By Sue Sprang

SYNOD – The following letter was recently received from Pastor Chris Laughlin – also known as Chaplain or Major Christopher Laughlin. A member of the U.S. Army Reserves, Laughlin is currently serving at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and will complete his one-year tour of duty this spring.  He previously served Grace Lutheran Church, Vasser.

Chaplain Laughlin and his wife, Pastor Rachel Laughlin. She serves Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Portage.

Preface:My opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the 3rd Chemical Brigade, the Chaplain Corps, or the United States Army.” – C. Laughlin

“Dear Colleagues of the North/West Lower Peninsula,

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Whether I’m running obstacle courses or the Army Physical Fitness tests, enduring the gas chamber or the 16k ruck march, rappelling down the tower or teaching class, leading the liturgical worship service or baptizing Soldiers, praying at ceremonies or volunteering in the community, fulfilling a task or completing staff officer paperwork, countless hours of counseling of all sorts and helping Soldiers bear the burdens of training or their life before or outside of the military, it is my joy to offer comfort to and share joy with the young men and women who answer God’s call to the vocation of arms. This ministry is thrilling, rewarding, demanding, frustrating, and exhausting – and your prayer and cookie support is pivotal.

“Nothing reminds me of how old I am (in Army terms) like trying to keep up with 17 year olds going up a hill with 50 pounds of gear on our backs (they recover in 24 hours – I recover in 72 hours). Nothing reminds me of what a privileged life I have had like hearing my Soldier’s stories of the lives they left behind them, and how the Army is providing them the opportunity to improve their place (and, in some cases, their family’s place) in the world. Few things are more humbling than the incredible trust Soldiers of all ranks and from all over the installation place in me because they see the cross on my uniform.

“In the midst of my ministry here, and with ½ of the mission behind me, I can feel your prayers. My Soldiers love the Prayer Book for the Armed Services. We’ve helped Presbyterians to see Lutherans in a positive light, brought comfort to the Episcopal Soldier who literally brought his Book of Common Prayer with him to the liturgical worship service every Sunday for 16 weeks, and we’ve even inspired a few young Soldiers to become Lutheran (their idea, not mine).

“Your cookies and notes have been an important part of my ministry. No, I’m not kidding. Trainees get a taste of home, a little comfort, and a few extra (much-needed) calories. Drill sergeants get an excuse to stop by my office without questions about why they need to see the chaplain. My officers and fellow battalion staff pop in to ask what varieties I have, and some have even promised to send their own thank-you notes.

“I look forward to returning to all of you (and Rachel) shortly after our next synod assembly (Rachel more than the rest of you J ); as incredible as my time here has been, I miss parish ministry and the collegiality of fellow Lutherans. I hope you enjoyed the 500th Anniversary.

You remain in my prayers, as I give thanks for you and for this ministry in which I participate on your behalf.

 “’And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.’” – Romans 5:3-5

Soli Deo Gloria,

Christopher Laughlin

Chaplain (Major)