Military, Ministry, and Me
When I was a young girl I was assertive, opinionated, loud, bold, generous, and stubborn. I was assertive in getting things done the way I wanted them done. I was opinionated and shared my opinions about everything with just about everyone. I was loud because I liked noise, whether it was singing, talking, cheering, or even whispering. I was bold for no reason at all and was not afraid to stand alone. I was generous with my time as long as I got something out of it, and it looked like I was being a good person. I was stubborn even to the point of painful and embarrassing consequences. Ask my mother, father, and brothers if I’m still all those things and they will probably say, “YES!” However, I believe I have come a long way from my youthfully ignorant, unashamed risk-taking, and blindly ambitious self. As a middle-30s woman, I identify as a Christian, wife, mother, Soldier, and minister. I have been a Christian over 30 years, a wife of 15 happy years, and a mother to a 13 year old young man. I am also a Soldier who is studying to be a chaplain and a minister to those in my community. As a young girl I felt called into ministry, but I did not know how that would work out with all my wonderful qualities! Or the fact that I grew up in a small, independent, Baptist church. Over the past 30 years God has taught me to trust him and follow him. He has called me to be assertive, opinionated, loud, bold, generous, and stubborn for him and his Word.
At the ripe age of 30 I joined the military (US Army) and trained to be a Religious Affairs Specialist (56M). I worked with the unit chaplain to provide religious support to Soldiers and their families. Being a Soldier in the Unit Ministry Team was fulfilling that calling I heard as a young girl. As a 56M I was able to travel all over Hawaii, Germany, Belgium, England, Israel and many other states and countries – all as an obedience to God’s calling on my life. I joke that “I was suffering for Jesus” in those faraway places. I was able to coordinate many single Soldier and married Soldier training events that all had a focus on being a better human being, a better Soldier, a better communicator, and or a better Christian. I was able to minister casually and informally, as well as directly and officially. The time spent serving Soldiers and their families as a 56M was beneficial, educational, emotional, and spiritual. I served on active duty for over 5 years before recognizing God’s call on me to the chaplaincy. God used multiple people to encourage me in my faith walk and to show me that God could use me to be a spiritual leader, a religious leader. Someone I did not think God called women to be…
I did not feel called to be a pastor of a church. (I also grew up with the teaching that women could not fill that role.) And to clarify, I do not presently feel called to be a senior pastor either! I feel I am called to be a chaplain. A ministry I can provide to Soldiers and their families, and others in my church and local community. God worked on my heart. He also worked on my husband’s, mother’s, father’s, and brothers’ hearts in the area of me (a woman) in ministry, full-time ministry no less! They fully support my calling and ministry opportunities. I have now been able to serve women, children, and the elderly through Bible study, music, and creative activities. I have been able to serve Soldiers and their families (although very restricted due to COVID) through prayer, calls, texts, counseling, and virtual chapel services. Women in ministry no longer seem taboo or “sinful” or out of God’s will. Through experience, prayer, and mentorship I have come to recognize myself as a vessel for God’s use in full-time ministry. God is faithful to call and to equip all those in ministry.
I have come to see, acknowledge, and treasure the women God used to fulfill his ministry on earth. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s revealed Word shows women in ministry action. I was not taught to ignore these women. Please do not misunderstand my previous church leaders or my own story. Women were not the subject of many sermons. Pastors and church leaders just did not highlight, emphasize, or teach the things that women did for God or in Jesus’ ministry. The women that are mentioned in the Bible typically have an active role in the account. A woman is either saying or doing something intentional. She is not a bystander. Not a passive actor. But an Active Intentional Minister (AIM). I have AIMed my own ministry arrows at God’s target for me – Soldiers, their families, and presently some teen girls in the youth group. As I have submitted to God in ministry the target has grown. It was first only for Soldiers and their families. It now includes the teenagers in the youth ministry. God is faithful to provide opportunities for those he calls to serve him.
I am half-way done with my Master of Divinity program at Liberty University. Because of life circumstances, I am finishing my degree online and I am loving it. The freedom of the online program helps me with my family schedule, US Army Reserve training, and ministry. I homeschool my 8th grader and tend my little garden and care for my goats and chickens. With online schooling I am able to get ahead with assignments and be engaged with Soldiers when completing Battle Assembly. The ministry opportunities afforded to me because of online education have strengthened my connections with people and with God. Throughout this season of training, education, and growth I have come to love the time spent in God’s Word.
In the mornings before the sun is up and the busyness begins I talk to God and read his Word. A passage that encourages me in this season of military and ministry is Acts 16, the account of Lydia, a seller of purple. She was a woman of Thyatira who ran a business. Lydia was a woman who knew her trade and her town. She was seeking God and was kind to God’s people. Her name probably meant “bending”, which also refers to “bending a bow” (Is. 66 & Jer. 46). When Lydia bent her ear to the words of the gospel, preached by Paul, her heart was transformed. She already practiced a life of worship to God and now she was a “real” follower of God. Lydia opened her heart and home to others. She ministered to those who came to her home, even Paul and Silas when they left jail. The more I have read about Lydia and the early church, the more I have grown to love her. Lydia’s account includes a simple and beautiful desire for God, acceptance of his message, and obedience to a call. I see myself in Lydia. No doubt she was assertive and bold. She was also generous. I can imagine that she had opinions and shared them, about business, about womanhood, about God and God’s people. Maybe she was loud and or stubborn, but I will not put those characteristics on her. Certainly, a woman of God, a woman of the New Testament was and is not loud or stubborn! Indeed, Lydia is a woman to be admired for her bent ear and generous heart, her obedience to God and bold business, and her hospitality and assertive decisions in life. May I continue to strive to be like Christ, and like Lydia, in my own life in the military and ministry. In the military and in ministry I desire to be bent toward God, just like Lydia. May I aim to be all those wonderfully unique traits for God’s glory.
Servant, leader, leading like Jesus with boots on the ground.