In just four brief days my status will change from Chaplain in Training to Tactical Chaplain (A fancy term for basically qualified chaplain); essentially meaning I have all the book learning required to minister to Sailors and Marines, now I just need the experience to become fully vetted as a Tactical Chaplain.
It’s been a very full 6 weeks with little time for past times, like blogging, and so to all out there who actually enjoying reading my little corner of the web, apologies to you all. That said – here is what my world has looked like for the past few weeks.
The first four weeks of chaplain school can be summed up in two short words – “Power Point.” Now I know I’ve ranted about this topic before and I know somewhere out there someone is thinking that surely it can’t be that bad – to those future chaplains my advice is learn to drink coffee, enjoy standing, or sleep with your eyes open because you will be exhausted most days (5 to 6 hours a night does that for most of us) – and around 1300 your eyelids while have weights attached to them.
Now I’m not saying that the topics are boring or not applicable – far from it. The things you will learn here and the issue you will discuss will truly open your eyes and have you begging for more information. It truly is a course that is taught for chaplains by chaplains. I could go into countless details but I have neither the time nor inclination to do so (besides as a chaplain you’ll get all that information soon enough), so let me just sum up the first four weeks with a simple clarifying statement: The idea that Chaplaincy is a ministry of presence is so completely explored during this time that it become a part of your DNA as a minister.
The weekend that marked the end of Phase 1 and the beginning of Phase 2 was marked by a trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Some of the partnerships you will make as a chaplain are with other chaplaincy organization and through networking of some sort or the other our class was the guest of the NASCAR Chaplains at the Bank of America 500 this year with full pass throughout the pit. So close to the action that for the first 30 laps we stood next to (not behind mind you but next too) Jeff Gordon’s pit crew. It was an amazing night and I can hardly wait to share like experiences with my sailors and marines.
PHASE 2: RMTEXT
- Mission: Obtain elementary knowledge of the Marine Corp through briefs, field ops, and basic life in the field.
- Length: 5 days
Things done, things learned
- Sleep in tents, rocks are evil, they hate you (so do roots).
- Hike about 4-5miles a day with about 30 extra pounds strapped to your body (wearing your flak jacket everywhere you go simply because you never know).
- Eat MREs (learn to love em, avoid the veggie omelet).
- Solve impossible problems with impractical items (like using a 4 foot rope and 20 feet of wood to cross a 30 foot chasm).
- jump over things, swing under things, get wet.
- Jump off of a 60ft tower with a rope strapped around you like a saddle.
- Learn to get from point A to point B using a map and a compass in the middle of the woods.
- Now do it in the dark.
- Learn how to stay awake for more power point (yes even in the field).
- If you’re not tired you’re not doing it right.
- If you break a rib you’re a hard charger (We had two class mates break ribs).
- Wind it all up with about a 1.5mile hump with roughly 100 extra pounds strapped to your back – in the rain – with your last meal a distant memory – uphill – in the dark.
Our last week here, or as it is referred to by the school, TEAMS (Phase 3), was lighter in nature and moved us out of the realm of student and into chaplains about to fly the coupe. In more relaxed environment we’ve received last minute words of advice and briefs tailored around programs and partnerships that can help us in our pursuit to be a ministry of presence.
The week ended with an overnight to Mayport to reacquaint us with the Navy side off our calling. We had the opportunity to tour 3 ships, an FFG (Frigate) DDG (Destroyer) and a CG(Cruiser) as well as spend a night on one of the ship.
As an aside, I think I came from the sea because it is on these ship that I find myself think grand thoughts and more focused on my call. I love the fact that in 9 days I will arrive at Camp Lejeune to minister to group of Marines that will stretch me to my limits and I long for the challenge, but I’m equally excited about the chance that I will get to serve onboard a ship in the US Navy. No other ministry in the world gives you that kind of diversity and I am blessed beyond measure to be here.
My family arrives tomorrow and at last we will be united for longer than 2 days at a time. It has been a long road these past 12 weeks. Much has changed, in me, in my wife, in my walk but one things remains the same – My Lord. His call remains true to our lives. His ability to sustain, to bless, to lift up those obedient to Him has been made absolutely clear in these few months. So I leave you with words I wrote at the beginning of this journey that remain as true today as they were then.
There is something more than peace in the center of Gods will.
There is Joy.
Joyfully, In His Grips