chaplains share testimonies, celebrate calling in June 14 session
--By Fletcher Allen
ATLANTA, June 15--Southern Baptist chaplains with diverse assignments
met June 14 to testify to their calling and share their experiences in a session at White
Oak Hills Baptist Church, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Lowell Sodeman, retired North American Mission Board chaplaincy staff
member, set the tone for the session in his opening prayer when he asked God to
"expand their horizons, color outside the lines, cease building small boxes to
contain theological concepts and build fires that will never be put out."
Five chaplains described their discovery of God's will for their lives
and their responses to his call.
Larry Connelly, director of pastoral care, Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta,
said he heard God's voice early in life, but didn't understand it. While a student at
Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tenn., he attended a conference at Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
"God continued speaking to me," Connelly said, "and I
enrolled at Southern Seminary," intending to go into social ministry. He said he was
impressed by a statement by professor Clyde Francisco. "He said that if you ever find
God's will for your life and your will for your life, and put them together, it will make
Connelly said the realization of that truth impacted him and he
experienced "the Great Aha."
Woodrow Hudson, supervisor of chaplaincy services, Georgia Department
of Corrections, Atlanta, said God spoke to him at a summer camp as he prayed for a friend
who had been called to preach.
As a pastor Hudson had good experiences with churches where he served,
but "the movement of God put a strange feeling in my heart," concluding God was
calling him into prison ministry. He gained the support of his family, resigned his church
and put a "for sale" sign in his yard that very day. Later in the afternoon, a
church member called him about a position in prison chaplaincy.
Hudson accepted the post, and "life has been fulfilling every
Don Biadog, chaplain, United States Navy, serving with U.S. Marines in
Okinawa, said he also accepted God's call to chaplaincy while serving as a pastor. Soon
after, he answered the call to active military duty and was accepted despite his height of
5 ft. 3 in.
"I remembered that Christ said he did not come to be served, but
to serve," Biadog said, "and I knew that I could do all things through Christ
who strengthens me."
Biadog said many young Marines won't be found in churches, but they can
be reached by chaplains on the bases and ships.
Brenda Green, chaplain, Northside Hospital, Atlanta, said she was
"loved into the Southern Baptist faith by friends and neighbors."
"I would not be here at all except for God's hand in my
life," she said. At age 16, Green said she felt God's call into full-time ministry.
Green enrolled in Southern Seminary, married and her husband was called
into the pastorate. She continued as wife and mother, and God was telling her, "Not
yet." She became interested in clinical pastoral care through a flyer given to her by
a friend. At age 34, she began "a sacred journey," serving people in all kinds
Finally, Green recalled, God said, "Yes, this is it."
Ralph Atkinson, chaplain, Allied Automotive Group, Atlanta, said his
call came early in life, but he chose a business career instead.
However, he said, "I learned that God has a very good calling
machine." While his business was successful and sales were good, "God did not
let me go. He kept calling and leaving messages. And finally at Ridgecrest one summer, I
Though his wife didn't know of his decision, Atkinson recalled when she
looked at him, she said, "You've said yes to God, haven't you?"
Citing the benefit of his business background, he said, "As a
business-related chaplain, I see my opportunities as a series of spiritual stepping stones
on holy ground."
Jack Marcom of NAMB's Chaplains Commission, reminded the chaplains,
"If you don't have a passion for life, you have nothing. The passion becomes a vision
and results in a call from God. If you haven't been called, get out. If you have been
called, never get out. God never calls by group processes or election. He does it when you
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