The Need for Military Chaplains
Do you ever think that you would like to be a military chaplain? Well, there are some openings and they need to be filled as soon as possible. If we Seventh-day Adventists do not supply men for these, others will.
Before getting to the details of qualifications, let us talk about the military chaplaincy in general. It is a very old profession and one that requires a particular type of minister. He must be unusually strong physically, mentally, and spiritually to be able to cope with the many unorthodox problems. Sometimes he will be the only person to represent right and, of course, be very unpopular. On the other hand, there are times when the chaplain is the last hope that people have and is a much sought after individual.
The Lonely One
Perhaps there is no other job in the world where the loneliness of the man is so noticeable. It is seen in young men with girl friends back home. It is reflected by husbands quenching the pangs of separation by buying toys and presents. Older men often try to handle their loneliness through drinking. The chaplain has the most difficult time of all because his avenues of release are so few. He knows the warmth and benefits of a church community where the Christian graces are prevalent. In such an environment he isn't concerned with bracing himself against profanity, cigarette and cigar smoke, immoral conversation, and being constantly concerned about the preparation of the food that he eats. He fights boredom perhaps for the first time in his life. In the civilian parish he was always busy, with need for more time. In the military there are times when study and reading seem to have no meaning. The desire to talk with a fellow believer is intense. Talking with others just isn't the same. During times of separation from his family he feels this need for fellowship with others of like faith. It is at such times that a chaplain realizes that the position of the chaplaincy is indeed a lonely one.
A Supreme Test
Yet, there are times of reward and the chaplain is spurred on to further service. No other place will he find the opportunities to serve "the least of these" as is described in Matthew 25:31-46 more than in the military. He will minister to the sick, wounded, and dying, or maybe commit the remains of some youth to the endless expanse of the sea. At such times he becomes the source of comfort to many who do not understand death and the resurrection. A chaplain feels particularly his need of divine help when he has to inform relatives of the death of a loved one. He finds in such duties the supreme test of his own beliefs. There are no formulas for informing a young wife that her husband has been killed. He spends much time alone pondering the theme of the great plan of salvation when this same wife who is now a widow requests him to return after school to help her break the news to the children. Even during these heartbreaking moments the chaplain finds his reward because he must exercise that which he has been preaching.
Before an Adventist minister seeks to become a chaplain he should know that some have reservations about the military chaplaincy, feeling that a minister supported by tax money can hardly be a genuine worker of our church. But our denomination, through the Religious Liberty Department, has emphasized that a military chaplaincy does not threaten the institution of separation of church and state. The work of a chaplain is no threat to their sound principles. A few seem to find it difficult to see any need to provide some degree of religious coverage for the millions of youth who have been called away from their own church communities. Surely the Government has some responsibility to fulfill and is right in calling for all denominations to voluntarily permit a number of their ministers to serve in the military.
One who is ordained, who has a S.D. degree, and is not more than 34 years of age might qualify for the chaplaincy. If you have had military service, deduct each active year from your age. If you haven't been ordained or received your B.D. or its equivalent in credit hours, you may be able to get into a reserve situation until you qualify fully. There is much flexibility in the qualification requirements. The National Service Organization at our denominational headquarters in Washington, D.C., will be glad to furnish details.
A military chaplain serves on the front line of spiritual warfare and is truly a combat warrior in the struggles against evil. He must be in constant training through study, prayer, and meditation to be able to survive the daily battles and lead men to Christ. Such a calling demands the best of spiritual living and service. Pray for us, and if the Spirit of God is impressing you to take up this line of activity then remember there is a place for your service. The church needs you.
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