This year we have been following Chaplain Cameron Michael, one of the newest Grace Brethren military chaplains, as he transitions from serving as a Grace Brethren pastor to active duty chaplain. Cameron is a 2011 graduate of Grace College. Following his graduation from Grace Theological Seminary in 2014, he began leading the Pauling, Ohio, campus of Grace Community Church (Kevin Pinkerton, pastor).
In mid-January, I received my promotion to Captain, went on a Field Training Exercise (spending a week in the field with my unit), went to the unit’s ball, and discovered for the first time the panic of a snowstorm in the south. But this will be my last write-up and so rather than spend more time on those things, I want to challenge you with my biggest lesson from my first year as an active duty chaplain.
Over the past year I have grown a lot. One of my professors at Grace liked to tell us that while we were preparing for ministry, it was the piano tuners of the world who really make all of the difference. They are the ones who are invited into houses every day and have to be there for a while, opening up the doors for communication, and possibly a nice chat about Jesus.
In many ways, I realize that chaplains are a lot like piano tuners. I have the opportunity to go just about anywhere within my unit and have a nice chat with anyone I want to. Sometimes I catch soldiers on bad days with sick kids or spouses, or who just got chewed out by a superior (sergeants or officers), or who are just tired from all the work. Other times I catch soldiers on good days when it is easy to talk to them.
What I have had to learn most of all from the civilian ministry is how to make the switch to talk about Jesus. When people go to their pastor, they are there to ask for spiritual help and guidance. Some soldiers or family members do come to me with that purpose and desire. But when I go to them I have had to learn how to go from talking about sports and how hot North Carolina is to something a little more significant – the relationships with family, friends, and with God. I have realized I am not good at it, but I hope I am getting better.
I pray that you all would be chaplains (or piano tuners) in your businesses, in your neighborhoods, or with the other soccer moms. Jesus has called us to make disciples as we are going, so challenge yourselves to not be surrounded with other Christians — get to know some people who don’t care about Jesus. He came for the sick and loved hanging out with sinners. God has called me to love sinners with camouflage uniforms who like to go “camping” and demand a lot from themselves and others. This requires that I am with them on early morning ruck marches, jumping from a plane going way to fast way flying way to close to the ground, and spending time away from my family to be with them. God hasn’t called most of you to love these same sinners, but he has called you to love sinners – in your church, in your family, and sinners who do not yet know Jesus. I pray that you would learn and have the courage to make that switch to talk to them about your Lord as well.
Please be praying for me and the rest of the Eagle Commission Chaplains as we continue to serve the sons and daughters of the United States of America.