I Don’t Know What I Believe

Despite dangers, unit morale high in KandaharFrom October 2012-June 2013, I was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan. This was my 4th deployment for a total of 42 months down range. In my career, I have had the privilege of serving at many levels in our modern military. Each time the experience down range is completely different and each time, I come face to face with the faith of soldiers and inevitably loss of life. As Brigade Chaplain, I held a Chaplain and Chaplain Assistant conference for all those in our operational area. One of the guest speakers I invited was our Command Sergeant Major. When it came to military process and mission, this CSM was unflappable. However, upon agreeing to present at the conference, he suddenly became nervous. He felt honored to present but asked that I drop by his office on at least three occasions leading up to his presentation and he personally sought me out on two other occasions.

He met me one day at lunch and asked, “How do I share my beliefs with a room full of Chaplains and Assistants when I don’t know what I believe?” He went onto say, that he believes in God and came to that belief while serving in the military, but he had been in active military service for over 30 years and did not participate in any specific faith group. During our time that afternoon, I shared with him stories of great men in history who had similar experiences. Then he said, I was even baptized by a Chaplain in an Army Chapel but have no idea what denomination I am. Now I could have dwelt on the failure of all the Chaplains before me but decided instead to tell him exactly what I told an E-4 the weekend before that I had the honor of baptizing.  “This is a transitional time for you. At some point, you will become a part of society at large. At that point, I encourage you to seek out a Bible believing church and to prayerfully consider where you and your family should attend.”

soldiers-prayingOne of my favorite sayings is “know what you believe and believe what you know”. My CSM only did the second part but did not know the first part. The more we talked, the more I realized that the CSM was and still is today a Christian. I jotted down several things he had said and shared with him examples from the Bible that verified his faith. He was both embarrassed and overjoyed at the same time. He pulled out his dog tags from his shirt and said, “I can finally have these updated.” They read “No Religious Preference (NRP)”. Now three days out from the conference, the CSM’s confidence had grown.

The conference lasted all day. We took breaks every hour, held training, gave presentations, broke for lunch and then it was time. After a few admin notes, the CSM came in at 1400. I was not sure what he was going to say or do. When I invite someone to speak, I don’t tell them what to say. I figure, I invited them because of their uniqueness and ability add value to the mission at the time. He did not know it when he did it but afterwards he learned that what he shared was his testimony. He started from the time he was a boy and outlined for everyone in the room how God’s hand had been on him from a young age and how God looked out for him. He shared important people in his life and important moments that shaped him into the CSM and man he was today. He talked about close calls and undeniable interventions by God. Then he ended promptly at 1450 by saying, “I have learned a great deal about life, myself and faith by talking with this Chaplain. And I want to leave you with one thought: there is nothing wrong but everything right about knowing what you believe and believing what you know. Strive to know both and may God bless you on your way.”

corporate-prayerFew interactions with CSMs can hold a candle to that one. I would go by his office several times before we redeployed and a few more before he PCSd when we returned. We shared family stuff with each other and I prayed with him on more than a few occasions. What sealed the deal for him in regard to our interaction was my tenacity to ensure that we properly honored our fallen when soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice. As a Religious Support Team, my Assistant and I honored 60 Fallen Soldiers from our operational area and held four Memorials from Direct Reporting units. All honors were seamless and respectful. The CSM never once had to be involved because he knew my team was on top of it. As my old CSM nears his final days in uniform, I can hear him encourage everyone reading this: “”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:7-8

Mijikai Mason
Disclaimer: The thoughts and views published on the Veterans to Christ blog are those of Mijikai Mason and in no way are meant to represent the United States Army or the Armed Forces.

Bio: Mijikai Mason is an Ordained Southern Baptist minister and Chaplain in the United States Army. He has been in the Army for 26 years both as an enlisted Soldier and now as an Officer. He has been stationed at various bases in the United States and in United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt, Germany. He holds an undergraduate degree in Religion from the University of Mobile, a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Theology and Evangelism and a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Webster University. Chaplain (MAJ) Mijikai Mason was selected by the Army in 2013, to become a Family Life Chaplain and began his service in this field starting 15 May 2015. He is the Deputy ESC Chaplain and Family Life Chaplain for the 593 Expeditionary Support Command at Joint Base Lewis McCord. He has deployed four times: Desert Storm (1991), Iraq twice (2005-2006; 2007-2008), and Afghanistan (2012-2013). He has a total of 42 months deployed in combat and logistics operations. Mijikai and his wife, Ashley, have been married for 17 years this May and live near Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington with their four daughters.