The 2015 Adventist Chaplains World Congress in San Antonio, Texas was, in a sense, a chaplains’ camp meeting. More than 300 chaplains from around the world gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries. They spent time in spiritual renewal through the ministry of the Word. And they were equipped for their specific area of chaplaincy ministry through training that will guide them long after the closing hymn was sung and the final prayer of commitment was prayed.
Dilys Brooks, Associate Chaplain, Loma Linda University challenged the group in the Monday night keynote address to “Wait on Him.” Brooks based her presentation on Isaiah 40:31, with a brief review of the Children of Israel and how they had arrived at the point of bondage and God’s promise that He would continue to be with them.
Brooks challenged the group that there is a new landscape for ministry in a post-Christian, post-Western, and rising secularist world. “None of this is new to God,” said Brooks. “In this new landscape of ministry, we have nothing to fear unless we forget to wait on God.”
Brooks drew the parallel of Christians waiting on God to do great things in their lives with that of the Children of Israel. “If we are going to minister in this new landscape we must be prepared to be exiled,” said Brooks. “We must experience exile so that when we meet people who are in exile, we will know how to walk with them, point them out of it, and carry them out of it, if needed.
Brooks asked the chaplains to consider how they personally are doing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. “We can’t wait on God without coming face-to-face with our need for God,” said Brooks. To wait on Him we must acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a Saviour, acknowledge that we need help and get help, and be accountable to others about what occurs in our lives.
On Tuesday Dr. Naomi Paget discussed the necessary skills to cope with stress from daily ministry as a chaplain in the “Operational Stress First Aid” training on Tuesday.
During the Tuesday evening session, Dr. Gerald Winslow, vice president for Mission and Culture, Loma Linda University, reminded the group that as they deal with the many burdens of the world they must anchor their faith in principles found in the Bible. “As we follow these principles in our personal lives and in our work, we are shaping both our character and the character of the organizations that we serve.”
Winslow illustrated the principles that can be found and followed in Micah 6. As the court scene illustrates God has a controversy with His people. He had brought them out of slavery and redeemed them. The Children of Israel were plea-bargaining with God.
The principles found in Micah 6 include justice in terms of giving people a fair chance by putting yourself in the position of others and what they experience. Extending mercy by understanding your weaknesses and brokenness. Walking in humility will give rise to be fair to others and extending mercy to others.
“If you will be fair and help your organization be fair and extend fairness to others. If you will be merciful and express God’s love. If you walk humbly with our God, you and your organization will be changed,” said Winslow.
On Wednesday, chaplains received intensive training to build their professional skills. Breakout sessions for each area of chaplaincy included:
- “The Disciple-Making Chaplain: Leading Others on the Journey of Faith”– Dilys Brooks
- “A Spiritual Development Master Plan” – Magdiel Perez Schulz,
- “International Students: Ministry with Them, to Them, and by Them”– Gary Wagner
- “Meaningful Ministry with Muslims” – Keith Burton
- Developing a Common Professional Identity as Ministers to Higher Education
Community and Corrections
- Ethical Issues Around Diversity in Ministry – Grace Kelly
- Biblical Basis for Chaplaincy – Barbara Rutt
- Spiritual Assessment of Organizations and Staff – Ivan Omana
- Identifying the Spiritual Needs of Patients and Organizations – Ivan Omana and Barbara Rutt
- It’s All About You – Robert Peters
- Speed of Trust– Jonathan McGraw
A focus of the World Congress was on the 30th Anniversary celebration of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries. It was a time to look back at how God has led the formation of chaplaincy in the Adventist Church. This time of rejoicing and celebration featured a Southwestern meal, fellowship, and even a birthday cake.
Darold Bigger, Assistant to the President, Walla Walla University, reminded of this during the 30th Anniversary Celebration banquet on Wednesday evening. “The Transforming nature of chaplaincy and the recognition of those changes in Adventism is sweeping and wonderful,” said Bigger.
He noted that ACM is clarifying the standards for chaplains and establishing professional standards and competencies. “Your ministry as chaplains is acknowledged, affirmed, and supported in ways that were unheard of in the past,” said Bigger. “We are at a tipping point for Adventist chaplaincy.”
With that tipping point comes anxiety, Bigger contended. It’s necessary to understand where we’ve been and what we’ve become. The Apostle Paul wrote about a tipping point for the early Christians when he addressed the believers of Philippi. He described his desires for the cause that he had given all of the energies in his life to support. “Paul described the three ways to come to God’s will for your life,” said Bigger. He uses prayer as a way to be open a responsive reception of who God is. This creates a bona fide relationship between God and us. Paul then suggests that we use our petitions to express to God what we believe our needs our. Thirdly, through thanksgiving we recount our history to understand where we’ve been, where we are and what God wants from us.
By using these three ways to know God’s will and the way forward, “we can know the peace of God that transcends human understanding,” said Bigger.