Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Monday, March 13, 2006


Can Army chaplains evangelize? This is a question that I've been asked many times, and Mark True has raised it in the comments section of my last post. It's a great question, and, in light of being deployed to a mostly Muslim nation in the near future, it's a question that pertains to my job.

The answer is yes AND no. On the one hand, I can preach all about Jesus in chapel and Bible studies, just like I would on the civilian side. I can't control who comes to chapel or to a Bible study (just like we can force people to come to church), but we can certainly invite them.

On the other hand, there are restrictions like there would be in any workplace. In most jobs, you probabaly can't just walk up and get in someone's face about Christ. You have to be sensitive to the situation and open to the Spirit opening the door. We are not supposed to go out and try and convert the non-Christian soldiers, but if they ask about Christ, I am free to share what I believe. This means that evangelism begins with simply getting to know the soldiers in my unit, loving them, serving them, and letting them know that my hope an strength comes from Christ.

Now sharing Christ with Iraqis or Kuwaitis (depending on where I end up) would be a different story. First of all, my contact with civilians will be very limited, as I understand. Of course, I haven't been deployed yet, so that remains to be seen. But, the Army does not want to be seen as being in Iraq for the purpose of converting the Iraqis. Moreover, there would be very little chance for follow-through. Hence, the real ministry is with the soldiers- that is the flock to which I am called and it's best to focus on what you can do and look for opportunities for the Spirit to move in those opportunities.

The best thing is to represent Christ in all that I do. As a Christian chaplain, I wear the cross, and my actions speak volumes about my faith. Because of some of the restrictions on direct evangelism, the most important call is to show Christ through my life, and allow others to ask the questions. The Holy Spirit will work through both our words and our actions.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

So what does a chaplain do?

As I have spoken with members of my church over the last few weeks about my upcoming deployment, many have asked about the role of chaplains and what exactly we do. Among other things, they have wondered if we carry weapons, are we required to engage in combat and so on.

I'll be discussing this inevitably once I get deployed, but let me hit on some of the basics of the role of a chaplain:

First, chaplains do NOT carry a weapon. Well, we DO carry the Sword of the Spirit- which is the Word of God, but in an earthly sense we are unarmed. That means we enter a combat zone without a weapon. We do have a chaplain assistant with us (MOS- 56M), who serves as "bodyguard" (among many of their duties)

As far as our role: we serve as a personal staff officer to the commander of a unit. We perform and provide religious support. To perform would include: leading a chapel service, praying with soldiers, leading Bible studies, performing the sacraments, counseling, and other Christian (in my case) activities. The things we are asked to perform can never be outside of our own faith boundaries. For religious needs outside of our own faith, we are asked to provide. For example: if a soldier requested the opportunity to give a confession to a Roman Catholic chaplain, I could not, obviously, perform this role. Thus, my responsibility is to provide the opportunity- which would mean trying to find a Roman Catholic chaplain to come to our unit. The Army is very strict that chaplains will never be asked to perform any religious act that would compromise the chaplain's own faith.

We also serve the role as religious subject matter experts for the Commander of the unit. For example: we might be planning an operation, and the Commander finds out that the operation is going to take place at the same time as an important religious observance, he might ask the chaplain what the implications of proceeding would be in the eyes of the local population. The chaplain should be well versed (or at least somewhat knowledgable) in the religious beliefs or customs of the people in a given theather of operations.

I hope that is a helpful summary. Obviously our jobs as chaplains are more complex than that, but this is a good start.