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!
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!
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.