I write this on the cusp of week three, and let me just say the first two weeks here have been AMAZING!! I love the training, my classmates, and the instructors are incredible! It is such a change from ODS. I am up just as late, get up just as early, the PT is much harder and yet I find myself engaged and awake during instruction. I look forward to our briefs and always walk away with something of value. I’ve passed my first PRT and knowledge test, and completed my first paper. This week I start my second paper and continue with more briefs and a two-day trip to Florida!!
Here are the highlights of weeks 1 and 2:
*Seeing my family: Amy and the kids made the two-day trip this weekend, along with my mom. It was great to see everybody after 7 weeks. This is by far the longest I have gone without holding my kids. I don’t know about them, but I had a great time! It was good to be “Dad” again! They bum rushed me in the hotel lobby and didn’t want to let go. Neither did I! Joel latched on to my leg, Si waited because he wanted to hug me the longest. We had a few hiccups in coming back together as a family, but got it figured out by the end of the weekend! I hated to see them go, but I know it won’t be long until we see each other again! God has been with us so far, and he will continue to do so!
2. * Parris Island—This was probably my favorite part of chaplaincy school so far. We were allowed to get on the bus that future Marines take to Parris Island, stand on the famous yellow footprints, and be yelled at by drill instructors! While not my favorite part, it gave you a sense (although short-lived) of what Marine recruits go through. I couldn’t imagine being an 18 year old and going through that part alone. Never mind the PT, weapons training, martial arts (MCMAP) and everything else. We got to meet with the CO who explained that everything they do there is a science dedicated to making Marines. Just know that everything recruits go through there is for the purpose of developing the next generation of warriors to defend your freedom! There were two surprises: the chaplains there minister more to the staff than they do the recruits and I will be able to learn the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program! The chaplain in charge said “You can’t carry a weapon. You might as well turn yourself into one.” How awesome is that!
3. PT—PT has been rough but good. The first day killed us (I could barely lift my arms for two days), and it hasn’t lightened up that much since. Much harder than ODS!! I have never been much for exercise, but I am genuinely starting to enjoy PT. I even started PT-ing on our days off. Our Gunnery Sergeant pushes us, but he also inspires us to work our hardest. He constantly reminds us we need PT so we won’t be “that chaplain” who falls out on run, or needs to be drug through a firefight because they have the stamina to carry on. We need to be assets, not liabilities!! He reminded us that as chaplains we may PT every day as we minister to different units, and that we need to be in top shape so we have the stamina to minister while the Marines are resting during a march.
4. My classmates—We are a diverse group from all over the country and different faith groups. We have males, females, Protestants, Jews, and Catholics. I really enjoy my interaction with those from other faith groups. I love learning about their faith and hearing their point of view. I have learned a ton from them, and I hope they could say the same about me. Faith groups aside, I am blessed to have such a great group of classmates. We laugh together, struggle together and work together to accomplish the task at hand. Amy and I have talked about how awesome it will be to have colleagues and friends all over the world! My classmates have been a blessing to me, and I hope I have blessed them as well!
5. Group devotions—Every morning we have devotions led by a member of the class. These have been a great source of encouragement and strength. I have been asked to put my “worship skills” to use several times, and I enjoy that as well. It’s been a while since I’ve led worship anywhere and I didn’t realize how much I missed it. I also had the opportunity to attend Jewish devotions. They are much different than what I am used to. First, they are in Hebrew and my semester-long Hebrew class did not prepare me at all! Fortunately, the English translation was on the opposite page! After one devotion, multiple conversations, and a Torah service, I have a greater understanding of why they do what they do and a newfound respect for the ritual and symbolism they use.
Week three has a lot in store for class B12010. We are headed to Mayport, FL for two days this week to live on a ship. That’s about all I know about the trip this far, but I’m sure we’ll find out more before we leave. Please keep Amy and me in your prayers. Moving to Okinawa is drawing closer by the day, and we are getting excited and nervous. We are truly excited to get to Okinawa, get settled, and begin our ministry there. The contact I’ve had with the other chaplains there has been very positive, and I look forward to working with them and learning from them. I haven’t been officially assigned to a unit, so please be in prayer over that. I know God knows but I would like to know, too! We are in the process of deciding what to take, selling our vehicle, setting up our move, and working out all the bugs along the way. Each day holds something new! We were instructed by our sponsor to relax, go with the flow, and enjoy this experience!! That has become my goal. God has worked everything out up to this point, and I have good reason to believe he will continue to work things out for us. We trust in him and look forward to what he will do thorough us and in us as we begin the next phase. God bless you and thank you for the prayers and encouragement!!