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Tuesday, December 20, 2011
WHAT IS A CHAPLAIN
by: Ray Carbough
A Chaplain is a unique minister. He is not expected to transform a persons beliefs but to support his beliefs with sympathetic advice, comfort and peace. Be as Christ like as possible in human form. To feed the people when hungry, clothe them when naked, support them in their weakness, in a loving manner of tolerance.
A person that is a good example of this is a Pastor for the salvation army Corp. in Wa. He is a man who draws many to his flock because of his quiet acceptance for each individual regardless of the circumstances of their life. He reflects those qualities of Christ to everyone he encounters. I pray that I would have a few of those qualities.
It has been said that i have a gift to help those who are hurting and use drugs or alcohol to dull the pain of day to day life stresses.
I made choices as a young man that led me into that life style of drugs and alcohol. I hurt many people along the way. The Lord was always with me, saved my life several times from physical harm. He made me feel a hunger for change in my life, to follow him and become a man of faith and integrity, the hunger only increases as i grow closer to Christ to bring the gospel to those who need it.
The call to serve has fallen on me like a cloak and I am working to become worthy of that cloak. The "CALL" is the word used for when the Lord asks us to follow HIM and serve HIS flock. It is a heavy responsibility to help lead and guide those who come to us to seek HIS throne. Through faith in Christ alone we can find true happiness and lead productive healthy lives serving.
I have the desire to listen, evaluate and help those who are hurting as I did for so many years. Those with the mantel of helplessness to move past the place they are chained, reliving that pain and struggle that blinds them to the truth in God's word.
I need to work on training in those areas called to minister. Seeking out what services are available and the process to obtain them for those in need. Having been a trucker for so many years off and on i feel there is a need to expand the spiritual guidance available to the many drivers out there today. There are some services available in the bigger truck stops across the country, however the bigger companies have terminals cross the country also and there is no spiritual food for those who seek being fed. I feel that could be a way for me to serve those on the road who bring supplies to all.
As a military Chaplin serving those in civil war re-enacting, I bring the understanding of the hardships of the 1860's life style and need for faith to sustain life in such hard times. This carries over into today as those who seek my council on family matters and spiritual growth. As a re-enactor the reality of loss of life, loss of limbs, and all the outside influences translate back and forth from modern days to those of old.
Over the many years chaplains have served they have not worried about having a building. The chapel was a tent, a meadow or what ever place was available to bring the many together to worship and praise our God. Today the chaplains have a work space in hospitals, retirement homes, many churches and a variety of companies that serve the needs within those walls. They may have regular hours and some on call time, it's more of a job to some but to the majority it is still the service of the Lord God that they follow.
I listen to those with complaints of physical pain, emotional or spiritual and prayerfully together we seek God's wisdom and answers. There was a young lady who was having marital problems but knew God didn't want her to leave her husband, but to stand firm on those marriage vows. She knew she was to forgive and forget his transgressions and to show through her actions the unconditional love of Christ, while in the face of pain and continue to walk head up in faith. I came along side her praying for her to have strength and to seek Gods counsel in handling the day to day events of life. Another example of how the Lord used me was i prayed with a young man who had been in alcohol abuse for many years it was a family addiction that bound that family, with God's love the chains were broken and he sought help with the addiction. Together we found a detox through the Salvation Army that helped him recover himself and with the support of his family to continue to follow Christ's lead.
As a chaplain we need to listen to others with our whole being, using that information, to glean the clues to the root of the problem and sift out the unimportant facts that cloud the issue. Maintain eye contact, be attentive and use a calm voice. Remove any distractions from the area, ie: TV, radio or other people that interfere with the exchange. Avoid any expressions of disgust or disapproval that can impact the person. Allow breaks for the renewing of yourself and the one you counsel, give feedback by reflection on the information heard, affirming and be empathetic. Always ask direct questions to clarify. Avoid advice, give information on services available for other specialties such as mental health and never try to answer the "WHY" questions only God can answer them.
Studies show "touch" is healthy and healing, creates a bond, as a chaplain we need to develop a touch that is appropriate for the culture and situation. Be aware of the body language of those you are contacting and go from there. Always keep your actions in line with Christ's so no one can misinterpret you touch as unacceptable.
When comforting the grieving a chaplain will need to know and understand the grief process and the understand our own beliefs. Prepare for grief by being strong emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Grief is the normal process of loss, be it a person, a pet job or objects we own. We grieve for them all. Lead those grieving through the process to allow healthy out come. Do not answer or try to answer those "WHY" questions again only God can. Always follow up after this with a care, a call or a visit. This continues the healing process and allows the person to see you truly care, encourage by saying God celebrates the life lost, and shares your pain of that loss . This gives hope for the future.
As a chaplain we must understand the context of our ministry. Know that we have been truly called into this ministry. Know we are all creatures of habit some good, some bad, always try to teach change of the bad by instruction not criticizing, teach change of focus. Show that as a christian and commitment as a Christian to follow Christ and grow in faith. Always be consistent, walk the talk and talk the walk stay the same in action, deed and word.
We as humans respond to situations in three ways , think, feel, act. Those three can get turned around and we can act then think or feel then think this tends to get the situation clouded with emotion and that will alter the way we deal with it. So the process needs to be thought through completely and then follow the steps to a healthy outcome.
Take the time to think about the situation fully and decide the outcome desired, and the ways to get there. Leave the feelings at the door, analyze what can happen if you do one thing or another and will give the result wanted.
Look at your feelings about the situation, the pros and cons of the whole picture don't act until the emotions are in control.
Actions will then be the best for the situation. Follow the plan don't deviate and take side roads . Prayerfully let the Lord help you to the outcome desired for the situation.
There are things to avoid that can trap us. Be self-aware, know your limits and strengths. watchful of those who "manipulate" the situation or you. Also don't let your own needs and emotions interfere, leave those at the door.
Avoid becoming too attached to those you council, be aware of your emotional need to get an emotional "fix" from those you council be sure to have a strong support system for your own emotional health.
Respect the sex of the person you council, keep the lines firm as to those, be accountable to your support group. This will insure your continued health and keep you from burn out.
Don't allow yourself to be seduced for money or pride. It is not about "me" but about the one in need. Have the support group that can lovingly tell when you are prideful and bring you back to common sense.
Follow the institutional ceremonies where you practice as a chaplain, from the hospital, church or civil war re-enaction. If there are more than one chaplain the one from that area or faculty is the lead take a supportive position and attitude to facilitate the service being conducted. A worship service is a time when God and people come together. As a person of faith[any denomination] let them worship in the manner comfortable to them. No church building needed, create a sacred space with candles, a pulpit, a cross or music. As chaplain your job is to assist people to worship using the simple rituals of faith to enhance that worship.
A soul friend is one who comes along side and comforts, counsels and prays with you. There comes a deeper relationship than an acquaintance, one that through honesty is able to prayerfully give tough lessons and in a loving way mentor you this binds your hearts together. The soul friend is able to instruct in a loving way with acceptance and give sound advice to you when you are tired restoring you to emotional health.
There are different levels of accountability personal, professional, and to God above. The soul friend is that person who you share those with will listen to you and give you wise judgements and advice.. This strong relationship will build strong people.
As a chaplain carry a "tool box" loaded with items that will introduce yourself, organize, clarify, and communicate. Some of those tools are business cards, a calendar, phone, bibles, tracts, and prayer. Always be aware of your personal hygiene keep tissues available and remember that faith, through prayer is the most valuable tool.
In Christ's Love
Ray Carbough, Chaplin
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