Sunday, November 6, 2011

Answered Prayer

I know it's been quite sometime since I last updated this blog, but I've been waiting for a series of events to run their course before I gave a general update. Allow me to explain:

A few months ago (back in August, I believe), I was training with my California National Guard unit up at Camp Roberts. We had just found out that our anticipated deployment in early 2012 had been canceled, and I was wondering what I would do for full-time employment. Our battalion XO recommended that I check out the "Tour of Duty" website, where all Guard/Reserve job openings are posted. I did, and lo and behold there was one vacancy for a chaplain to deploy - with a unit from the Rhode Island National Guard. I immediately informed my Brigade Chaplain of this opportunity, and was told to "go for it."

When I called to get more information, I was told that the Battalion Commander was interviewing prospective chaplains to determine who he would want to take with him. A few days later, the commander called me and asked me if I wanted to apply for the position. When I told him yes, we went through a short interview and he said he would get back to me the next day with his decision. Tamara and I prayed about it that night, asking that if it was God's will for me to take this job that he would grant me favor in the sight of this commander and be offered the position.

The next morning the commander called me back and said that he had selected me to fill the available chaplain's billet and accompany them on their deployment!

So far, it seemed that God had answered our prayers and all that remained was to get out to Rhode Island and deploy with his unit, right? Wrong.

When I called my current battalion commander about this opportunity, he was very favorably disposed to letting me go, but said that it was up to his boss - the brigade commander. The brigade commander said I could go, but only if I could backfill my position - something that our state chaplain would have to do. When I called our state chaplain, I was surprised to find that he was unwilling to let me go; apparently, there is a chronic shortage of qualified chaplains in the California Guard and he was not about to let one go voluntarily, no matter how pressing my financial need was to find a job. The only way he would let me go was if I found a full-time job in another state, which would necessitate an interstate transfer. The only problem was that I didn't know anyone in Rhode Island and certainly didn't have any job prospects in New England!

A day or two later I was talking to my dad about all this, and he agreed that the only way I could go with this unit was if I was able to find a job in New England and do an interstate transfer. He remembered that our old pastor at the Virginia Beach Community Chapel - Dr. Harold Burchett - was living in Rhode Island, and did I want him to call and see what he could do? This set in motion a chain of events which resulted in a church in Attleboro, MA offering to create a position for me as their Military Ministry Coordinator - which would allow me to present my state chaplain with a letter of employment. This in turn would require California to release me to the National Guard unit of my choosing - which, naturally, would be the deploying Rhode Island unit.

After coordinating with the battalion commander and senior chaplains in Rhode Island, I moved out here on October 12th to get settled in to the area and begin working with the unit. However, my transfer was delayed due to some administrative issues. Finally, the paperwork came through last week and I was released from California and officially attached to Rhode Island. My new unit is already in the process of cutting me orders for the remainder of November and ensuring that I get paid for the weeks in October that I was out here.

As it stands now, our unit will get mobilized on November 27th, and will spend nearly two months training at Ft. Hood, TX before flying over to Kuwait. We'll be stationed at Udairi Army Airfield in Kuwait for nine months, and then will return to RI for about a month of redeployment training before being demobilized.

Thanks to all of you for your continued prayers and financial support during this time. Tamara and I have shared the conviction that this deployment was something that God was opening up for us, but it has been both a financial challenge and a test of our faith to wait for everything to line up in the right order. Praise God that He has brought us through all of these hurdles and that I am now able to begin ministering on a full-time basis to the men and women of the 1st Battalion, 126th Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), or 1-126th AVN (GSAB).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finding God's Will

I've recently had a series of experiences (still ongoing, at this point) that have caused me to wonder how one goes about finding God's will for any given event. Here's what I've come up with so far:

1) What does Scripture say? Obviously, if what you're considering and/or doing violates a Biblical principle, then this is where it ends. You're not having trouble finding God's will, you're having trouble obeying God's will.

2) How do I feel about it? Now, I'm not saying that feelings are the end all/be all determining factor when it comes to decision-making, but God did include them as part of our makeup, so it's probably not wise to exclude them altogether. The bottom line is, is this something that's just a passing fancy, or is it something that keeps coming to mind over and over again? If it's the latter, it might be something that God has put on your heart, so you need to take it to the next level.

