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.