General: chaplains playing 'critical role' in world

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--“Times are dangerous and difficult. But God has raised you up for a time such as this,” Brig. Gen. Douglas L. Carver, U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Chaplains, told more than 100 Southern Baptist chaplains at an appreciation luncheon just prior to the SBC annual meeting June 12.

Introduced as “the chaplain of chaplains” in the U.S. military, Carver, the U.S. Army’s 22nd deputy chief of chaplains, is the first Southern Baptist chaplain to be promoted to the Chief of Chaplains office for active duty in more than 50 years.

"We’ve got the finest chaplains in the Southern Baptist Convention we’ve ever had. We’ve got 2,579 chaplains ministering in 73 different areas," Pete Sharber, director of chaplaincy evangelism at the SBC’s North American Mission Board, said.

In addition to serving in the military, SBC-endorsed chaplains also work in prisons, corporations, law enforcement and the health field.

Sharber, who is retiring from NAMB on July 1, and his wife, Faye, received a standing ovation during the luncheon. His successor, Keith Travis, was introduced.

Travis is a Colonel in the U.S. Army, serving as a division chaplain in Birmingham, Ala. He is a native of Virginia and a graduate of Carson-Newman College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has pastored churches in Virginia and Georgia. Travis and his wife served six years as missionaries with the International Mission Board in Costa Rica and Mexico. He begins his new responsibilities with NAMB July 1.

“You don’t realize the critical role you play in people’s lives,” Carver said. “God has ordered you into some pretty tough places –- not just in Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa, but also in hospitals, truck stops and detention facilities. You are reaching people who would never darken the doors of a church, people who are disillusioned with the institutional church. Yet you show up and God, in His relentless pursuit of souls, sends you to minister to people with needs.”

According to Carver, the U.S. has military chaplains serving some 240,000 military service members in approximately 130 nations. “These chaplains are in harm’s way, separated from their families back home, and ministering to the spiritual needs of some who may meet God today," he said.

Carver, a Rome, Ga., native who himself has moved 25 times in 33 years, was quick to point out that chaplains’ wives and children play a critical role in their successful ministries. “They don’t ask for it, sign up for it or volunteer, but they serve so gracefully.”

The one-star general said the war on terrorism is making chaplains’ jobs only more difficult.

“I work in the Pentagon, a building with 25,000 people in it,” Carver said. “It gets pretty intense. We are a nation at war. I just wonder how many of the 10,000 Baptists coming to this convention understand that and are praying for the war on terror?

“It’s a war that is already longer than World War I, World War II and Korea. This is going to be a long war. Most of us think it’s already been too long. But there are military leaders who believe it’s going to be a 30-year war.”

Carver said one Washington politician recently was quoted as saying that the United States is in the most critical time in its history since April 1861, just prior to the start of the Civil War.

“I believe that this long war we’re in –- against violent religious extremism -– is a war contending for the future of humanity as you and I know it,” he said. "We’re living in challenging and distressing times.

“But as chaplains, this is my time and your time, your destiny. Like Daniel, you’ve been raised up to speak light into the darkness. Like Moses, you and I have been made shepherds to walk people from the darkness into the light of Christ Jesus. Like Caleb, we have been given a mountain and a vision to claim for the glory of God. Like Gideon, we have been given an army to lead.”

Carver told the chaplains not to allow the horrors of war and what they might see put a hardness on them.

“We have to remember that without the wisdom of God to help us radiate His love and presence, we can all grow a hard appearance. Our job is to keep our passion for the Lord, stay in the Word and pray like never before. We can’t harbor hatred or resentment. Convince those we minister to that vengeance belongs to God. Talk about loftier things -– like forgiveness and even pray for the souls of terrorists. When you do that, you’ll reflect Christ.”


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