3) Seek Christian counsel. Go to several wise Christian friends whose opinions you trust and share with them what's on your heart. I'm fortunate to have several Christian brothers who can provide that for me, but it could be anyone. Your pastor. Your small group leader. Heck, even your mom & dad, if you want. The point is to get a variety of other people's unbiased opinions so that they can help point out if the heartburn you have is from God lighting a fire in you or from a bad slice of pizza last night.

4) Begin pursuing your path. If you've followed the previous three steps, and you still have a green light, then I'd say it's time to start following that path. Take it slow, and remember to leave room for God to either open or close the door whenever He wants.

5) Keep an "open hand." Too often, once we begin following a certain path, our natural impulse to control events causes us to try to predict a certain timeline and/or outcome for when/how things should turn out. We begin to tighten our grip, and as a result we take it out of God's hands and try to "finish the job" through our own efforts. Resist this temptation. Allow God to work things out according to His timing - not yours.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lessons from Jonah

From Jonah 4:5-11:

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

In my last post I shared about how I had finally passed the accession interview and was approved for immediate appointment as a chaplain, thus reaching a goal I have been faithfully pursuing for the past seven years or so. But something happened that day that seemed to overshadow that event and rob me of the joy I should've felt in finally being able to wear the cross. Allow me to explain:

When I first came into the Guard as a chaplain candidate back in 2008, I was told that upon selection as a chaplain I would be entitled to a $10,000 "accession bonus," since chaplains were/are in short supply. It was an unexpected thing - after all, one does not become a chaplain for the money that's in it - but obviously it was very welcome news. As I neared my goal of finally becoming a chaplain (and as our financial situation was still very precarious), this $10k became kind of a big deal. We had already made plans on how we would use it - nothing extravagant, mind you, but it would go a long way towards paying some outstanding bills and maybe even provide some funds for a much-needed family vacation this summer.

So it was with no small degree of consternation that I learned that I would not be getting the bonus after all.

Picture the scenario: I'm sitting in a room with other future officers (doctors & JAG lawyers), having just completed my interview and slightly giddy from the realization that I've *finally* completed the last remaining hurdle to pinning on the cross. All we're waiting on now is for the last interviews to be completed so that we can all go take the oath of office and be sworn into our respective fields. All the other officers are busily signing their paperwork entitling them to various bonuses and loan repayment programs - which must be signed BEFORE you take the oath, or else you lose your entitlement to any bonus you might be eligible for.

Suddenly, one of the recruiters enters the room and asks me to step outside for a moment. When I do, he hands me a cell phone and says that someone from the recruiting office needs to speak with me. I take the phone and "Bob" tells me that they don't have the control number they need to qualify me for my bonus. Not only that, but he tells me that I was disapproved for a control number, and that the Incentive Program Manager had determined that I was ineligible for the accession bonus on account of having previously served as a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps.

I tell him there must be some mistake - I had been promised this bonus for the last three years, by every recruiter I had ever spoken with, none of which had ever mentioned anything about my prior service in the Marines. "I'm sorry," he said, "they shouldn't have promised you that."

After a few more minutes of futile conversation, I handed the phone back and went back into the room. Gone was the joy I had been experiencing only a few short minutes before, replaced by frustration, anger and indignation. How could they do this to me? That money was mine! Why would they wait until literally the last minute to tell me? How could everyone make promises and give me wrong information for so long and not be held accountable for it?

You know how in the old Peanuts cartoons there were times when Charlie Brown would have a little raincloud over his head, following him around wherever he went? That's about how I felt. And that black cloud hung over my head for the rest of the day as I continued to fume about the money I wouldn't be getting.

It wasn't until the next day, at my weekly coffee & Bible study with some close friends, that I was actually able to put it in the proper perspective. As I was sharing the situation with these guys, it suddenly dawned on me that I was just like Jonah in the passage above.

When God caused a plant to grow, Jonah was happy to have the shade. But when it withered, he was angry at God - so angry that he wanted to die! But why was he so angry? I believe it was because he had lost perspective about what was truly important (the salvation of the Ninevites) and instead was overly concerned with his own physical well-being. God rightly chastises Jonah by reminding him that he (Jonah) had nothing to do with the plant's existence - he didn't plant it, water it, or cause it to grow. God did that, and it was God's decision to take it away. What's more important, a plant that shades your head or 120,000 people who don't know the Lord?

