Our chaplains are spiritual caregivers who serve in a variety of secular settings. They invest time in building relationships of trust with people who might never think of passing through the doors of our churches. As spiritual caregivers, they spend a great deal of time listening to those willing to seek counsel for a variety of issues. We know that caregivers of all kinds can experience burn-out from this type of work, and it’s no different for our own chaplains. Not only do they deal with the problems of others, but they must also deal with their own individual concerns as well. There are times when even chaplains require soul-care. Read what three of our chaplains have to say about their personal journeys in this matter.
by David Brown
For many years the deep cry of my heart has been: “I don’t want to just read the Bible, I want to live the Bible.” The Lord began answering my heart’s cry approximately 17 years ago when I was introduced to a daily devotional entitled My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Second only to the Bible, it is undoubtedly the most significant book I’ve read during my 35 years as a Christian.
In fact, I begin each year with a fresh copy of My Utmost for His Highest because I do so much underlining, highlighting, and writing of notes in the margins that I can’t possibly reuse my copy from the previous year. The Bible informs me about who God is and what it means to be His child; My Utmost for His Highest helps me to take this information and to live it out in the ups and downs of everyday life.
One of the most important things I’ve come to understand from reading My Utmost for His Highest is that God will sometimes allow me to experience challenges and difficulties in order to mold me and shape me, even times of great sorrow and suffering.
For the past year and a half I’ve battled with anxiety and depression — it's been the most difficult time in my life. I was unable to perform my duties as a Fellowship chaplain and experienced disruption in every area of my life. I am happy to report the Lord did not leave me nor forsake me for a moment during these days of emotional pain and despair. The Lord eventually lifted me from the pit of anxiety and depression in a miraculous way and restored me, giving me back my enjoyment of life as a Christian husband and father.
Psalm 119:71 says: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” I can honestly say that as challenging as my anxiety and depression were, it’s good that I was afflicted. Through my struggles I have learned to trust the Lord deeply, even when experiencing extreme sorrow and suffering.
While not an easy lesson to learn, I count myself a very fortunate and blessed man. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28.
— David is a Fellowship Community Chaplain working in Cambridge, ON.
by Eric Lanthier
The presence of a chaplain proves to be vital for someone who is in distress. When a person has just lost their job, their home, a loved one, or when they are experiencing illness, a family crisis or, in some cases, when justice catches up with them, a chaplain can become a source of comfort. But when a chaplain lives through a crisis, life takes a whole different turn. On April 6, 2013, I learned that a former coworker had died. I was overwhelmed to learn that after such a short time, the disease had prevailed. On learning this news, I wrote the following comment on Facebook:
"Oh that life is short and that time passes so fast! I'm in a state of shock. I realize that we cannot take for granted the lives of our loved ones. You never know when death can take away a loved one."
I did not know that only 90 minutes later I was going to live a greater trial by finding my lifeless wife. Imagine, someone who comforts and generates hope daily discovers that his wife has taken her life in their own home — I thought I was losing my mind. But I give glory to God, who sustained me through this terrible ordeal. The prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the involvement of churches, the support of my family, my pastor, and a Christian therapist helped me to find my way back to life. Today, I understand much more deeply what mourning, solitude, celibacy, inner pain, and human suffering mean. Moreover, the Lord, in His goodness, knew not only how to lift me from this ordeal, but also to fill me as I had never imagined. He gave me back a wife, a woman of quality. What grace, for I never imagined that I could have loved again. I began to preach again and, in addition, the Lord is using me to minister to non-Christians by providing them with pastoral services as a chaplain. I was able to officiate funerals, weddings, and meet quality people in the media world. All I can say is, “Glory to God!” In view of the greatness of His goodness, I can only celebrate the grace bestowed upon me by my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
— Eric is a Fellowship Chaplain working in the area of media.
by Serge Caron
L’Ancre was founded in 2007 in response to the pressing needs of men fresh from prison. For isolated men who have spent years in prison, L’Ancre volunteers are often the only unpaid people that take an interest in them.
The mandate of the thirty volunteers working at L’Ancre is to encourage, support, and facilitate the integration of detainees and former prisoners into a community of faith. Volunteers work periodically at the penitentiary chapel, sharing the Word of God with some 30 detainees. They also offer a weekly presence in transition houses, where their role is to instigate reflection and the evaluation of past choices in the lives of those who have been recently released. Perhaps it is time for them to consider the spiritual path, to seek in God a path that will succeed.
As Christians, we have the opportunity to present to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord. If they choose this path, they are directed to a community of faith in their region that has already received special training and is ready to welcome them and help them grow in their faith. For L’Ancre volunteers, the detainee and the ex-prisoner remain “our neighbors”, regardless of their choice to follow Christ or not. Our services are not conditional on a commitment of faith, but they do often associate chaplaincy with the unconditional love of God.
— Serge is a Fellowship Chaplain serving in the area of Corrections.