The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


He still leads me

A Navy chaplain's sermon changed my life forever. I remember the day--Aug. 16, 1959. I was 16, and Chaplain Marshall E. Brenneman spoke to the senior boys at Camp Nawakwa, a Lutheran institution on a Pennsylvania mountaintop. He was filled with fire and conviction about "the call to ministry."

His words warmed my heart, and after that vespers service I committed my life to Jesus Christ. I also began to follow Chaplain Brenneman's advice: "Love God, love people, love hard work, love the Bible."

I was ordained Oct. 14, 1973. At times it's been rough. But then I remember Chaplain Brenneman, "Brennie" as we called him. And I remember saying "yes" to God's call that night. I also think of Chaplain Brenneman's wife and sons. Brennie gave his life saving others. On Jan. 23, 1961, he was killed trying to save men caught in a fire on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Saratoga. That summer our Nawakwa yearbook editor wrote: " The depth of (Brennie's) faith and the vigor of his spirit symbolized the Christian way of life to many young people."

Chaplain Brenneman continues to be the light of Christ leading me home.


Pastor Mel Swoyer

Pastor Mel Swoyer

Posted at 6:53 am (U.S. Eastern) 9/17/2007

At age 65, God still leads me today and Chaplain Marshall Brenneman's guiding light still enables my ministry. I serve as the director of spiritual care for Lutheran Social Services in Austin, Texas. Isaiah 6:1-8 is still my call to ministry.

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