Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dallas MEPS Ministry

"Hurry up and wait." That is just one of the mantras I learned in the Navy 20 years ago.

Spending nine hours in the Dallas Military Entrance Processing Station may not seem like fun to most, but they don't have my perspective. Truth be told, I might not describe it as "fun" either, but it certainly wasn't a royal waste of time. Braving the battery of tests conducted at this facility gives one a sense of being well looked after. In every corner of the facility, a different room held new medical testing to undergo. In such an environment, one can feel quite alone and shuffled around. I saw it on the faces of many new inductees to military service who were there to have their own testing done. Most were in their early twenties. Some were nineteen or eighteen. A few were even seventeen who were there by written permission of their parents. Their youthful countenances were pulled tight in valiant attempts to mask any feelings of uncertainty and fear.

When my recruiter was describing what I could expect at MEPS, he suggested that sometimes officer candidates or chaplain candidates might receive the "red carpet treatment." This meant that my process might be expedited more quickly than most. I did not expect this, but instead was prepared to simply go down and submit to the process that I encountered. What I found was that my case was no more briskly moved along than any other. This might have been a point of disappointment, but instead I discovered that the wait opened up opportunities.

When I sat among new recruits, I observed on the expressions of young faces to my right and my left that this new environment was unsettling for them. Even though this was MEPS, and not Basic or Boot, the commands to follow instructions, strip down to underwear and obey the rules had them back on their heels. Just this little taste of military life was enough to have them feeling off balance. In addition, some that I spoke with (or waited with outside yet another office) had families who they worried might not adapt to this new arena.

It seems that waiting longer than expected at MEPS (9 hours) was necessary to execute a ministry that was not expected either. In those moments when I was next to the new inductees needing assurance, comfort or courage, I was moved by the Spirit to converse with them in a manner they needed. I was there to be a chaplain for them. Little did I know that while undergoing medical exams for chaplain candidacy, I would have moments of chaplaincy even then.

This is an important lesson. When God is planning to assign you a new area of ministry, he likely will begin having you perform it right away. I have found this to be true on many occasions of my life, but I still get surprised when he pulls stuff like this. For me it was a improvised chaplain ministry among new recruits. For you, who knows?

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