The following is an excerpt from “Do Not Grow Weary in Prayer and Fasting,” written faithfully each week for nearly 10 years by Jerry Hale, Spiritual Emphasis Committee Chair for the Growing and Building Campaign.
My friend Bob Snyder is a former ER doctor who runs a ministry called International Health Services. Bob travels the world teaching Christian medical professionals how to share Christ’s love at the time of need, patient by patient.
One technique he uses to encourage healthcare workers to be salt and light in the workplace is called “planting a faith flag.” A faith flag is a brief statement in the course of natural conversation that identifies you as someone for whom a relationship with God, prayer, or the Bible is important. This gives the other person insight into who you are or what you believe.
These days, it is very easy for me to plant a faith flag. All I have to do is respond to the common question of, “What do you do?” When I say I am the Chaplain at VFMAC, they either run away or ask me a spiritual question. Spending time with Bob lately got me to thinking about how I may have used the faith flag approach unknowingly during Coast Guard days.
I started thinking about my first assignment after our tour at USCGA back in the 1970s where we had been immersed in ministry and discipled on the run by the Waldrop’s and other OCF stalwarts of that era. We were living in Cleveland with a young family and eager to minister both in the workplace and the local church. I guess the blue Coastguardsman Bible I kept on my desk served as a faith flag. On one particular day I picked up the Bible and headed out the door leading to the main corridor of our office area to meet a fellow officer for our weekly Bible study. At the same time, 65-year-old Walter Jurand was coming in the door. He saw my Bible and said, “You have a Bible!” I replied, “Yes, I am on my way to a Bible study. Would you like to come?” Amazingly, he said yes and followed me to the room where the other officer 10 years my senior awaited to begin the study.
Walter told us that he had just learned that his job as our industrial engineer had been eliminated and he was going to have to retire. At the time there was a recession in Cleveland and he was worried about selling his house. He also told us the he had served in the Polish Army during WWII. He had been captured by the Germans and had been severely treated. He said his Catholic faith got him through the hardships of the prison camp.
However, in later years he had stopped going to church, because he said the things he had been taught growing up in the church had been changed and were no longer true. My colleague and I shared Christ with him for an hour. When we finished, I asked Walter if I could pray for him. According to my journal, “When I finished, he was beaming and hugged and kissed me. Later we talked and he said he never realized that there were people like us with such faith in God.” Later, we met again and I prayed for his house to sell. It sold almost immediately and he told our admiral the story and said that I had sold his house. Walter and his wife moved to Florida and we kept in contact for several years. I have since lost track of him, but I assume he is either with the Lord or 99 years old.
I tell this story as an encouragement to all of us, because it is a reminder that we can’t convince anyone to come to faith. It is all about God working in an individual’s life. My journal said that I had prayed on that morning that God would send someone to my office that I could help in a personal way. I certainly wasn’t expecting a man twice my age who needed his faith rekindled on that very day. This story is an encouragement to me, because whether we are sharing our faith experience or working to raise funds for our Capital Campaign, it is all about God working in the situation. We are just there to tell our story.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
I need to remind myself that it is always all about God, because it is easy to get caught up in organizing programs as Chaplain that may or may not come to fruition.