U.S. Navy Chaplain Daniel Robinson ministers to candidates going through the challenges of U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates School.
In the Trenches
Halfway through OCS, Candidate Gill confessed to Daniel, “I don’t think I have what it takes physically to do this.” He gently told her, “You know that’s not your decision. It’s God’s. He knows the strength He gave you. If He wants you to get through, you will.” Laughing wryly, Gill replied, “OK, Chaps. We’ll see if I’m here next week.” Every week the conversation repeated. The night before a long hike, she came to the chaplain for prayer, knowing failing meant being sent home.
Starting off alongside her on the hike the next morning, Daniel reported, “Her humble faith impressed me. She was loaded up with gear, but even if she was unsuccessful, she was determined to praise God by taking step after step.”
Later on, though, he found her sitting on the roadside. While scaling a steep hill, her seven-pound rifle had swung loose, gashing her forehead. Already dizzy and exhausted, she struggled to see through sweat and blood. It was already too late to finish in time.
Kneeling beside Gill, Daniel prayed, “Lord, please give her strength. Let her know what You want her to do.” He recalled, “God’s comforting presence was tangible there; I felt something bigger happening than just this situation. As the rest of the company reached her, she grabbed her things, put her gauze in her pocket, and declared, ‘Lord, You said You’d help me do this, so I’ll get through it.’ She finished that hike. Though she technically failed, what mattered to every staff sergeant who saw her was that she got back up. She graduated because of their testimony, but more importantly, she was a testimony to them—everyone knew she was a Bible-believing Christian. After the hike, a staff sergeant turned to me and said, ‘I haven’t seen faith like that in a long time.’”
“A chaplain’s greatest job is relating to his flock,” Daniel declared. “We aren’t technically required to participate in hikes, obstacle courses, and activities, but as a chaplain I feel it is necessary. When you crawl through the mud with people, they learn to trust you.” He sees his everyday interactions outside his office—what he calls “the ministry of presence”—as the foundation for everything happening within it. He concluded, “A chaplain is a Marine’s one safe harbor for his deepest struggles. Chaplains earn that right by being on the trail and in the desert with him. Honestly, I think humbling yourself to relate to your people’s struggles is a biblical concept. There’s not a thing we endure that Christ has not suffered likewise. Our ministry in that way is a reflection of the Lord, who went in the trenches for us.”
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