In the book of Exodus, we read the intriguing account of a battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites, wherein the Israelites made advances toward victory—but only as long as their leader, Moses, could hold up his arms, which carried the staff of God. When Moses tired and his hands dropped, the enemy started gaining ground. So Aaron and Hur, who were overseeing the combat from atop the hills with Moses as Joshua directed the troops in the valley below, came alongside their leader and held up his arms until the battle was won.
Moses and Joshua are memorable names in the historical record, but those such as Aaron and Hur are often overlooked. Yet the battle would not have been won without them. Victory—in this instance and many others throughout human history—would not have been achieved without the ones who were willing to hold up the arms of others. These are the sometimes forgotten heroes, who sacrifice themselves and are willing to do whatever it takes to help others and support them in their call.
Foursquare chaplains are just such heroes. Whether serving the military, civic organizations, hospitals, prisons, law enforcement, firefighters or other specialized fields, these men and women spend their days and nights helping people on the frontlines of dangerous or uncertain situations.
There are 193 Foursquare chaplains—24 percent of whom are women—filling 223 chaplaincy appointments (some serve in dual roles). Nearly one third are military, with the remaining two thirds serving in institutional or industrial roles. Military appointments include the Air Force, Army, Navy and Civil Air Patrol. Institutional and industrial appointments include the categories of fire, hospital, hospice, police, prison and specialized. Specialized chaplains serve the marketplace, city, legislature, truck stops and motorcyclists.
According to Robby Booth, director of Foursquare Chaplains International, Foursquare chaplains ministered to an astounding number of 290,000 individuals per week in 2009. Approximately 23,000 people received Christ or rededicated their lives through the ministry of Foursquare chaplains the same year; 2,000 were baptized with the Holy Spirit; and 700 were baptized in water.
The ministries of Foursquare chaplains are as incredible as they are unique. We interviewed a representative sampling of these admirable men and women, each of whom serves in a different setting, so our readers could see the types of things taking place throughout the world, every day, through the lives of these dedicated Foursquare heroes.
One of these heroes is 45-year-old Ray Houk. A commander in the U.S. Navy, Ray is Foursquare’s Navy Chaplain Coordinator as well as Deputy Command Chaplain for the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. This 280-bed inpatient facility cares for active duty, reserves, and retired military personnel and their family members, of all branches throughout the National Capital Region.
The staff also treats between 60 and 80 wounded outpatient soldiers at any given time, handling 800,000 outpatient appointments every year. On a daily basis, Ray leads a staff of eight full-time chaplains, three contracted chaplains and 10 Navy enlisted chaplain assistants, providing ministry to the medical center 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Ray’s ministry also extends to the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, which do not have their own separate chaplaincies and are therefore served by Navy chaplains.
“These last 19 years as a chaplain, both inside and outside the walls of the church, have taught me that God is actively in the process of loving people into His kingdom,” says Ray, the father of two children with his wife, Dawn. “From the deserts of Iraq, to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the islands of Japan, God is active in every place, in and through every culture, and He invites us as friends (see John 15:15) to grasp His hand and walk with Him into these amazing ministry situations.”
Such situations include Ray’s tracking of wounded warriors in Kuwait for the Marine Corps, when he discovered there was no regular chaplain ministry to Marines and Sailors on five different camps in the country—leaving approximately 600 Marines and Sailors stationed throughout Kuwait without regular chaplain visits.
“I initiated weekly visits to these Marines, started three different Bible studies, and encouraged many to start going to the chapels that were on their various camps,” Ray tells Foursquare.org. “Ministry relationships among these Marines and Sailors proved very fruitful, and many people were encouraged in Christ through these outreach efforts.”
A graduate of Life Pacific College (also known as LIFE Bible College) with a bachelor’s degree in 1989, Ray also holds a master of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and a doctor of ministry from Regent University. His education, he says, was key to giving him the tools to travel the world and learn how to integrate the gospel into different cultures.
“I have enjoyed being assigned to Marine Corps and Navy Commands in Kuwait, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Japan and on both the East and West Coasts of the U.S.,” Ray affirms. “Ministering to young, energetic, military people means ministering to youth who have just moved away from home and have the autonomy of their own paychecks. It is, for a vast majority, the first time they are making choices about how and where to live, how to manage their lives, and what they will truly choose to be all about. Whatever choices they make, I am their chaplain.”
Ray’s ministry doesn’t stop with the troops, however. There is also great benefit, he explains, in ministering to the leadership within the various institutions themselves. Whether it’s a group of four Marines on a particular assignment or an aircraft carrier with more than 5,000 people aboard, every military unit has leadership, Ray notes, and chaplains available to consult them regarding moral and ethical decisions. Ray describes these chaplains as being “the conscience of the unit, advising commanders in many challenging interpersonal and leadership situations.”
As Ray describes the young men and women he serves in the military, his passion is immediately evident. He says he wishes everyone knew how truly caring each soldier is.
“Almost all of them joined after 9/11 to intentionally go to war, to risk their very lives for the freedoms we hold dear,” he asserts. “These young men and women want to serve. They want the world to be better for us all. They are open to spiritual truth, because many hunger for practical ways to make a difference in the world.”
So how can those of us back home support our troops in prayer? Ray says top needs include spiritual revival among individuals and leadership; successful military missions that are working to bring peace to troubled parts of the world; protection of coalition and indigenous forces; and for local churches to reach out to military family members.
This article is Part 1 in a four-part series.
To read Part 2, covering chaplains in the Civil Air Patrol and fire department, click here.
To read Part 3, the story of a hospice chaplain, click here.
To read Part 4, profiling a couple who serves as hospital and legislative chaplains, click here.
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles