Monday, December 24, 2012

Oh, We're Half Way There...Still Living On a Prayer

It's hard to believe that we're half way through our first tour here at NAF El Centro.  Eighteen months down and eighteen more months to go (give or take).  The time has gone by quickly.  It won't be long before we'll be making contact with our detailer to see where our next tour will take us.  

In the meantime, we're still living on a prayer, depending on God's grace each and every day to minister effectively to the sailors and their families we have the privilege of serving.

One of my chief duties during the months of July and August was leading our annual Feds Feed Families food drive on base.  The food drive this year went exceptionally well, raising over 21,000 lbs. of food for our local food pantry, a 400% increase over our 2011 grand total.  NAF El Centro may be one of the smallest bases in the Navy, but we are consistently able to come together in a big way to make a big difference for the families of the Imperial Valley.

November and December were extremely busy months last year.  Anticipating the same schedule this year, Tammy and I planned ahead and decided to take some vacation time in September and October while we had the time to do so.

Our first trip was to Los Angeles in September.  We took seven days to visit many of the exciting attractions the city has to offer, including the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, Disneyland, Hollywood, Universal Studios, the Getty Villa, and the Getty Museum.  An unexpected treat was the opportunity to see the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavor on its final historic flight over LA before going on permanent display at an area museum. On our last day in town, we were very grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with Michael and Ginny Hollar over brunch who we hadn't seen in several years.
Space Shuttle Endeavor
Getty Villa
Universal Studios

Our second trip was in October.  We took ten days to visit family and friends in Indiana and Illinois.  It was a blessing to attend both our college homecoming at Taylor University (our first in more than 15 years) and services at our former church, the Village Church of Lincolnshire. What an encouragement our immediate family and our spiritual family are to us!

This is how much I love the Fall weather in Indiana!!
We were very thankful for the rest and relaxation these trips provided.  Our Religious Ministry Team schedule was already in full gear upon our return.  From the end of October to the end of December we assisting in planning and leading twelve community relations events, working with organizations such as the Imperial Valley Food Bank, Treats for Troops, and Toys for Tots.  Serving in this capacity continues to be one of my favorite duties at a Navy chaplain at NAF El Centro.
Serving side-by-side with the Brits at the Imperial Valley Food Bank in November 2012

NAF El Centro sailors serving in Niland, CA, in November 2012
Several additional highlights took place in September, October, and November as well...
First, Tammy and I participated in several fun events on base, including '70's Night, '80's Night, and our annual Navy Ball, celebrating the birthday of the United States Navy.
'80's Night
Navy Ball 2012
'70's Night
Second, Tammy and I were able to take a day trip to the San Diego Safari Park.  If you ever have the chance to go, we would highly recommend it.  We had a wonderful time!
Third, our Religious Ministry Team had the opportunity to host a special guest speaker, Mr. Nick Vujicic.  As the Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the base, it is my responsibility to ensure that sailors receive annual training on this important and relevant topic.  Mr. Vujicic, born without arms and legs, is an internationally known speaker who offers a message of hope and resiliency.  As a Christian evangelist, he preaches to many through his Life Without Limbs ministry(  He also offers non-religious motivational talks through his Attitude is Altitude organization (, encouraging many young men and women in our military, high schools, etc..  To have someone like Mr. Vujicic agree to speak to our sailors was indeed an honor and a privilege.  I am grateful to God for arranging the details for this event.  It made a significant positive impact on the lives our our sailors.  To watch part of Mr. Vujicic's presentation at NAF El Centro, please visit,0,569081.story
Nick Vujicic with NAF El Centro CO, XO, and CDCMC
Finally, Tammy and I attended the Navy Chaplain's Ball in November, honoring the birthday of the United States Navy Chaplain Corps.  Held in San Diego, the distance made it difficult for us to participate, but we are so glad that we did.  Serving in a remote location like NAF El Centro, it is encouraging interact with my colleagues in ministry whenever we get the opportunity to do so.
Tammy continues her significant involvement on base.  Due to the departure of other volunteers, her role at the base thrift store has increased.  And she recently began working as a volunteer leader with the local Girl Scout troop.
In my free time, I continue to be involved with a variety of sports.  We have concluded volleyball and flag football season.  Basketball season begins soon.  While I find my involvement personally enjoyable and fulfilling, sports remains a wonderful way for me to continue to connect with our sailors who might not participate in chapel services or community relations activities.
In an effort to stay as physically fit as possible, I've recently registered for a Super Spartan race ( scheduled for Saturday, 26 January, 2013.  The race is eight miles with 25+ obstacles that include climbing ropes and walls, carrying rocks, barbed wire crawls in the mud, etc.  I have no expectation of finishing first.  Crossing the finish line will be victory enough! 
God bless you one and all.  May you have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

First Anniversary

Silver bells...Silver bells..It's Christmastime in the...DESERT!!  The 110+ degree heat of the summer in El Centro finally melted away to more comfortable temperatures in November/December.  Having endured Chicago winters for the past 10 years, it was a nice reprieve, especially when it came to putting up Christmas lights on the outside of our home--the first time in our 15 years of marriage.  With no snow, ice, or bitter winds to contend with, and no ladders required, they were up in no time.  Of course, it would have taken less time if I would have hung them correctly the first time!

