Did you know the United States operates about 450 military bases across all 50 states? Worldwide, we have approximately 750 military bases in some 80 countries. When a WELS member enlists in the military, he or she can potentially end up in any of these locations.
WELS military members have unique needs. Their families feel the stress of a loved one being away on a long deployment. There is the emotional and psychological strain of serving our country in difficult ways and dangerous situations. We thank God for providing individuals willing to defend our country and freedoms. One way we can respond is by making sure that WELS members in the military are spiritually served by pastors who understand the unique challenges of military life.
To support WELS members in our armed forces, WELS has operated the Military Chaplaincy Program. We have a full-time European chaplain based in Germany. He travels to military bases throughout Europe and, when necessary, other locations around the world. WELS also has a part-time national chaplain based in Minnesota who serves as our official representative to the U.S. Armed Forces. Ministry needs are so great that we need to expand that position to full-time.
The national chaplain will now be located near one of our largest military bases in San Diego, Calif. However, he does much more than serve the military families at that base. He travels around the country, offering training and support to over 100 military contact pastors—parish pastors who serve a congregation near one of the stateside military bases. The national chaplain helps these pastors better understand how they and their congregations can support our WELS military personnel and their families with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The national chaplain also plans how to serve WELS members stationed away from a WELS church (something that is increasingly common as congregations consolidate or close). He supplies troops with Lutheran materials tailored to their specific needs. He provides remote pastoral counseling to WELS soldiers, seamen, and airmen when requested, and refers troops to Christian Family Solutions when professional counseling is needed. Along with the European chaplain, he is responsible for visiting deployed forces when possible, including those in war zones.
The national chaplain is also responsible for the plan to escalate pastoral service in the event of a large-scale conflict or major mobilization of forces. He maintains regular contact with the Pentagon to determine how WELS troops might be best served spiritually. It is a position too important to be done part-time.
Having the national chaplain become a full-time position substantially increases the cost of the WELS Military Chaplaincy Program. Would you make a gift today to allow us to scale this program immediately to meet the needs of our WELS members serving in our armed forces?
My friends who serve in the military talk about the stress they face and how the strength Jesus provides through his gospel in Word and sacraments is vital to them. Thank you for considering supporting our WELS military personnel through the expanded Military Chaplaincy Program.
Rev. Joel Gaertner
Director, WELS Commission on Special Ministries
Prayer: Lord, thank you for our fellow members who serve in the military. Bless them well through the chaplains and contact pastors spread across the world and our country. May these pastors and the means of grace that they share uplift these believers, especially through challenging times. If it is your will, help us to expand the national chaplain position to full-time to provide additional ministry to WELS military member families in the U.S. Amen.