by Padre Wayne Sollows
OP Unifier – Ukraine
Thoughts from a Chaplain on Deployed Operations – Joint Task Force – Ukraine (JTF – UKR)
The threefold nature of the call to military chaplains – minister to their own, facilitate the worship needs of others and care for all – can be best experienced on operations. A chance to engage with those whom they’re called to serve, chaplains cast off the constraints of their garrison routine as they’re afforded the opportunity to work and live with soldiers; no longer nine to five or an exercise for a week here or there, this affords 24/7 access – that goes both ways – between soldier and chaplain, regardless of rank, trade or gender.
Being deployed on operations allows the chaplain to “stretch their ecclesiastical legs,” so to speak. Whereas at home they may minister in a chapel as part of a team doing different things, for the pastor turned Padre, deployment allows them the sole responsibility to prepare for weekly religious services. In doing so, they provide members the means to maintain or enhance their spiritual resiliency and faith, but also the chance for those with questions to engage or explore matters of faith and spirituality, maybe in direct relation to the experiences they’re having while deployed.
In the same vein, working in a multi-faith, pluralistic environment, the chaplain is prepared to arrange for the religious needs of all their soldiers, whether they share the same denomination or faith background. It’s a conscious reminder of the diversity of those who make up the Canadian Forces or indeed the forces of other nations. For whether we speak English, French, Ukrainian or Russian, matters of faith and religion transcend national boundaries, colour of uniform or political ambitions; made real by chapel services held by a Canadian padre that sees soldiers of Ukraine and the United States in attendance.
To be able to exercise a ministry of presence, sometimes referred to as “loitering with intent,” is the privilege granted to the chaplain. It’s about time spent with soldiers; to drop in or drop by to check on the well-being of a particular member, to hear about some good news from home, to offer some encouragement or work with the chain of command in support of the mission; to share a coffee with one, or meet at the rifle range with many. They’re things which may not fit into a training calendar or present as tangible points to be measured, but they represent those small victories that are won – through personal relationships – one life at a time, and maybe only realized between the chaplain and the person whom they’ve helped and prayed for. All in a days (or evenings) work for the chaplain.
In all things and at all times chaplains, in fulfilling their call to serve, strive to remain operationally relevant by being a resource on matters of faith, spirituality, religion, morals and ethics so as to provide commanders with the best people – best suited and prepared – to contribute to deployed mission success.
The Christian Chaplain
Christian Chaplains have the privilege and honour to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
In doing so, they can tell the soldiers they serve with about Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our Faith. How Jesus is:
The Light of the World – that they never need walk in darkness;
The Bread of Life – that they never need know hunger;
The Living Water – that they never need know thirst;
The Prince of Peace – that they may know the peace of God which surpasses human understanding and who gives them Peace of the heart, even amid war and conflict;
The Way – that they never be lost;
The Truth – that they may know God; and
The Life – that someday, when this life is over, they may be with Him in Paradise.
Padre Sollows was the pastor of McPhail Memorial Baptist Church, Ottawa, 2004-2012. His wife, Carol, served as president of CBWOQ, 2009-11.