guest post by Owen Chandler
(Editor’s note: Rev. Owen Chandler, the Senior Minister of Saguaro Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tucson, was deployed earlier this year from the Army Reserve, serving as Battalion Chaplain of the 336th CCSB in Iraq. He frequently writes letters to his home church, and is graciously open to sharing them here on the SWC Blog.
This letter originally appeared in his church’s June 14 newsletter.)
Beloved Saguaro Christian Church,
I send my greetings and prayers to you from Iraq! As always, I give God gratitude for your continued presence in my life. The fact that you make the intentional effort to remember me speaks of your character. It would be easy to merely move on with your lives, but you choose to value our relationship. I am grateful.
Iraq is a tragic blend of the historical wonder and brutal death. Fittingly, I arrived in the country on Friday the 13th. Hopefully it is not a metaphor for things to come. This country has much to offer and appreciate. Baghdad, over which I recently flew in an open helicopter, is a desert oasis along the river with green palm trees mingling among ancient domes and modern architecture. The war has clearly taken its toll on the landscape and the people. Currently, I am outside of the capitol in an outlying town, Taji. Our post is the former home of Chemical Ali’s weapon manufacturing plant and depot. I try not to breathe in too deep! It turns out that Taji looks and feels much like Casa Grande. Who knew that those Regional meetings in that dusty outpost would prepare me for this deployment?!?!?
As seems to be the reoccurring theme of this deployment, my role and duties changed on the flight up here. In addition to my duties as the battalion chaplain of the 336th CSSB, I am now the Camp Taji lead chaplain of all US and international military personnel. I have a couple of other chaplains that work under me. We are it for the whole camp. Essentially, I serve as senior minister of the camp chapel, help with chaplain support for thousands of military personnel, cover an outlying FOB, and make occasional visits to other FOBs that the 336th supports. To top it off, I am having to oversee the chapel reconstruction here on camp, which means regular briefs of generals and numerous meetings with contractors. The days are going much faster! The work is immensely meaningful and I pray that we are making an actual difference. I have attached some photos so you can get a feel for what my life looks like these days. Please know that I am reasonably safe.
I miss you all. I know the summer is upon you, church camps are going, and that your ministry continues to be authentically beautiful. I count down the days until we are sharing in these things together. May God bless your time with interim Bill Robey. Try to be merciful to him as his baseball team doesn’t appear to be doing much this year. I love you all.