It was 1983. I was with my Fort Bragg unit in Honduras in support of Operation Ahuas Tara. It was hot, with humidity ranging each day between 90-100%. We were establishing our camp while at the same time conducting our mission. Working conditions were miserable with not enough soldiers to do everything that was demanded. Even I as a chaplain participated in the manual labor required each day.
One morning the First Sergeant, a crusty Viet Nam war Veteran, gathered us all around him. We stood there, each already soaked completely in our own perspiration. The First Sergeant said that he needed two volunteers for special duty.
I had been a chaplain for less than a year, but even I knew to never volunteer for any special duty. I was sure that it had to be something arduous and unpleasant. I turned to an officer friend next to me and whispered, “Who would be foolish enough to volunteer for such a mission?”
Just then, two junior enlisted soldiers raised their hands. They said to our group that any task would be better than the awful one they were currently assigned. The group then breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The First Sergeant then addressed the two volunteers. He said to them in a loud voice for all of us to hear: “You two have 15 minutes to get to your tent and retrieve your bathing suits and whatever else you need. You will report to that clearing where a helicopter will be waiting to take you to a beach. I have taken the liberty of providing towels and a picnic lunch. Once you are dropped off, the helicopter will return for you at 1700 hours. You are dismissed.”
As the soldiers gleefully ran to their tents, the rest of us stood in stunned silence. The First Sergeant turned to our group (although to this day I am genuinely convinced that he was looking at and speaking directly to me) and said in a loud voice, “That’s what you get for not trusting your First Sergeant!” This was a lesson that I would remember for the rest of my career.
It is so easy to be cynical about the intentions of others, and the temptation is to surround ourselves with others who are at least as cynical as we are. Sometimes we even have this attitude towards God when he asks us to do something for him. How many blessings have we missed out on because we did not or do not trust God?
The Lord looks at us and reminds us of what He said to Israel though the prophet Jeremiah,
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
God is calling for volunteers for a special mission. It is time to put aside our cynicism, and raise our hands to volunteer even if others are not. It is worth it. You will see.
Rev. Art Pace
CH (COL-ret), USA