Some time ago I met Keith Magee, a former member of the Royal Canadian Navy. Keith served in the Navy as a “Rating” (radio communications) from 1965 to 1970. After his service Keith went on to study mechanical engineering and to get married. A few years later Keith became the youngest teacher at the BC Institute of Technology. Keith was responsible for preparing students in overland conveyor design intended for the Tumbler Ridge coal mines. At that time, both the department head and a fellow instructor were Christians. These two individuals would openly share Christ with Keith, and within a few months Keith brought a Bible to his office and started reading it in his off-hours. Bill (Department Head) and Gary (fellow instructor) always seemed to be close at hand to answer Keith’s questions. Within four months (Dec 28, 1983) Keith confessed his sins, repented, and accepted Jesus as his personal Saviour and Lord. Keith joined the local Baptist Church, and was baptized within the year. Read more
Early in my military career I was trained to perform the role of Ships Diving Officer by the Fleet Diving Unit – Atlantic. The training was rigorous and of the 30 candidates who started the course, only 9 finished the program, which was apparently the norm. Though challenging, I loved the experience of suiting up and entering the underwater world where there was adventure as well as risk. Because of the risks, every diver was teamed up with a “buddy,” and the primary task that we had was to make sure our buddy was safe – always. To drive the message home, we practiced sharing one tank through “buddy breathing,” we worked on underwater tasks in pairs and there were times when were literally were tied together at the wrist, particularly during night dives. Having been trained as a lifeguard prior to joining the military, I had an understanding of the value of the buddy system, but those night dives raised the concept of the buddy system to a new level. At first, being tied together, was awkward, it slowed me down when all I wanted to do was to complete the task, the mission that I had been assigned, but it was the way we were to do things, so I followed the procedure. Eventually, being in close proximity with my buddy became second nature and I found myself instinctively always checking my buddy every 10-20 seconds or so, and rarely being out of arms-reach.
Years later, I introduced my oldest son to diving. He was a natural, “a chip off the old block.” On one dive we were particularly adventurous and dove on a wreck in the Saint Lawrence River down to a depth of 120 feet. We hadn’t intended on diving that deep when we started out, but we were so enthralled by the wreck that we neglected to check our depth gauges until we arrived at the bottom. Upon realizing our depth, we immediately began our assent, but we figured that we needed to make a decompression stop at 50 feet, just to be on the safe side. We found a ledge on an outcropping and were just looking around, when I caught a glimpse of something falling beside my son, who was about three feet away from me. I looked directly at him and saw that his weight belt had just fallen off and he was ascending. I reached out and grabbed his ankle and held on like a pit bull. At almost the same time I reached down to the ledge and grasped his weight belt. I then pulled my son back down to the ledge and handed him his weight belt, which I then helped him cinch tight! We finished our decompression stop and ascended to the surface. That was a close one! When we got back on shore, we emotionally decompressed and I was grateful for my training that stressed being within reach of your buddy. Had I not been able to grab my son’s ankle, he would have ascended rapidly and uncontrollably risking injury to his lungs and even death.
In the book of Luke, chapter 10, Jesus is recorded as explaining to a lawyer what it means to “love your neighbour as yourself.” The explanation Jesus gave is known as the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ explanation is similar to the buddy system I had been trained in. As a follower of Jesus, we are called by Christ to look out for our buddy. According to Jesus, we are not to be observers, but we are to be actively engaged in assuring the well-being of our neighbour, our buddy. “Who is my buddy (neighbour),?” the lawyer asked. Jesus’ response was whomever you see in need. “But, there is so much need that I see!” Start with the person who is within reach, he is your buddy.
So, nice story, but what can you do practically. The Commander of the Canadian Army issued an operations order on 9 December 2015 to launch a program called “Sentinels.” The program leaders are the chaplains, and the program’s purpose “is to strengthen unit cohesion in the collective effort to prevent and identify psychological distress that can affect the well-being of [military] members.” My read of the Commander’s intent is he is calling out for men and women who will be “Good Samaritans” to their fellow military members. While designated as the leaders for the program, the chaplains must rely upon you who are in uniform to be what the Commander has called “Sentinels.” My view, is that the Commander’s call is an opportunity for Christ-followers to love their neighbour as themselves. So, what can you do… contact your unit chaplain and volunteer to be a “Sentinel.”
The Commander of Heaven has called each of us to be a Good Samaritan, a good buddy, and the Commander of the Canadian Army is inviting you to do that which Christ has called you to within the military. Please let me know as well as the MCF prayer team when you have signed up and we will pray for your effectiveness by joining the mission.
Fraternité Chrétienne Militaire du Canada.
When someone found out I was in the military, the first question always asked was “where do you serve?” I would respond, like many of my peers, and mention my job, my unit and my base or station. If the individual had military experience we would talk about our postings. We knew our postings were the places we worked, lived, raised our families, developed relationships and went to church; they were our homes. The first posting always seemed to be the best and it was the one all others were compared against. Our next posting was the anticipated best one as it was the one we asked for. Often, our current posting was the one we liked the least. How we viewed our postings somehow equated to how we valued ourselves.
I wonder if we think about our relationship with God or the way we serve Him in a similar manner. Do we think about where we are now, where we were and where we should be? Do we remember with joy our initial encounter with God and how we chose to become a follower and had a desire to do anything for Him? Do we use that time frame as a measuring point to which we compare our current relationship with God? Do we long to get back to that initial excitement or desire to have even more in our walk with Jesus? It is not wrong to reflect on our relationship, however, do we allow our past experiences or future expectations to hinder our current service and relationship with God? Do thoughts that “God has a plan for me” blind us to what is right in front of us?
God has a purpose for each of us and it can mean that today we do everything with committed hearts, mind and soul. Churches, Christian organizations, workplaces and even families need us today. They need us to recognize that we are needed now and not when we figure out the PLAN. Our current church, job, and communities are where we raise our families and develop relationship and so we should willingly offer our all? Life is ever changing and so we need to be prepared to change without destroying the homes we have created. Our relationship with God is also ever changing. When we are seeking to give it all, God offers us transforming grace, which is based on our current circumstances, relationships and areas of service. He can choose to physically move us or He can grow us where we are so as to contribute even more to our churches, workplaces, communities and families.
Look to serve. Look to grow closer to God and to those you are in relationship with. Look to become Christ-like. However don’t look too far or you may miss what is in front of you. Believe that where you are is where you can serve.
The Human Behind the Mission: A Rare Glimpse into Canada’s Armed Forces @ The Vancouver Club
Many ex-Armed Forces personnel say that there is no career more challenging or rewarding than serving in the Forces – the privilege of defending our country, being part of history-making events, and helping those in need – both in Canada and around the world.
At this January breakfast City in Focus will be inviting a panel of people who have served in the Armed Forces. Their life, their service and the role that their faith has played in their career will be discussed.
The breakfast discussion will be followed by ‘Continuing the Conversation’ post-breakfast session. Please consider staying on at the Club and joining some of the City in Focus staff and panelists for a further time of conversation around the topic. So if you have some extra time please join everyone for the extended program. The post-breakfast discussion group will conclude at 10am.
“Breakfast event in Vancouver, BC”
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?