Catching a Train


A brother chaplain described your first weeks here at Osan as "trying to catch a moving freight train". I have to concur. We are spinning up our Protestant ministries, so I am on a fast moving steep learning curve about how we do things here.

I am responsible for AWANA which has a great leader already thank goodness. Also for PYOC (Protestant Youth of the Chapel) which we are restarting from scratch, but I have the help of a couple of dedicated local missionaries. I am coordinating outreach efforts, with the assistance of a local Korean who helps us with language and liaison items, for local orphanages. I am taking point on the Traditional Service which likely means that I will also be primarily caring for the Liturgical Service as well. Then I have a couple of Groups (a component of the Air Force) each composed of several squadrons as well as a few cats and dogs here and there to watch over. I also find that having my office at the chapel, I get a number of walk in counselings that are often crisis related. I'm also point on a number of projects for our chapel.

It is all work I enjoy doing. I enjoy coordinating events and counseling folks and the worship services I am watching over fit with my preferences traditionally. And I like staying busy, for if I can't be with my family, I'd rather be working than sitting in my room staring at the walls.

I only hope that my efforts can somehow make a difference in the lives of the people I serve. Already I've had several serious occassions to offer support to folks, most individual cases, but there has been one death that lead me to engage with an entire group of folks from the leadership down to the airmen, all grieving the tragic accidental loss of a friend. I also had the challenging privilege of supporting the notification of his wife, a local Korean woman, who spoke little English. Notifications of death is perhaps the hardest thing that we do as chaplains, for here there is no arguing with the reality of our life situation. We die. We offer what comfort can be offered in these occassions, not forcing our religious views on people, but if they share the hope that I share, then I seek to console them with that hope.

I'll have the Memorial Service later this week. My experience at Arlington is invaluable for putting together such an event for it happens quickly. I wish at Arlington that the waiting list was somehow less long, especially for active duty death, but even at 30 funerals a day, which is about the most that can be done without crawling all over one another, there is probably little that can be done to shorten the waiting list. But I do wish we could somehow get the service men and women lost in the line of duty in quicker. I was surprised at how fast Sen. Kennedy's service was taking place. I can only imagine how much work the staff in my former office is engaged in to bring such an important event together. But I also know that for them, each funeral is treated with the same level of respect and care -- each family has lost their loved one and deserves the best and receives the best that the Air Force, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, and Army staff can offer. I miss Arlington and especially miss my family, but the ministry here has already demonstrated itself as potent and necessary.