Tammy and I took some much needed vacation time during Christmas/New Year's to visit family and friends in Indiana and Illinois.  We were delighted to worship again at the Village Church of Lincolnshire.  It was almost exactly one year to the day that I had ended my tenure as the associate pastor there before departing for Officer Development School in January 2011.  It was so good to be back!

The New Year brought with it a new experience--my first FitRep (Fitness Report).  Once a year every sailor is evaluated on his or her job performance, providing a permanent record that directly impacts his or her potential for future promotions.  Thankfully, my first evaluation went very well.

The New Year also brought with it several new ministry developments.  In February, a new Sunday school program was initiated for our Protestant chapel services.  We are so very grateful for a family from the local community who volunteers to come to the base each week to teach a group of about 8-10 children.  They are an answer to prayer!  Second, a Good News Club, an eight week after school outreach program, was started.  Each Wednesday afternoon, children from the base would come to the Community Center for games, singing, and a Bible lesson.  Once again, the assistance of community volunteers was essential to our success, with an average of 15 children in attendance each week. 

In March, much of our focus at NAF El Centro turns to the annual air show.  NAF El Centro has the distinction of being the winter home for the Blue Angels, kicking off their yearly tour right here.  It is as polished and professional event as you will ever see, drawing crowds in excess of 20,000 people.  As the chaplain, I have few responsibilities with the air show except to do my part in keeping everyone sane in the midst of the high tempo/high stress atmosphere...and, of course, pray that nothing goes wrong!

As we marked our first anniversary of ministry here at NAF El Centro, we've been very grateful to see the ministry at the Protestant Chapel continue to grow and develop.   Having approximately 10-15 attenders at our services in April 2011, we were averaging 35-45 attenders in April 2012, with a high of 67 attenders on Easter.  With the departure of the retirees for the summer and the loss of two families who have moved, our attendance has settled to about 20 at the present time.  We trust that the Lord will continue to send new sailors/families to us in the months to come as we enter our second full year of ministry.

I continue to enjoy preaching each week.  One recent preaching series was "Seven Habits for Highly Effective Christians," focusing on one Christian character trait each week, including true love, hard work, generosity, humility, and contentment.  Our current preaching series is "The Big Picture of the Bible".  Each week we study one book of the Bible and highlight its unique themes and message in the context of the canon of Scripture.  Thus far, we've covered Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua.

Our two Protestant Bible studies continue to go well.  An Adult Bible study was already in place upon our arrival.  An adjustment in the meeting time, from 1130-1230 to 0630-0730, has increased attendance slightly, with an average of 6 participants each Thursday morning.  The current study is the That the World May Know video series with Dr. Ray Vanderlaan.  In September/October 2011, Tammy began a new Women's Bible study that meets on Wednesday nights in our home, with 7 women involved. The group is currently taking a break for the summer and looks forward to meeting again in September with a study of 12 Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur.

In May, we were pleased to sponsor the annual NAF El Centro National Day of Prayer breakfast.  The month of June saw two new ministry initiatives, including a special showing of the Courageous movie and a week of Vacation Bible School for our base families.  The Courageous film had more than 30 in attendance.  VBS had 17 children involved, again due to the amazing generosity and support of a local church who provided transportation for our group to their church each day.

One of the most memorable moments this year came at the end of June when three people (father, mother, and son) from the Protestant chapel were baptized.  These were the first baptisms I have performed as a Navy chaplain.  What a blessing it was!

In April, Tammy and I took a weekend trip to Joshua Tree National Park, about a two hour drive north of NAF El Centro.  We had a wonderful time enjoying the unique beauty of God's creation found there.  While we were in the area we were excited to have dinner with LT Jason Owens, the chaplain at 29 Palms (Marine Corps), and his family.  I had the privilege of training with Chaplain Owens at both Officer Development School and at Naval Chaplaincy School.  He is a gifted and godly chaplain.  It was a joy to reconnect with him once again.

Physical training continues to be an important part of my weekly schedule.  Monday-Thursday my days start at 0500 with my personal PT regimen that includes either an Insanity or P90X workout.  Saturday is reserved for running at the track or weights in the gym.  This program has allowed me to continue to improve my PT scores.  During our semi-annual PT test in May, I achieved 110 curl ups (2 min.), 91 push ups (2 min.) and 11:07 in the 1.5 mile run.  Staying involved in the various sports on base is still a great way to stay active and to connect with sailors.  We've concluded softball season and are now in the middle of bowling season.  I look forward to the return of basketball and flag football in the months to come.

Lastly, I was very honored to have received my first Navy Achievement Medal in a base ceremony on 06 July.  It was a wonderful surprise.  And while these kinds of awards are necessary and important when being considered for promotion, the greatest reward is still seeking to serve my Savior as I serve our sailors here at NAF El Centro.