The following post is from CBF-endorsed chaplain Gerry Hutchinson.
On February 4, 2011, I was at home on my day off from the church when I received the call. Yes, it was a literal phone call from my Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps detailer. The detailer is the chaplain whose duty is to find chaplains to fill reserve and active duty assignments.
He asked “would I like to serve in Djibouti?” I knew exactly what he was referring to. Three days earlier I had read and then deleted an email with this same request. When reading the earlier email, sent to a large number of senior chaplains, I thought to myself “who would want to go to a hot and dusty place such as Djibouti?” But when he spoke with me on the phone and asked if I would go, I felt an immediate and overwhelming sense of peace that I should do this. I discussed the opportunity with my wife and we prayed about it. I called the detailer back that afternoon and agreed to serve.
Well, here I am months later serving in Djibouti. And yes, it is a hot climate. Temperatures exceed 100+ degrees every day for months on end. But in this hot and dusty place I have found great joy in serving the Lord.
My orders will keep me “boots on the ground” for a little over a year. I am the Director of Religious Affairs for Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa. My job is to lead a team of four who provide spiritual care to the U.S. military personnel in East Africa. We also work with our African allies who have a military chaplain corps. We exchange best practices and thereby hone each other’s ministry skills. In addition, my staff and I meet with key religious leaders and faith communities to leverage their support for peace and stability across the region.
My chaplain assistant and I have traveled to Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, and the Seychelles to visit, counsel, conduct worship and provide all types of religious support for our military members. We’ve provided counsel to those who lost a fellow service member through suicide. We have wept with those who received a “Dear John letter” from a spouse who no longer wanted to be married to a soldier, sailor, airman or marine. We’ve helped people improve their communication skills to get along better with each other. Separation from family and friends taxes relationships.
We have also visited orphanages with our fellow service members. We have distributed back packs to school children. We have participated in English Discussion Groups so students could practice their English with native speakers. We have shared ministry stories and strategies with fellow African military chaplains. Their sacrifice and service is inspiring. In short, we have been the presence of Christ in a hot and beautiful place where God’s people reside.
I adopted Joshua 1:9 as my watchword for the year “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.”
One never knows when or how the call to Kingdom service may come or where it will take you.
CAPTAIN Gerry Hutchinson, CHC, USN
Gerry is the Associate Pastor/Church Administrator at Culpeper Baptist Church in Culpeper, VA. For 24 years he has served as a U.S. Navy Reserve Chaplain. He will complete his tour of active duty in early 2013 and return to Culpeper, Virginia.