Shift: A Change of Direction
A Chaplain shares his faith in the unlikeliest of places...
Witness in Kandahar
by Chaplain (CPT) Kevin Trimble
For a Chaplain in the U.S. Army, every day provides new opportunities to witness for God. From an impromptu “Chaplain, can we talk?” to soldiers waiting to talk as I leave my quarters for an early morning run, opportunities abound to witness for Christ.
Regardless of where we are in our lives or ministries, God always sees fit to bring someone to us. The benefit is often mutual, for as we help others, we often realize they are helping us learn as well.
One such person for me was Tom Jenkins*. He is definitely not an avid church-attendee. Can I say he is a Christian or even a man of God? Maybe. And if not now, perhaps down the road.
When the 101st CAB (Combat Aviation Brigade) encountered its latest “rendezvous with destiny,” I deployed with nearly 700 soldiers as my congregation and mission field.
My Battalion, the 6th 101 Aviation Regiment (AVN RGT), had a primary mission that was threefold: (1) support ground troops with aviation assets for delivery, air assaults, and medevac, (2) be the primary platform for VIP’s in country, and (3) provide the needed lift assets for Kandahar City and the surrounding provinces.
After we entered the country, our Battalion was joined by attachments from 13 separate companies from Germany, Alaska, and Hawaii. Truly God provided a great opportunity for ministry. My days were long, with a 12-hour day minimum, filled with counseling, training, speaking, briefing, teaching, flying to minister to others, and working beside our soldiers. Many days were filled with sadness and loss as I performed numerous memorial ceremonies (called a RAMP Ceremony). Toward the end of deployment I was often enlisted by the military police to provide care after a soldier had committed suicide. I would travel to the scene to pray over the loss, minister to the friends, and provide grief counseling.
In the middle of such trying days, everyone needs a friend, and that’s where Major Tom Jenkins stepped in. Jenkins is a father of two, a fantastic athlete, a consummate encourager, and the commander of our company of Medevac, (the historic and famed Dustoff Unit that dates back to Korea). In spite of his demanding schedule, this commander whose company successfully carried out over 3,500 missions, took time to ask, “How are you doing, Chaplain?”
Often, Major Jenkins spoke of what it meant to have a friend like me, but I felt like the recipient of grace through him. Knowing his faith background, I did not ask, “Are you a Christian?” I still haven’t. But on morning runs or in lengthy conversations, we discussed our work, our family, our futures, and our dreams and desires. On days of death and loss, we both needed a friend, and I am certain God placed us together for a significant reason.
On one occasion, we talked about church, and how his faith had been tainted by his experiences. I listened. On another occasion, during a long run, he worked through leadership issues in the company. Again, I listened. At other times we spoke openly of his soldiers, their needs, and how I could minister to them. I listened. When we returned to the States, we spoke of the needs of families, changes in our command, and once again, I listened.
His friendship was a blessing to me during these days. A Chaplain can share a burden with few people, but Major Jenkins listened. Have I shared the gospel? In small services in the Command Post, my friend has heard the gospel, but he hasn’t personally attended my organized chapel services. During the many times he has heard me speak on a variety of topics, he has heard my heart. In prayers of faith, loss, death, hope, and victory, he has felt the passion of a man who loves God deeply.
As believers, part of our ministry is to build friendships. Repeatedly, we are reminded by church growth experts that people are drawn to the faith by friends far more effectively than through fiery preaching, huge campaigns, multi-million dollar buildings, and flashy programs. Have I, through the reciprocal friendship, drawn my friend to Christ? Only eternity will tell, but as of today, he knows a Chaplain who loves God foremost.
Will my friend come to know Christ as a devoted follower? It is my prayer he will. I am ever thankful for his help, care, and encouragement to me, and for all that I have received from him. Yet, the rest is up to God. His Word tells us that as He is lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). I pray that I have successfully fulfilled my role as an Army Chaplain to lift up Christ, while being the friend of Major Jenkins, yet living the life of a witness daily and ever learning from the witnesses and soldiers that He puts in my path.
In serving my soldiers, I find that Jehovah is at work through me every day, in each situation of my life. He longs to use me at chapel services or working beside other soldiers. As I melt into the world of those I’m called to serve, I’m confident that God will use me to be His witness of compassion and love for a world in need. I pray that He will change my friend as He is changing me.
*Not his real name.
About the Writer: Captain Kevin Trimble serves as battalion chaplain of the 6th 101st CAB (Combat Aviation Brigade) stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. To learn more about Free Will Baptist chaplains, visit www.homemissions.net.