It struck me that I had been more concerned about the $10k bonus than I was about being able to serve as a chaplain. I didn't earn that money - I didn't work for it, invest it, and cause it to grow. Yet I was angry when it was taken away from me. Instead of rejoicing over my newly approved commission to minister to soldiers in ways that would have eternal significance, I was focusing all of my attention on something that is temporary, material and fleeting.

I was Jonah.

We don't know how the story ends with Jonah. We don't know if God's gentle rebuke caused him to have a change of heart or whether he continued to nurse his hurt feelings (and scorched head). But I do know what happened in my heart that day: I ceased to be angry about not getting the bonus. I rediscovered the joy of finally being commissioned to do God's work as a chaplain.

So what things are there in your life that is causing you to lose focus on what's really important? There's probably quite a list to choose from, but I'll bet that if you examine them they pale in comparison to what we should be concerned about - serving God with the gifts He has given us to the utmost of our abilities. Don't waste your time and consume your thoughts and energy by focusing outward on temporary, earthly things. Money. Promotions. Possessions. Status. Turn your attention upward and let God remind you of what He has for you to do, because THAT is what's truly of lasting importance.

Friday, June 17, 2011

At Last!

I am officially a chaplain in the California Army National Guard!

Thursday afternoon I attended the Federal Recognition Board to determine whether or not I would be selected to become a chaplain. It was supposed to be a video teleconference (VTC), but somehow they were having connectivity problems, so it ended up being a phone conversation between me and several board members. They asked about my prior service in the Marines, and whether or not I understood what would be expected of me as a chaplain. They also asked about how I would support Army policies that I might find offensive or contrary to my beliefs (such as the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"). Finally, they asked where I saw myself ten years from now. Apparently, my answers must've been satisfactory, for I was told that they thought I had what it takes and they were pleased to inform me that they were recommending me for immediate accession as a chaplain! Woo-hoo!

I must say, it's been quite a long time coming - and I'm nowhere near the end of my journey. But this is a pretty significant milestone and I'm thrilled that I can finally wear the cross and call myself "Chaplain Harvey" now.

Adonai is Semper Fi!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My God Shall Supply All Thy Needs, Part II

So I've been pursuing this internship thing with our local church, but at a meeting last week with the Executive Pastor, it became clear that it would not work out. I won't go into all the details, but the bottom line is that they can't pay me for the work I would do, and aren't really set up to allow me to raise support through their missions program.

This was a bit of a setback, and again, not exactly what I was expecting. But God does not lead us down blind alleys and then simply abandon us - He always has a plan.

Today I had the privilege of attending the change of command ceremony for the Recruit Training Regiment at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), San Diego. An old friend of mine, Col. Mike Lee, was taking command, and I had been invited to attend. I had previously worked with Col. Lee back in Germany in 2004-05, and considered him one of the finest Marines I had had the opportunity to work with in all my years as a Marine.

As we were standing around waiting for the ceremony to begin, I spied a Navy chaplain standing nearby. He was wearing the Marine service uniform, so I knew he had to be assigned to a Marine command. As it turns out, he is the regimental chaplain - so Col. Lee will be his new boss. As we began talking, something in his mannerisms seemed familiar, and I told him that I thought I knew him from somewhere. As military folk have done for ages, we went back through all the commands we had served at, looking for some common ground. Finally, he said that he had served with the 1st Marine Division back in the late 90's. When I asked which unit, he replied, "1st Battalion, 11th Marines." My old unit! I had been assigned to 1/11 from 1995-1999, and he had been my battalion chaplain during part of that time!

Though we didn't have too much time to talk then, I got his contact information and called him later that evening. I explained where I was in regards to the chaplaincy with the National Guard, and then asked him what he would do if he had an "extra" chaplain at MCRD - could he find a place to use them on a full-time basis? He replied by listing several commands that were understaffed - mainly the med hold units where injured recruits go to recover and rehabilitate from injuries or illnesses. He said there were lots of opportunities for ministries, and that it would be no problem to find real chaplain work for an interested individual.

The only downside is the money. Since there's no "official" position open, my work there would be on a voluntary basis - they can't hire me as a chaplain. Working there could count as drills for the National Guard, but my unit up in LA would have to agree to pay for it - which I doubt they would do on a full-time basis. So, what I may end up doing is partnering with a parachurch organization (like the Navigators) and seeing if they will sponsor me for this ministry - even if it means I have to raise my own support.

