Today some of the team had a tour of the Lavarack Army Barracks here in Townsville. We part jogged and part walked (to appreciate the physical nature of the army!) around the base, led by defence Chaplain Sam Gregory (a member of Ross River Anglican). He explained the army to us, and helped us think through what ministry would look like to the different ‘cores’ of the army.
For example, what would ministry look like to those in the engineering core? They are highly skilled at solving practical problems, and so micromanaging them would be a mistake. Or how would you preach Christ to those in the infantry core? They may be deployed for months at a time to places where the rest of us wouldn’t dare to tread. Plus, put on top of this that they are a group of mainly young men, they are given big paychecks to spend on whatever they want, and they are exposed to horrific things during deployment to warzones, and you start to see the complexity of the task of the Chaplain.
We also heard from Sam’s wife, Adele, who shared the struggles they have faced in being a defence family. Defence families move around a lot. So church can be a hard place or a wonderful home. To help us care for the defence families in our churches, she gave us three tips:
- Welcome them. They are new to the place and are seeking to throw themselves into things, so meet them half way – make them feel welcome! Invite them for dinner on the weekend (Saturday nights are a particularly hard night when you’re new to town).
- Help them serve at church in the way that they can. They may seem scattered because of deployments and other things, but they are keen members of the church who want to serve as best they can. Ask them how they would like to serve, or have served in the past.
- Care for them. When one member of the family is on deployment (sometimes for months at a time), things are hard and lonely. Especially for those with children, who suddenly are faced with solo-parenting in a new place where they don’t really know anyone. Some practical love in these times goes a long way.
Chaplains have a rich history within the defence force, and they act as an essential part of things – providing pastoral support and advice for the thousands of soldiers in the army. But, there are lots of vacancies – the army (and navy and air force too) need more Chaplains. The need is immense, and so are the opportunities. Would you consider going?