Emulating Christ on the front lines

Converge chaplaincy

by Chaplain Major Mark Thompson

It seems like a very distant memory when I first stepped foot in Baghdad some 10 years ago. I had met my unit only a couple months earlier, and now we were being delivered to our area in the dark. Previously the Republican Guard barracks, this structure now housed the 2-299th INF BN, Hawaii Army National Guard.

It was in this location I learned my most valuable lesson as a chaplain. CH (LTC) Waylon Hammond sat with me at Green Beans Coffee at Victory Base Complex and cared for me, a young chaplain who only four months earlier sported a pony tail and goatee. The words he gave me were sincere and from the Christ-centered heart he so willingly shared with everyone. His words still guide my ministry: “Never let them see you running. If the chaplain is running, there’s something wrong.” He would go on to explain there is a difference between urgency and running, purpose and panic.

During that year my soldiers endured mortars, rockets, vehicle-born IED’s and despair in country, and betrayal, death, unfaithfulness and hate from home. I take the words of my chaplain and hone them, modify them and let them live in my ministry. His words were a description of Christ as he went to the cross--purposeful and confident as it seemed only he and the Father knew this path. In order to continue revealing God to the world, he didn't run for fear his followers would panic.

I look back and understand my chaplaincy has been impacted by a handful of chaplains who knew the chaplaincy was a matter of bringing the grace of God to what could be the ugliest part of humanity and being present in the face of evil. I have learned from them good chaplains go to the pain because that’s where hope is most needed.

I have been in Baghdad with CH Hammond, in Balad with CH Higgins and in Afghanistan with chaplains Adams, Gore and Irazzary. None have taught me about the ministry of presence, but each has taught me the meaning of Christ-like presence. It is not enough to wear the cross on our shirt and be noticed as the chaplain. We are called to bring Christ to those we serve in the selfless and God-glorifying way in which our Savior did for his disciples and in turn for us.

Soon I will head out of my house for the fourth year-long mobilization in the past 10 years. The imprint of my Savior, my chaplains and my family will guide me. I hear the echoes of my Lord, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Ch. Maj. Mark Thompson serves in Ft. Snelling, Minneosta, in the United States Army Reserves.

    Point - September 2018

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