The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Back to Iraq

ELCA military chaplain prepares to deploy

Germans say, "Aller Anfangen sind schwer " or "All beginnings are difficult."

Physicists say it requires five times the energy to break inertia as it takes to sustain momentum.

The Army says it's time to send Chaplain Lembke (me) back to Iraq for another tour of duty. 

How do I feel about that? Well, it is a beginning of sorts. And it can be difficult. There's much to do to prepare, and leaving one's home and country is never easy. But in a way my journey began Christmas Day 1990 when our unit left Aschaffenburg, Germany, to serve in Operation Desert Shield. We participated in Desert Storm in January and February 1991. In 1998 and 1999, with the Third Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., we readied ourselves, vehicles and equipment for another deployment to Iraq ... but in the end, didn't go. Then from February 2004 to February 2005, I served as the 1st Infantry Division chaplain in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This deployment is the latest chapter in my life—one I look forward to sharing with you in a monthly blog (perhaps more frequently as I find time) on The Lutheran's Web site at www.thelutheran.org/blog/chaplain.

As I prepare to depart in the next month or so, I have many emotions. But these days, it's not so much feelings but the eight Fs of resiliency I'm considering: Faith, Family, Friends, Forgiveness, Focus, Future, Fun and Flexibility. Each word is full of reality, hope and love. I'm also acutely aware of my roots, what I believe and how it affects my life. There's a clarity that comes with a deployment mission—a depth of purpose and focus from participating in something greater than self. 

I love serving God and country. There's joy in sharing in the lives of soldiers and their families. These are times of great stress and strain for the Army, and the presence of military chaplains to offer the word and sacraments, pastoral care and counseling is essential.

"Pursue wisdom. Listen in love and remember. Faith is portable and duty is deep"—I encourage chaplains I work with to frame their actions and ministry with these phrases. I'm bearing these things in mind myself. I'm remembering that wisdom is a product of the thoughtful combination of knowledge and understanding. I'm remembering that I best convince others by listening and listening and listening some more. And I will remember that my faith doesn't depend on my location and that I must do my duty despite difficult circumstances, separation and hardship.

I look forward to regularly sharing thoughts with you. Thanks for praying for our soldiers.

This week's front page features:

cover1Social media & faith: (right) A wedding and a funeral merge on Facebook.

First step: Just show up.

When does the mission trip end? It doesn't.

Now what? Giving a share of that first paycheck.

Also:  Grappling with technology.

Also:  Faith stories worth telling.

Also:  Take another look into Scripture.
Tell us: Bible verses that made a difference

What Bible verse made a difference in your life and why?

Please explain in 250 words or less. Include your name; the Scripture (book, chapter and verse); your congregation (provide town and state); and your e-mail address or phone number.

Send to: The Lutheran magazine, attn: Elizabeth Hunter, 8765 W. Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631; e-mail: elizabeth.hunter@thelutheran.org.

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