By Chaplain (Capt.) Dave Christensen, Battalion Chaplain, 3/85 Mountain Infantry Warrior Transitions Battalion, Ft. Drum, NY, Guest Blogger*
It’s all about “being”…not about “doing.” While I believe that statement is true for the pastoral care ministry of every Army Chaplain, I believe it be most true for a Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) Chaplain.
There’s nothing wrong with “doing” ministry. During my two years as a WTB Chaplain, I’ve run my share of programs, taught classes, administered spiritual assessments and even helped develop processes and procedures. All of this “doing” has been good and helpful for the recovery, rehabilitation, reintegration and reconditioning of our wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. However, I believe its importance pales in comparison to “being.”
“Being” is, in many ways, much more difficult than “doing” ministry. There is no method or procedure to “being.” It’s all about your presence, and not just your physical presence. It’s easy to just show up where Soldiers and Families are. Anyone can show up at a remote care muster, an adaptive reconditioning event, a Family Readiness Group meeting or even the hospital room. “Being” is that ability to be emotionally present. It’s having the courage to grieve when there is grief and to celebrate when there is joy.
“Being” is the aptitude to be spiritually present. Spiritual presence is the capacity to discern where a Soldier or Family is in their spiritual walk and appropriately come alongside them in that journey. As you can probably tell, “being” doesn’t brief well. It’s hard to quantify and report. For the most part no one will ever observe it and commend you for it either. So, how do I even know that “being” has any effect? While I can’t objectively quantify its effect, I know it’s there because of the things Soldiers and Families tell me.
There are two stories about the effect of “being” that stick in my mind. One day, I got a phone call from the wife of Soldier I had visited in the hospital while he was struggling with the effects of PTSD. Since he slept the majority of the time, I spoke mostly with her. She was calling to tell me how much it meant to her that I was there and how much my visit had helped her put things in perspective both spiritually and emotionally.
Another day, I got a call from an NCO who was a part of our remote care program and receiving care in her local community. She was struggling with a relationship issue. She told me that when I spent a day with her unit at a quarterly muster, she knew I was someone she could trust to help her when she needed it the most. In both these cases, I don’t remember giving insight, offering prayer, or even counseling these people. I only remember doing my best to remain emotionally and spiritually present. These are just two of many stories I could share about the effects of “being” on these Soldiers and Families.
“Doing” WTB ministry is often physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting. However, a ministry of “being” in the WTB is often physically, emotionally and spiritually refreshing. I encourage you to have the courage to “be”.
*Note: The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.