This update is long but we hope you will take time to read it – probably a few paragraphs at a time. The last update was towards the end of August. We will try to update you more often, even though it is difficult to make time to do so during really busy times.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10: 5; New International Version (NIV)
The verse above is one of the foundational verses of the Welcome Home Initiative (WHI). It encourages combat Veterans to see themselves from God’s perspective in a new, hopeful and resilience inspiring way.
More ministry increases budget for FY15/16
Ministry has been busy since we last updated on August 20th. As mine and Meryl’s health has improved this year, opportunities multiplied and we submitted an increased budget to ACCTS for the fiscal year from Oct 1, 2015 to Sep 30, 2016. We are now praying in the extra resources so as not to be limited in the ministry we believe God leads us to do.
Praying and Speaking at Chaplains’ Conference (August)
At the end of August, three days before it started, I was encouraged to receive about 60% of my budget for a Chaplain’s conference at Orlando examining the use of inner healing prayer in combat trauma wounds. These are the often unseen wounds to the soul caused by a Soldier doing something in a situation which offends their personal moral values. Every one of us is susceptible to this sort of wound, as we are to post-trauma injuries which cause us to react in a variety of ways to an unnatural event of life. Soldiers experience PTS in combat-like situations and its effects are more visible than soul/moral wounds.
The training itself was nearly cancelled due to lack of numbers and funds, but several of us encouraged the military bishop of the denomination organising the conference to go ahead as we believed this was the LORD’s will.
I was able to lead the other 9 participants in discussions about moral injury, post-traumatic stress and inner healing prayer techniques.
It was a joy to help an active duty Navy Chaplain find peace in his soul from a traumatic armed robbery he had been the victim of some years ago. When I saw him again last week he said, “I’ve still got peace although I haven’t forgotten about the robbery. I’m able to think about it now without re-experiencing the fear, anger and shame I’ve had for so many years.”
Welcome Home Initiative at Greenwich, NY (September – November)
For much of September and October I beavered away preparing for the Welcome Home Initiative retreat I was to lead in November at the Greenwich, NY Christ the King Spiritual Life Center.
It was an enormous blessing to have the expert help of two ladies, B and M, who administer the busy Healing Center there. They talk in depth to the Veterans seeking to attend the WHI, ensuring the medical, psychological and spiritual needs of those coming are accurately known about. I talk personally to any Veteran that B or M are not certain about.
For this WHI the beautiful, patriotic quilts were lovingly made by local quilters. The prayers shawls given to the spouses were once again made by H, a dedicated local knitter. Both were a huge, sacred blessing to all!
Much of my time was spent preparing the host team; and encouraging them, myself and others interested in WHI to help raise the necessary funds to provide $300 scholarships for every combat Veteran and spouse (if attending) who comes to a WHI retreat. We bless them with free food, accommodation and helpful materials as our way of saying “thank you for serving and welcome home”.
This year many individual, generous donors and at least three churches gave just over $11,000.
We don’t know the final cost of this year’s retreat but are hoping there will be a small amount left over as ‘seed’ money for next year’s retreat.
By the way, the WHI retreats run by Rev. Nigel Mumford and BHW ministry are completely and separately funded to any WHI taking place in NY under the auspices of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, which uses the WHI materials under licence from BHW.
Attended ACCTS Staff Meeting (October)
For a week in mid-October! Meryl and I were very blessed, refreshed and encouraged to attend the annual ACCTS staff meeting at an Officers’ Christian Fellowship retreat Center in south central Pennsylvania, called White Sulphur Springs.
This year’s meeting was the best for several years. There were good daily Bible studies, prayer times and detailed ministry reports from 8 or 9 areas of the world, including some experiencing significant political and social problems.
The long friendships and some new relationships shared by the 55 of us there was very special, especially several of more than 20 year’s duration.
Welcome Home Initiative Retreats in NY and VA (November)
Now it’s November and Thanksgiving is a week away!
Before coming to Boston this week for routine medical checks, all of which went well, we were heavily involved in two back to back WHI retreats. The first was at Greenwich, as already mentioned. The second, under the banner of BHW, took place based on Galilee Church in Virginia Beach, VA. l led the first and Rev. Nigel Mumford the second.
Meryl played a vital role at Greenwich, helping with the spouses ministry as well as overseeing the decoration of the chapel for the closing service. She also organised a beautiful and much prayed over quilt for every first time retreatant. She was on Granny duty at home during the second retreat.
To enable Noel and two other team members being at both retreats meant a 600 mile drive in 10 hours, sharing a car. We started driving an hour after the Greenwich retreat ended. We made it to Va Bch in time to get an adequate night’s sleep before the second retreat started.
Both retreats were extremely blessed and successful.
The Va Bch retreat was the largest yet of the 21 carried out since starting in March 2008. A total of 39 combat Veterans and 10 spouses were ministered to at both retreats.
There was a lot of visible healing and blessing, most often seen by the change in retreatants facial expressions and body posture by the closing service compared to the first lunch.
More often the healing seems to be hidden, or ‘undercover’. Memories are healed, especially through prayer, including inner healing. Veterans telling their story, whichever one the Holy Spirit brings to their mind, are healing moments. Anointing with sacred oil, including of ‘trigger’ fingers, and the pronouncement of forgiveness and absolution brings huge closure from past suffering, breaking the chains of trauma that have been internalised, often silently, for many years.
