In the Spring of 2005 I had sensed God’s leading to be deployed to Afghanistan. At the time I was serving as the Director of Personnel Management Services for the Air Force, and I had been away from operations for six years. God’s call though was clear, even overwhelming. I discussed the call with my wife, who also sense the same intent on God’s part, although neither of us knew why. So, I advised my superiors of my interest to be deployed.
In the fall of 2005, I was selected to be a member of the first Afghan Advisory Team under the leadership of a colleague; however, when his family opposed his deployment the initial team (me included) was dissolved and replaced by another. I was left pondering what to do with my understanding of God’s call to go. I only had to wait a few months. In late 2005, Canada announced that it would deploy a battle group and the Air Force announced that part of the deployment would include a contingent of Air Force officers to support the air component’s role in the Afghan mission. I was selected and deployed in 2006 to Afghanistan as part of the Canadian contribution in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Oddly, though I was selected for deployment, the exact military role I would fulfill was not clear until I had been in Afghanistan for several weeks. However, the spiritual role became clear within 24 hours of my arrival at my base of operations.
I was stationed at ISAF HQ in Kabul, where I arrived late in the day on a Saturday. My Canadian sponsor helped me find a bunk in the temporary accommodations area and showed me where the mess hall was located. At supper I read a notice that there was a church that met on Sunday evenings at the chapel. While, there were Sunday services provided by the HQ chaplain on Sunday mornings, the evening service is where I sensed God’s calling. So, on my first Sunday in Afghanistan I attended a small congregation of believers who had been gathering together on Sunday evenings for several weeks under the oversight of the chaplain.
I found out that God had given the idea for this church to two British soldiers: one from South Africa (Andrew) and the other from one of the British Overseas Territories (Steve). These two gentlemen had come together in prayer several months previous asking God to establish a church at the HQ. While, chaplain services were regularly being offered at the camp, there was a desire for something more.
When I arrived, the congregation consisted of 5-8 believers, so it was like a Bible study group. On Sunday evenings there was a service, which included singing, scripture reading and a sermon. While the camp chaplain provided oversight and attended on occasion, the church primarily managed itself. At my first service on my first Sunday in Afghanistan I was deeply moved by the bond of peace that existed in that small church. Though I did not yet fully understand what my military role would be, it was clear that my spiritual role involved being a part of that church. The next day, Monday, I met with Nick, the HQ chaplain, and with Andrew to gain a better understanding of the church and its placement within the context of the spiritual footprint at the HQ. I learned of its genesis and short history and that Nick was fully supportive of it. By the end of the meeting I was appointed as Sunday-evening-service coordinator.
The ISAF HQ church met Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings for worship and Bible teaching and preaching. Sunday evenings were more formal than Wednesdays, which were similar to a Bible Study. During my tour, the church grew to between 20-25 members. Several of the members were new believers who had become Christ-followers during their tour and the church played a role in their coming to faith in Christ. We became the go-to-guys for Nick whenever he needed assistance, which allowed us to serve the camp in a variety of capacities, the most significant of which was leading the camp’s Christmas services. Attendance at the two services amounted to approximately 80% of the camp’s population. We sang hymns, Christmas carols, read the Christmas story and gave personal testimonies. All that God accomplished through the work of that small church is known only to God, but in the midst of all that we were involved in, God’s presence and working was evident, and it was a source of joy.
As I consider the coming year and the hope I have for the MCF, I am reminded of the effect that the small church at Kabul HQ was used by God to achieve. I am grateful that God called me to Afghanistan and allowed me to be part of His work there. I see that it was an example of what he wants to do throughout the military community. The MCF has three strategic objectives: to lead military community members to commit their lives to Christ, to assist and encourage believers to grow in their faith and to support the chaplaincy and the chapel program. All that is needed is for believers to follow God’s call. Will you follow?