I Walk the Line

Our Brigade is rapidly preparing for a month’s worth of training exercises. This means moving our equipment and eventually ourselves. Moving alot of heavy equipment takes big ships or big trains. In this case, big trains.

Yesterday our 3-1 Cav UMT (Me and my Chaplain Assistant) were tasked with providing religious support to the Soldiers at the loading area. We weren’t quite sure what to expect. I prepared by gathering up enough materials for a worship service in the field, and communion. I also loaded my ammo bag with candy. My Assistant obtained the directions to the ministry site.

We left in time yesterday to spend nearly two hours “walking the line.” We arrived to find lots of heavy vehicles being slowly loaded onto rail cars. As we walked between the vehicles we spoke with dozens of Soldiers at work, or on break waiting their turn to move. Once again, I am grateful for the candy my friends have provided. A few Soldiers respectfully declined but most of them were excited or at least surprised to see a UMT bearing candy. I had to laugh when one happy Sergeant took a Tootsie Roll pop and said, “My morale has been raised Chaplain. Thanks!”

Conversing with the Soldiers, even as I could just see some of their helmeted heads poking out of the top, felt good. Tossing candy up to those guys generated alot of smiles. Even if we didn’t really have the right setting or environment after all to do a worship service, ministry of presence was the most important need. We have the worship tools always on standby for when we are called. I don’t carry a weapon, but I must keep my worship and communion equipment set and ready to go at a moment’s notice. And it is.

Ministry of presence. In civilian world we might call that “floating” or “showing up.” In the Army, it is much more than that. Make no mistake. Never underestimate the value of bringing something out of the ordinary (such as candy, conversation not-necessarily-job-related, humor and prayer) to Soldiers who have worked long hours at stressful tasks.

Ministry of presence often means wearing the same battle gear and safety equipment as the Soldiers being ministered to. But we do whatever it takes to go to the areas where Soldiers are, be they a group or just one or two Soldiers pulling gaurd duty at a checkpoint. If we believe every person is important to God, then every person is our mission. Ministry of presence also lets the Soldiers know there is a Chaplain available when they need one. Trust me. Soldiers will and do remember the Chaplains and go looking for them often when a crisis arises. Johnny Cash had it right. “Walking the line” is pretty significant….even though our line is a bit different than the one he spoke of.

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