Military chaplains see spiritual interest rise

By Josie Rabbitt Bingham

FORT LEONARD WOOD—U. S. Army Chaplain (CPT) Jose Rondon believes “there is nothing more exhilarating in life than seeing people come to Christ.”

It’s why Chaplain Rondon is intentional. He’s intentional with his words. He’s intentional with how he treats his fellow soldiers. So when a staff sergeant first approached Chaplain Rondon and asked to speak with him, the chaplain knew the sergeant wasn’t asking for words of wisdom but for listening ears.

“To be intentional is to be faithful to Christ and obedient to His Great Commission,” said Chaplain Rondon. “But we will not succeed in making disciples until the lost make the first step to follow Christ as their Savior. To be intentional not only means to preach Christ’s Word in the chapel but to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to share His message of reconciliation if, and when, the time fits.”

So, Chaplain Rondon listened compassionately to the staff sergeant, and then he prayed with him to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. Chaplain Rondon did the same thing when another senior noncommissioned officer asked for the chance to talk to his chaplain and friend about spiritual matters. This soldier-leader also asked Jesus Christ in to his heart.

“My two soldiers and friends from our current Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri came to Christ because their lives were in need of the Savior,” Chaplain Rondon said. “All of us at some point need to be a listening ear, to help others to start trusting and believing in anything again, especially when our wounds are so deep that we lose respect for many around us.

“They talked to me about their lives because they respected me and noticed I really cared for our soldiers like I always do during my pastoral rounds. I invited them both to a meal. God always opens great doors like this when we listen to people without interrupting. We show them how much we care by being there for them whenever they need it most.”

In both conversations, a chaplain and a sergeant spoke about their lives.

“Instead of asking them whether or not they knew they were going to Heaven if they died today, I simply said, ‘I see that you need Christ in your life. He can not only help you to deal with the challenges of daily living, but He can also save you from an eternal death because of your sins,’” said Chaplain Rondon. “They both agreed they needed Christ to come into their lives forever and to have His presence to deal with life from that moment on.”

Because of his reputation for being intentional in his ministry, many have come to hear Chaplain Rondon share the gospel on Sundays.

“We have seen 1,152 soldiers come to Christ since I started here,” Chaplain Rondon said. “God is doing great things at Fort Leonard Wood among the hundreds of soldiers who have come to know Christ personally.”

Historian Stephen Mansfield in his book, The Faith of the American Soldier, said, “War forces a definition of belief. It leaves only what is relevant in the face of death, horror, and fear. War filters, refines, and distills. It is unforgiving of superficiality, easy answers, and religiosity. Religion on the battlefield has to “work.”

Retired Major General Doug Carver, executive director of chaplaincy for the North American Mission Board, says what is happening at Fort Leonard Wood is not an exception.

“Our troops, who are increasingly hungry for truth and relevancy in their lives, are finding a faith that ‘works’ through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ,” Carver said. “The current spiritual awakening at Fort Leonard Wood is indicative of a great move of God taking place within the Armed Services today.

“Just consider the following: over 2,000 troops gathered in Doughboy Stadium at Fort Benning, Georgia this past Easter to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ; Army Chaplains are currently baptizing an average of 70 soldiers every Basic Combat Training cycle at Fort Jackson, South Carolina; the U.S. Air Force Chaplaincy recently rolled out a new program called FaithWorks, which is a collection of evidence-based programs and materials promoting spiritual resilience for Airmen and their families; and, the military has built more chapels since 9/11 than any other period of American history except for World War II.”

The military’s war-focused climate has pressed the need for spiritual strength and the importance of personal faith. In the past two years, Southern Baptist military chaplains have reported there have been tens of thousands of professions of faith and thousands of baptisms.

“Historically, God has often used the military as a catalyst for revival,” Carver said. “Many attribute the spread of Christianity in the first century to Roman soldiers deployed throughout the Roman Empire. The Lord is answering our prayers for revival within our military communities. I’ve prayed for over forty years for our troops and their families to experience the reality of Jesus Christ in a new and fresh way.”

The 1,348 military chaplains in the Southern Baptist Convention are praying for a spiritual awakening and revival as well wherever they serve troops in the United States and across the world.

But it all starts with a chaplain being intentional—one person, one day at a time.

Josie Rabbitt Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.

Published July 27, 2018