Community around the world

We’ve just received word from a dear friend of ours, a Lutheran chaplain in the Air Force. Early this year she was deployed to an air base in southern Iraq. Her journals [click on the “Deployment Journals” link] have been posted, so I spent a few moments catching up with her life. Her name is Christine, and I know that she, the military personnel to whom she ministers daily, the Iraqi people and the Bedouins who share the nearby desert can all use your thoughts and prayers.

Christine [right] is indeed a woman of Christ.

In a personal note to us she mentioned how similar living on a foreign military base is to being in a religious order. (Christine lived with us for a couple of years during her schooling in New York City.) She is so right. I re-read what I wrote yesterday, and sure enough, there’s an amazing similarity there.

I’m not a great fan of war; my thinking is that if war worked, there would have only been one of them. The saddest thing is that war hurts the innocent much more than those who make the decision to wage it. Women and children suffer tremendously, on both sides of a conflict. Actual battles are fought mainly by young men and women, people with lives of promise ahead of them. The experience of war often darkens that promise forever. For too many, it snuffs it out entirely.

And yet … the yearning deep inside the human is for life — for joy, for companionship, for connection. As Christine put it, military personnel who “would probably never set foot in the chapel for worship services” rallied around the effort to rebuild theirs when termites moved in and began munching on the chapel foundation.

Why? In one sense this was just one more construction project; the military has a huge and very busy Corps of Engineers to keep up with construction demands. But this one zipped to the head of the line, and everyone jumped in to help (see especially the great picture of the “strong women of Ali” as they help pour the new concrete floor).

Those who would “never have set foot in the chapel” were still drawn to the chapel project. I’m sure the presence of three dedicated chaplains in their midst had something to do with it. And I’m also sure the deep human desire to stay somewhere near to the Creator, however they think (or don’t) about it, is a factor, too.

Many of the military folk also stepped up to help gather supplies for the Bedouin children who live nearby. Again, this isn’t reflective of people wanting to join a church or follow a particular religious tradition; these are people who want to be good neighbors, who want to connect to those who suffer in wartime, along with themselves. They want to feel good about themselves, and about their work.

The human spirit is strong, and loving, curious and compassionate. Yes, we stumble and get lost along the way, but our real essence is one of hope.

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