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Catalyst
THE LIFE of a combat chaplain had its sobering moments. Lieutenant Tom Collins wryly described a lesson in humility received during his first service in the field with the ...

Catalyst

As the men gathered for services they spaced themselves and sat low in a dry rice paddy. I stood up on the dyke to preach. About halfway through the service, 10 rounds from a VC weapon whizzed by my ear. The Chairman of the Board of Deacons and six companies took care of the disturbance. Needless to say, I completed the service down in the rice paddy, on a level with the laity.

The good chaplain not only learned to “stay off the skyline,” he learned a lot about the men who were the focus of his ministry. They lived and worked in a harsh and dangerous environment. Many risked their lives every day and had to take others’ lives all too often. Collins worked hard to understand these men and did a lot of soul-searching about how to relate to them. He observed:

The closer we got to the front lines the more responsive were Marines to the chaplain’s presence and to the worship services. Foxhole religion for the most part stands open to much criticism, but the shallow experience can sometimes act as the catalyst for a deeper religious experience. In the “grunt” I saw a lot of boys grow into men, and a lot of men grow spiritually in the chaos of war.

My “foxhole religion” was as shallow as any. My prayers were fervent when the mortar rounds were falling, but were soon forgotten when it was over. Even so, I think the chaplain is right, even though I had not considered it before reading his comment. I now see my combat experience as an important catalyst for my later spiritual life. Those religious services in the field and my superficial prayers while afraid did lead to something deeper, even though much later. We hear the phrase often, “In God’s time.” We should always keep this in mind as we share the gospel with others. We never know how or when our words will be the catalyst for another’s awakening.


Other Items In The Battlefields and Blessings Series

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