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 and serves as Battalion Chaplain of the 336th CCSB in Iraq. He writes monthly letters to his home church, and is graciously open to sharing them here on the SWC Blog. This is his August letter.]
As I sit to write these words, I am literally snacking on the goodness of your love and continued prayers. In fact, I can turn in my chair and see office after office sharing in your support.
We’ve never received a care package load so concentrated with “the good stuff”. A few of the soldiers have “lovingly” taken to calling me Taji Santa because of the items you sent. They thought they were pretty clever until they saw me writing in my notebook. “What are you writing?” they asked. I replied, “The names of soldiers who may be worthy of God’s love but who won’t be receiving any more Oreos.”
Please know that I am doing well. July was a very difficult month for a variety of reasons, some of which I expressed in my last letter. Luckily, the rest of the month passed without witnessing any battle-related incidents. The good news: ISIS continues to be pushed back and they find themselves having to reevaluate their strategies. This is a significant morale boost to the Iraqi people even as it adds new political wrinkles from the power void which ISIS’s departure creates. News like this dramatically helps with our morale, as well.
It may seem trite; I traveled all over Iraq in July and saw some pretty crazy things, but nothing rattled me more than not being there for Harper’s first day of kindergarten. Seeing mothers and children being able to pick up the pieces of their lives in places like Fallujah help me and others keep focused during months like July.
I have spent the month of August, thus far, grounded to Camp Taji. Back in early June, I pitched an idea to a General about creating a streamlined concept in soldier care. It involved a stalled chapel renovation project. The Chaplain corps had hoped to update the chapel, but the General wanted a more comprehensive concept that fit the Army’s focus on supporting the soldier if the Army was going to spend any money. I put together some ideas and he gave me the green light.
Two weeks ago, we moved the chapel to an interim location and construction began on the ‘Camp Taji Resiliency Center: Spirit, Mind, and Body’. The concept is to relocate the Chaplain, Behavioral Health, and elements of JAG into one place to foster a spirit of cooperation and unity of effort. An idea like that might seem self-evident, but it does not exist anywhere else in the military. (Apparently military bureaucracies don’t naturally like to share, even when there is an overlap of mission.) Subsequently, this is a first-of-its-kind endeavor. I won’t do much traveling until the construction is complete. We are expecting to have a big grand opening ceremony with generals, ribbon-cuttings, cake, and the military news people sometime in late September or early October. I am excited.
Friends, we are halfway done with our time in Iraq. Our replacements sent a scout team this week. It seems a bit surreal to think about the return journey. I give God thanks for you and pray for you each day. I hold you in my heart, knowing that I am one day closer to being back with you. May God continue to bless and keep you. Keep doing great ministry. Keep being people who dance within the joy of God’s love.
Until we meet again,
PS: I have never seen adults fall in love with a snack like they did with those SuperSeedz. If you find it in your heart, I’ve been told you can send as many of those treats as you like.