Greetings! My name is LCDR James (Jason) Ragain, and I am a Converge-endorsed chaplain in the United States Navy. I want to give you a glimpse into the dynamic ministry that is taking place in the military. I hope this letter will encourage you to pray for our pastors in uniform, give you insight on how you might best minister to veterans and military families attending your churches, and perhaps inspire some of you to prayerfully consider military chaplaincy.
I can imagine many of you have had moments in your life in which God gave you divine clarity and confident faith regarding your role or future role in ministry. I want to share a moment that influenced me. My father was in the Navy, so in this transient military culture, we were stationed in several locations throughout the United States and world.
When I was 12, we lived in Parris Island, South Carolina, one of two Marine Corps recruit training commands. While Parris Island is not looked at very fondly by many Marines, for me, it was a young man’s paradise. The community that lived on base was amazing, and there were so many things my friends and I could do. One afternoon in late May 1992, a couple of my buddies and I went to one of the pools to cool off. While there, my friend Kevin died from a brain aneurism.
That night, the entire neighborhood gathered to grieve the loss of this 12-year-old boy. Also present were Navy chaplains (we serve the Marines as well). I don’t remember what they said, but I vividly remember their ministry of presence, which left an impression on me that still influences my ministry.
Another significant thing happened as a result of this tragedy. In the days after Kevin’s death, I began pursuing what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. Over the next couple of years, those same chaplains guided me in this journey as I moved toward a faith commitment to Jesus, which happened when I was a high school freshman.
Over the next few years, I grew immensely in my faith and as a leader. Even though I was interested in becoming a dentist, I couldn’t shake the passion in me to possibly minister to military personnel and their families as a Navy chaplain. With the help of wonderful mentors in my life to discern how God was leading me and developing me into a leader, I responded to the call to serve God and people as a pastor in uniform.
Today, I have the great privilege to serve sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families as a Navy chaplain just like those chaplains at Parris Island who ministered to me so many years ago did. I have been on active duty for nearly 12 years, and in that time I:
led worship services and Bible studies in chapels, on ships at sea and in the sands of Afghanistan;
ministered to young men and women in despair and shared with them the hope we have in Jesus Christ;
baptized new believers in the waters of Hawaii and the bucket of a bulldozer in the Middle East;
shepherded those grieving through difficult times in the aftermath of significant loss in their lives;
delivered evening prayers while underway at sea;
conducted numerous weddings and a few funerals;
intervened and sought help for service members having thoughts of suicide;
served our Chaplain Corps community as aide to the Chief of Chaplains;
furthered my education through both military and civilian training;
connected with clergy from all over the world;
and visited more than 40 countries.
This truly is a dynamic ministry!
I strongly believe the local church plays a significant role in this ministry through prayer and loving support. My first taste of this was when I notified the church where I served as associate pastor that God was calling me to serve him on active duty in the Navy.
While it was sad to leave, the church blessed my family immensely by commissioning me as a pastor and missionary to our men and women in uniform. I knew without a doubt that they were praying for us during this significant transition and would continue to pray for us for the duration of our ministry.
Throughout my career, my wife and I have made it a goal to join a local Converge church when possible to participate in the ministry of the gospel with them. We have been able to connect and minister to military families in the church and, in some cases, help service members looking for a church family find a church home.
I solicit your prayers for all chaplains as we continue to reach this generation, a largely unreached group, for the gospel. So many of these young people are at significant crossroads in their lives. They are hungry for truth. They are hungry for purpose. And, while they may not know it, they are hungry for Jesus.
I also know that some of you serve in areas near military installations. I would love to answer any questions you have about military life and how your church can practically support our service members and their families. I can be reached by email or at 847.445.8571.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about becoming a chaplain, please contact Carleton Birch, Converge chaplain endorser and Colonel, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Army (retired), by email or at 800.323.4215.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you for your prayers. May God continue to bless each of you in your ministry.