Sunday, July 08, 2007

chaplains

Every time more Canadian soldiers are killed in Afghanistan, a brouhaha erupts in the news with questions being asked, mostly by politicians and some media types: "When have too many Canadians died? When is it time for us to withdraw?" Since there have been many casualties lately, this discussion is happening a lot and it is getting tiresome. This is, after all, war. And this isn't this what the terrorists are counting on us to do - wimp out when the going gets tough? Did the same thing happen, I wonder, during World War II every time deaths were reported from the front? I wonder too how this attitude affects the morale of the soldiers stationed there.

That's why the presence of Major Pierre Bergeron, a Canadian Forces chaplain, in church yesterday morning, was so refreshing. For once we heard from someone who is not out to question our presence in Afghanistan, but to support the troops.

He was visiting family in the area and spoke only briefly. But I found what he said encouraging.

He described eight church services happening at the chapel in Kandahar every Sunday -- accommodating every worship style from liturgical to Black Gospel. He told us of a dream he has of bringing these various 'congregations' together in a joint prayer and fasting meeting one day a month. He spoke of chaplains providing a presence on the base as well as at the front, where soldiers want to talk to them before they go out on missions, and after they return from them.

Major Bergeron was first sent to Afghanistan in December '06 for several weeks. Now he will be returning in two weeks for another nine months.

Our pastors and people from the congregation gathered around him and his wife, laid hands on them and prayed for them. As I looked down from my seat in the balcony at him and his wife back in their seats, and saw her place an arm around his waist, and then saw how he took her hand, I thought of the months ahead for them.

Sending someone off to a place like Afghanistan, no matter how noble the cause, must be terrifying. It made me want to renew my prayers for the soldiers there and add to them the chaplains. They also go into harm's way, not to do direct fighting but to support our soldiers, bringing an eternal perspective to the men and women who represent our nation in its stand against repression and terrorism, and for freedom and democracy,

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