Military chaplains help others find hope
July 4, 2022
With your very own hands you formed me;
now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you.
When they see me waiting, expecting your Word,
those who fear you will take heart and be glad.
I can see now, God, that your decisions are right;
your testing has taught me what’s true and right.
Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised. Psalm 119:73–76 (MSG)
Much has happened in and to our nation since our observance of this historic day last year. We pulled out of Afghanistan, endured the pandemic, remained divided by competing ideologies vying for ascendance in our political system, grieved the lives of countless innocents whose lives were taken in mass shootings and entered a time of financial instability that threatens many of the poorest among us.
In the face of the pain and grief rising from these tragedies, we can and must look for good — good done for others by those in our country who are called to serve. An example comes from one of our military chaplains who was pressed into the task of helping the Afghanis displaced from their homes. In her words:
“Back in the end of August, when thousands of Afghans were streaming into the U.S., I was given the opportunity to be a part of a community wide effort at my duty station. The Garrison Chaplain at a base near us let us know the latest needs, and we put out the call out to our community. In just three days, our chapel was overflowing with donations. We took the first batch to the nearby base and then after a few more days of collecting, we were able to fill a 20-foot U-Haul with donations. Those went to another refugee location.
People who had never been to the chapel before and folks who said they didn’t even want the Afghans to come, showed up with carloads. The refrain I heard again and again was that this was something that they could do for the good. Participating in this effort felt like being a part of history. For about two weeks, the Afghan project took over our lives —our schedule, our building space and our time. But it was a blessing indeed.”
Seven of our military chaplains in widespread locations provided significant leadership and ministry during this trying time. Many more supported indirectly. As a nation, we did not hear much about the effort but in the lives of thousands seeking refuge, chaplain ministry and the significant efforts of uniformed personnel helped these who had lost much find hope for the future. As a nation, we accomplished good.
Looking to the year ahead and the challenges we face as a people, may we hear the psalmist and seek God’s wisdom. May we know that in testing we are taught what is true and right. And may the Lord love us right now — just the way God has promised.
Frederick Douglass concluded a speech to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 1852, now known as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” with this poem by William Lloyd Garrison. May it become our prayer today.
God speed the year of jubilee The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But to all manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house to thrall
Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive —
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,
Lyman Smith, Executive Director, Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies
Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies supports more than 150 PC(USA) chaplains who minister in federal prisons, veterans administration hospitals, and as noncombatants in the military “that all may practice in peace.” Please visit our website at presfedchap.org or call (202) 630-6225 for more information.
Today’s Focus: Military chaplains