engaging indigenous youth in the possibility of a military career, but it was mostly started as a partnership between a group of Indian bands and the CAF to give youth tools for life and a shot at a headstart in a career in the CAF, according to Oliver.
“It features a cultural awareness segment for staff, then once the students arrive they are taken through a cultural camp where they are taught how indigenous traditions can help them handle the stress of basic training, and life in general,” he says. “Then the students are handed over to soldier trainers who take them through a shortened army reserve basic training over five weeks, supported by three indigenous elders (two traditional, one Christian) and myself.”
At the end of the program they are given an option to join the reserves or the regular force, depending on their age and education. Youth aged 16 through 28 have participated.
He notes that the youth have come from a variety of faith backgrounds. “We had one Muslim, probably about 50 Christians (at least by chapel attendance numbers), and the rest a mix of traditional beliefs and more modern secular perspectives,” he says. “Demonstrating Christ’s love in that context was welcomed and we saw a lot of fruit – several kids requested baptism over the time of the course, and several others made decisions for Christ.”
Oliver was featured recently in an online story about the program. A portion of that story appears below. Click here to read the complete article.
2019 introduces CAF chaplain participation in Bold Eagle Program
Bold Eagle celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and for the first time incorporated a military chaplain into the program.
Captain (Capt) Oliver Edwards with 20th Independent Field Battery in Lethbridge, who joined the South Alberta Light Horse as an Armoured Officer in 2015 before eventually transitioning to the chaplaincy, says that he is humbled to be a part of the support team for the 2019 program recruits.
“It has been a real treat for me to learn about Indigenous spirituality and understand the needs of Indigenous members,” he says. “There’s a huge diversity of different traditions and languages, all wrapped up in one program so we get a chance to support all those different candidates.”
The summer program for Indigenous youth from western and northern Canada promotes leadership skills, self-discipline and physical fitness. It combines a weeklong culture camp where recruits learn more about their First Nations heritage and the Canadian Army Reserve Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) course.