Soccer and the Gospel
"Wow! What a Ride."
By Terry Austin
I imagine most of us have experienced a lengthy meeting we were happy to leave and forget most of the content presented. Briefings and meetings are like sermons—the introduction and conclusion are critically important to ensure the audience remembers the message you wanted them to hear.
Recently, during a briefing, the presenter ended with this quote: “My final wish for you is that you do not view life as a journey to the grave, with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather that you skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: ‘Wow! What a ride.’”
For many years, the National Association of Free Will Baptists has endorsed ministers to serve as chaplains to the military, law enforcement, and first responders. The first Free Will Baptist military chaplain was army chaplain Gerald Mangham. He was a pioneer, going beyond what was required of him in education and ministry. Each phase of his service as a chaplain gave him unique and unprecedented opportunities to minister to his “parishioners” and fellow soldiers. For Chaplain Mangham, this ministry took him to Vietnam, both to minister to American soldiers and to defend the country. This is true of other types of chaplains who both minister to and participate in the same training and responsibilities as their “parishioners.”
I had the privilege of serving as an airborne chaplain in the 82nd Airborne Division stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I had no idea what those brave men and women did until I joined them. The easy answer is they jump out of airplanes. The more detailed version of that answer is they jump out of airplanes at 1,200 feet above ground level, going 140 knots with at least 65 extra pounds of gear. Each jump is an act of faith. You hope your parachute deploys and lowers you to the ground at a speed that allows you to react and land safely. Many times, these jumps are conducted at night without (or with very little) light. Wow! What a ride. I became a paratrooper because my parishioners were paratroopers. I believe they heard my message because I was one of them going through the same hardships and joys they experienced.
Today, I find myself in Washington, D.C., as the military district of Washington command chaplain, a position once held by Free Will Baptist Chaplain (Colonel-Retired) Kerry Steedley. I have the privilege to serve with some of America’s finest sons and daughters who routinely honor our nation’s military dead by performing funerals at Arlington National Cemetery and conducting military ceremonies to honor our nation. I have been privileged to pray publicly, and at times, to lead the nation in prayer. I constantly remind myself (and those with whom I serve) I am simply a Free Will Baptist minister in uniform. I am amazed at how the Lord has blessed me because I answered the call to minister in the military.
Any ministry has its unique challenges. As ministers, we have been called to serve in a particular church, leadership role, or organization…even as a chaplain. The challenges are unique, but the end of the story is always the same. We are seeking to reconcile our parishioners with God through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Though we have been given a noble mission, we are not exempt from the bumps and bruises of life’s journey, the hurts from painful encounters, the sadness from disappointments, or the suffering of those we love and to whom we minister. However, there is a great sense of pride and accomplishment when your congregation thanks God for you and your ministry.
I hope you view your life and ministry as a journey through God’s will. Serve faithfully and honorably, and in the end, I hope you “slide in broadside, thoroughly used-up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow! What a ride.”
About the Writer: Chaplain (COL) Terry Austin grew up in Delaware and joined the Marine Corps in 1975. While in the Corp, he accepted Christ and answered the call to preach. After attending Welch College and Mid-America Theological Seminary, Austin returned to active duty as a chaplain in December 1989. He has represented Free Will Baptists through Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He and his wife Mona have two adult children, Adam and Tabitha. Learn more about the ministry of FWB chaplains at www.fwbnam.com.