It is tempting to outline some of the specific areas of trauma experienced by the Veterans at each retreat and to tell some stories, but to do so would break the strict confidentiality we promise those attending. Any Veterans’ comments included in this update have been authorised by them. It is wonderful that Jesus really does heal all those who come to him in faith, even if it is only a little ‘mustard seed’ of faith. One Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran, as he talked about his healing, simply said, “Thank you for this week.” That was and is a sufficient enough comment!
Endorsement as Lay Chaplain Enhances ACCTS Ministry
November 17th, was the second anniversary of me being commissioned by the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy (JAFC). The JAFC is the military ‘diocese’ of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).
It is beyond doubt that this endorsement has strengthened my credibility and the building of trust with Chaplains and Veterans as Meryl and I care for them in our busy ministry as ACCTS staff.
We would love to offer our ears, shoulders and hearts to these folk and their families every month, if it were ever possible to organise retreats in that way. Our ministry principles of listen, love and pray are so much appreciated by those we interact with.
Ministry with Anglican Armed Forces Jurisdiction
As we plan prayerfully for 2016, my role as Prior of the non-monastic ‘out in the world’ Order of St. Martin of Tours (OSMT) will take a higher profile as I pastor the other 9 Lay Chaplains located the length and breadth of the USA. I accomplish this mainly through phone calls and electronic media but in early March I will be helping lead a training academy for existing and new Lay Chaplains near Birmingham, Alabama.
Several other Lay Chaplains minister in Veterans Administration or State Veterans hospitals and other facilities and this is an outstanding blessing to us all.
It is also an honor to remain a member of the Executive Council of the JFAC, responsible for praying and overseeing for the rapidly growing Jurisdiction which has over a hundred Armed Forces and Veterans Administration Chaplains.
Health and Family Update from Meryl
Noel’s health has continued to improve this year after the nasty setback that occurred after our long overseas trip last December and January… and at his last check up this past week in Boston all his blood and other tests were normal.. Praise the Lord… Sadly he still has to be on medication for the GVHD but it seems to be keeping those awful mouth sores at bay and hopefully he will finally be off the steroids by the end of January… we so hope so… His next appointment is January 8th.
I, Meryl, have felt increasingly fitter this year although prone to tiredness. I think that’s just old age more than health related! We have both tried to renew our fitness regime, mostly walking, and try to follow a healthy diet. Both my cardiologist and my PC Doctor are happy with my ‘numbers’, so I guess I’m on the right track..looking after my heart and diabetes.
Family-wise, both son’s and their families are continuing to do well… the grandchildren are of course growing fast and branching out into more after-school activities.. to keep themselves and us busy !!
We are having a delayed Thanksgiving this year. Toby and JoAnn and the girls are attending a cousin’s wedding on Thanksgiving Day so we will celebrate together as a family on Sunday 29th. We have much to be thankful for – the list is endless! For example, this December 20th Noel and I will celebrate 45 years of marriage.!!!
Christmas then approaches fast… and we plan this year to have our day with the family at our house on Boxing Day (26th as it’s a Saturday and no one has to rush back to work). We like to let the children stay home to enjoy Christmas Day and open their Santa presents in their own environment whilst we have a quite day.
We wish you all a Blessed Thanksgiving and a Christmas full of the joy of the Lord …. Also, a Very Happy and Healthy New Year in 2016 to you and all those you love.
We’ll give more detail of planned activities in 2016 in our next update. Meanwhile:
Praise for my and Meryl’s improved health during this year.
Praise for all that has been accomplished in the ACCTS Chaplains’ and Veterans’ Care Ministry this year in spite of ill health for the first six months.
Praise for the growing credibility being a Lay Chaplain endorsed by the JAFC of ACNA.
Praise for the pastoral leadership blessings brought to me by being Prior of the Order of St. Martin of Tours (OSMT). Pray for a successful training academy in March 2016, and Jurisdiction annual convocation in April.
Pray for wisdom for Noel as a member of the JAFC Executive Council and as he sits on the boards of By His Wounds, Olive Branch International and the Council of SASRA (a Christian formation and growth organisation working with British Army and Royal Air Force Chaplains and service men and women).
Pray for the Alpha Course and its derivatives to once again thrive in the military environment. Noel remains a volunteer advisor to Chaplains and lay leaders aspiring to run courses.
Pray for Noel and Meryl’s relationships with each of the partnering organisations mentioned above and many others they cooperate with.
Pray for advanced plans to start a regularly meeting combat Veterans support group locally in the Glens Falls area. A combat Veteran friend will lead it with my help. We have a place to hold the group. Now we need Veterans, and a schedule.
Pray for plans for WHIs in 2016. Pray the two with firm dates (late October at Greenwich; early November at Virginia Beach) will be blessed by abundant registrations and finances.
Pray for our aspirations to come to fruition to hold a female combat Veterans retreat; and two or three shorter WHI type of retreats at the Greenwich, NY Spiritual Life Center, or locally elsewhere if they cannot be scheduled there.
Pray for things mentioned by Meryl in the rest of this update.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Thank you all so much for your prayers, practical help and financial support. We depend on each of you as we minister with ACCTS in accordance with their ministry model that each staff member raises their own support for their ministry.
Here endeth the update!