So that's where it stands now. The Lord has brought together two individuals in key positions that I have prior relationships with, and has opened the door to a crucial ministry where I can serve to my heart's content. I can start as soon as I'm officially recognized as a chaplain by the National Guard (which should take place on June 19th), so in the next few weeks I'll be contacting various organizations to see about serving with them.

Please keep us in your prayers regarding all of this. Tamara and I both feel that this is a "Divine appointment," but it's always easy to be anxious about things, esp. when it comes to finances. Please pray that He will continue to open doors so that I can provide for my family even as I seek to minister to the Marines.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Progression of Spiritual Thought

‎1. I am aware of my weaknesses & inadequacies, so I turn to God.

2. I am aware of my weaknesses & inadequacies, so I ask God to help me. I may not overcome them, but I am reassured by His presence.

3. I am aware of my weaknesses & inadequacies, so I ask God for strength. I may barely overcome them, but feel that He is helping me.

4. I am aware of my weaknesses & inadequacies, so I let God become my strength. He inhabits me with His own courage, firmness and power. I revel in my own weakness and laugh at obstacles because He is in me and He is the one who overcomes them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My God Shall Supply All Thy Needs

I see that it's been some months since I last posted, and that's ok. I know that other people post all sorts of relevant topical posts on the latest political happenings, but that's not my bag, baby.

However, as I see God's hand at work and/or experience some revelation or confluence of events that I simply can't keep to myself, I post it on here. Hopefully, it will edify those who read it in addition to serving as a "road map" of my journey with Christ.

That being said, here's the latest:

Several weeks ago, I applied for a pastoral internship at a local church. They had an established program and were looking for a good candidate to serve a one-year internship - I thought it sounded perfect and that I would be a natural fit for the job. The only problem was that I didn't get hired.

Despite my disappointment, I continued to think about that possibility - if this church didn't need me in that role, perhaps there was another church nearby who would have a similar need and where I might serve in some capacity. So, a few weeks later we found ourselves attending North Coast Calvary Chapel, a place where Tamara attended some years back, and where a number of our friends are currently attending.

After the service, I was perusing the tables outside that had information on all the various ministries the church has to offer. Of course, I was immediately drawn to the military outreach section, maybe because they had a small Marine Corps flag displayed on the table. There I met Jack & Nina Baugh, the coordinators for the military support network. Nina immediately pegged me for a Marine (the haircut always gives it away), and began to learn my story. As we were talking, a young couple approached and she excused herself to speak with them. As I stood and listened, I learned that the young man was a new Marine, had recently been married, had a young month-old son, and was due to deploy at the end of the year. My heart immediately went out to this young family - so many "new" things going on in their lives, and they were about to face the stress and pressure of a deployment in the near future. They told Nina that they were interested in getting involved in a small group Bible study, and she left to go get the small groups pastor. He came over and told them that they didn't have a military small group at the moment, as they currently had no one to lead such a group.

That was when I felt the Holy Spirit giving me a nudge.

So, like Isaiah, I said "Here I am, send me!" Well, maybe not those exact words - but something like that. It was just the opportunity I was looking for, and I couldn't pass it up.

One thing led to another, and in the two weeks since then I've met with several of the pastors about getting involved with the military ministry at the church. I'll be leading a small group study for military folks, and will more than likely be involved in their outreach program at Camp Pendleton in some capacity. I don't know yet how it will all play out, but have this wonderful feeling that God is at work and is leading us here to serve Him here in some capacity.

To be sure, this is not the path I envisioned for us years or even months ago. I had thought that I was going to be a Navy chaplain and would serve in that capacity until I eventually retired sometime down the road. Don't get me wrong - I still feel that the chaplaincy is an open door, but not that it's what I should be striving for right now. For now, I need to serve Him in whatever capacity I can WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW, and let the future take care of itself. When the time is right, I'll happily walk through that door and put on the Navy uniform.

Of course, our finances continue to be an ongoing concern, but God has been faithful there as well. Matthew 6:31-33 tells us:

"So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

What this tells me is that my primary mission is not seeking a job, or seeking financial well-being; it's seeking the Kingdom of God. He knows our needs, and has not led us all the way down this path only to drop us off a cliff. Of course, it's one thing to preach this message on a Sunday, and quite another when it's your own family at risk, and there are days when the doubt creeps in and I get scared and anxious about what the future holds for us. But over and over again I find myself falling back on God's promise. If He is in me, if He is my strength, then I cannot fail - for that would mean that God would fail.

And one thing I know is that God does not fail.