Military Chaplains and the Promises of God

soldierspraying “Standing on the promises of Christ my King, Through eternal ages let His praises ring, Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, Standing on the promises of God.” – Hymn

One of the best methods for memorizing scripture is practiced by Soldiers. From quarterly issues of Our Daily Break, to pocket size books of God’s promises, our Soldiers desire to know what God’s plan and promises are for them. Through all of our nation’s wars, Soldiers have stood on God’s promises to get them through the tough times and separation from family and friends.

As we progress to a more and more digitized Army, how will our modern Soldiers “Stand” on God’s promises?

Years ago and during my first Active duty assignment as a Chaplain, a senior Chaplain was wrapping up his time on Active Duty by serving as the Garrison Chaplain for Fort Stewart, in Hinesville, Georgia. His name is CH (COL) Neil A. Dennington, Ret. A common courtesy in the Chaplain Corps is to go by the office of the most senior Chaplain and introduce yourself. So my first week on the ground, I went by CH Dennington’s office at Main Post Chapel.

Upon arriving, I met Mrs. Mary for the very first time. Mrs. Mary had been a civilian secretary at Main Post Chapel for several years and knew Fort Stewart inside and out. She also prided herself on knowing the Chaplains that walked in the door. There are few people in the world more kind than Mrs. Mary. Sometimes, it was like money in the bank if you took the time to just drop by and ask a random question. She made everyone’s day better.

11037771_1053040024710015_4393594268024550368_n Mrs. Mary was intentional about letting this young Chaplain know not to take up too much of the boss’s time. He had a busy schedule, after all. I had been warned previously to be professional when meeting with Chaplain Dennington because he could smell a fake miles away. I knocked on his door and reported in the proper military manner and was invited into his amazing office that was like stepping out of Georgia and into Vietnam. I have never seen so many plants hanging from a ceiling in my life. It was like a maze trying to find his desk. I could not tell if it was real birds chirping or a recording but I was convinced that the boss was quite eccentric.

As I approached his desk, he stood and waited for me to salute. Then he extended his hand expecting a hand shake. His hands were ginormous. I felt like a little kid meeting a Papa for the very first time. He was a quick read and did not like the fact that other than a deployment patch my chest was empty of badges. He wanted to know if I wanted to volunteer for jump school. He wanted to know how a 1LT Chaplain could possibly be wearing a Combat Patch. He wanted to know about my family and what my long term plans for the Army were. As he gathered all the information he needed for his assessment, he let me sit down briefly.

He made it clear that his expectation was for all his Chaplains to be a Soldier’s Chaplains. “Always default to the Soldiers”, he said. “Where ever they are, that is where you should be.” “Yes, Sir”, I responded. Then, reaching in his BDU blouse like a business man going for business card, he showed me the two pockets he had sown in his BDU top. On one side he kept a copy of the Declaration of Independence. In the other pocket his wife sewed for him, he kept a copy of Starship Troopers. Both were mandatory reading for all his Chaplains and he expected a report to be written about them and turned into him through Mrs. Mary in a timely manner.

He handed me a copy of each that he stacked on one of his bookshelves and then politely showed me the door. I thanked him for his time and agreed that I would have the reports to him in two weeks or less as requested.

The Declaration of Independence was a short and refreshing re-read. I had to read it in school a few times. Starship Troopers, was another story altogether. I had never even heard of the book. After speaking with some other Chaplain buddies, I also learned there was a movie roughly related to the book that came out in the late 1990s. What a relief. I could skim the book and watch the movie in order to write the paper.

The two weeks passed quickly and the assignments were easier than first thought. I delivered them to Mrs. Mary and she asked what I thought. She qualified the question by saying, “I am only asking because he will ask you next time he sees you. He wants you to think in terms of the future of the Army as we know it.” Wow, that was a great tip and she was right. Fortunately, he waited just long enough and schedules only allowed for the question to come up in a larger group. We were all primed and ready to give him the answer he was looking for. You could tell he was pleased when almost immediately, we made the seeming connection to the future state of affairs in the Army.

Granted, Starship Troopers the movie was based on a premise that Mormons went on to evangelize aliens and set up outreaches on distant planets. This part of the story was only a plot within the larger story for Chaplain Dennington. His focus was on the system of the military shown in the movie and the book but more specifically in the book. He was convinced that the future of the military rested on our ability to rely on the Ideals that led to the writing of the Declaration of Independence and our ability to adapt into a modern Army that was still religiously relevant.

Interesting concept, to say the least.

If you ever read anything on Chaplain Dennington, you will learn that in Vietnam he was a company commander in the Green Berets. Not long after his time there, he went to school and became a minister. A short time later, he was back on to Active Duty as a Chaplain. His conclusions may be more important than we realize and more telling than we are comfortable to admit.

15397_400708633424489_4689877480856322703_n So what does this story have to do with Standing on the Promises of God? Well, if we are going to stay religiously relevant in the military, we may need to come up with a Declaration Future Operations based on the sound doctrine of God’s word. We need to stand on His promises and refuse to move. It starts with trusting God and His plan. We must understand that God is sovereign. When people say that today, they think Apologetically or Philosophically like we need to be able to defend God. We are missing the point. The declarations of the Old Testament made by the Prophets were not a defense but a profession. They were a bold denial of all other gods. For no other god was capable of doing what the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did and still does today.

By standing on God’s promises as Soldiers, we are shouting with the prophets of old that God is alone and there is none like Him. This is the God I trust, obey, and do so while serving my country. He is the promise I stand within. Will you join me?

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.