In the summer of 2012, a friend of mine excitedly shared with me how he had been going through Chaplain training. He became teary-eyed as he explained the heavy burden he carried for people in our world and how much he had learned about being a strong support system for others during their deepest hurts and greatest times of need. He told me he thought it was something I should look into and pray about doing myself. Just what I need, I thought, one more thing to do. At that time The Torch was still a dream Sarah and I discussed when we had a chance to get together.
Over lunch, later that day, I told Sarah about the conversation. She got that far-away look in her eyes she gets when she is really considering something. When she finally came back to the present, she announced, “I think we should do it!” Us? Become Chaplains? I didn’t even really know what that meant or what it would entail. We agreed to spend time praying about and researching Chaplaincy.
In case you’re wondering, when I say I am going to pray for or about something, I really mean I am going to PRAY about it. Faithfully, diligently, daily I talk things over with God. And over and over again sometimes. Too often in my life I have found myself on the wrong path because I neglected to take time to pray before I made a decision. And there are other times when I found myself on the right, but painful, path and I had peace that passed all understanding because I knew my faithful prayers had guided me exactly to where I was.
So I started to discuss the possibility of me becoming a Chaplain with God. And Sarah and I started researching. And let me tell you, when we research we really research. We read everything we could find about Chaplains and becoming a Chaplain and the responsibilities of Chaplains and on and on and on. The more I learned, the more I realized God was steering me in that direction. And Sarah believed the same. So we chose a non-denominational organization which offers training and ordination and we selected a class to be held last fall. We made the decision and started figuring out how we were going to pay for this training - and then discovered the class was canceled and there weren't anymore on the schedule for Michigan any time soon. We were very disappointed but we continued to pray.
Then one day I checked the schedule again and a Michigan training had been added in February! We were so excited we signed up and reserved our spots. That was right around Christmas. Of course, in the interim we received our tax-exempt status for The Torch and were just overjoyed with all the opportunities in front of us.
If I had to choose one word to describe Chaplain training, I would have to say intense. The topics are deep and troublesome at times and you must face your own demons if you are ever going to be able to support and help others. It is most definitely not for everyone. It is most definitely for me. I spent most of my Christian life serving God within the Church. Yes, I was doing outreach, but from within the safety of the church walls and always surrounded by fellow Christians and friends. I was blessed greatly, but I never quite felt like I fit in. I knew there were a lot more people out in the world with a lot more needs who would never come through the doors of my church for help or friendship or anything at all.
And I didn't really blame them, because I think sometimes we are so happy and comfortable in our churches that we become separated from the way most people live and we cannot begin to understand how it feels to walk into a church when you have never done so before or it has been so long it is a very distant memory. I loved that children were eager and ready to come to Awana, but I knew there were a lot of adults connected to those children who just didn't feel they belonged at church. That was always a heavy burden on my heart. I tried to explain it to a pastor one time and I asked him if he felt the same way. He told me he didn't feel it quite as intensely and said that I seemed to be more called by God than most people to reach the hurting and unreachable. I thought about that and it was not a very satisfying answer to where my heart was leading. It didn't help me figure out HOW I was supposed to reach all those people and it made me feel a little more alienated from other Christians. Not his fault, he didn't understand the differences between Chaplains and Pastors.
The first day of Chaplain training, pretty much the first topic we discussed was that of sheep and goats. In a nutshell, sheep are Christians who are in the Church. God, of course, is the Great Shepherd watching over them all, but pastors are considered shepherds to the flocks of sheep who attend their churches. Goats, on the other hand, are folks who are not part of a body of believers. They are the people out in the world striving to make it on their own. Chaplains’ hearts yearn to care for the Goats. So I sat and drank in that message on the very first day of Chaplain training and I finally understood and realized I had at last found my niche and that felt incredibly amazing!
I don’t know whether your heart aches for the Goats or if you are gifted caring for the Sheep. The world needs both kinds. Of course, God knows that - that’s why He wires us all differently. I hope we have both kinds of people who get involved with The Torch. Sarah and I need help when we go out into the world and immerse ourselves in goats. It will take many people to step up and volunteer to serve, cook, clean and support. We also need some sheep caretakers among us. For us. Because one thing I know about ministering in this world - it can be draining and exhausting. So we need some of you to come alongside us and minister to us through prayer and encouragement and holding us accountable to take care of ourselves spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. Think and pray about your role. We welcome you all.
Chaplain Rhonda ;)