Forever Changed #5: Freedom of Religion

This week’s edition is not hard to write. Yet I am finding it difficult to determine what to include and what to leave out.

I’ll start with the bad news. Then it’s all uphill. The Ransomed Heart Team I was trying to bring in country was declined by DIRMOBFOR and the DCACC, for those who know what those offices are. For those that don’t, I can just say that they are Colonel and General Officer positions. Apparently, there is a policy about who can come into theater and who cannot because of the limited airlift necessary to support such persons. This was not seen as mission essential. Now I have taken myself out of the loop entirely on the project as the Ransomed Heart Team investigates other possibilities for the ministry.

I am not worried about this set back, however. Ransomed Heart has been so very gracious and has sent me many materials including a DVD study set and books free of charge. I am going to start a DVD study of Wild at Heart in two weeks. I hope to get a group of 10-12 guys who want to go through the Wild at Heart Field Manual and work our way through the Band of Brothers DVD set. I really owe my life to this ministry, as the way they have presented the gospel has really rescued me from the spiritual battlefield of life, enabled me to get my heart back, find my place in the spiritual battle, and taught me how to fight our enemy Satan. If you want more info on their ministry go to www.ransomedheart.com.

I am happy to say that this base is one of the nicest bases I have ever deployed into. Many of you ask what do I need, and there is very little I personally need. We have Pizza Hut, Burger King, and there are plenty of MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) programs including a pool, theater (where Star Wars was shown this week), and of course the nonstop visits by Polynesian dancers, Hollywood actors, and bands. We are thankful that such people give up their time and come here just to let us know that they support the work being done here. I just wish I had more time to take advantage of such opportunities. It seems that most of the people who take advantage of these places are the troops to which this is an R&R stop before they go forward back into the urban sprawls where combat action is a regular occurrence.

Not that we don’t have our share. We are the only combat wing in all of Iraq. And the insurgents remind us regularly that this is not a place to come for Spring Break or summer vacation. Although, I have heard there are vacation packages for sale into combat zones. They are called extreme vacations. That’s right, people will pay to come here. Yet another definition of looney.

Chuck SeligmanThis past week I got my first opportunity to go outside the wire to a small village just outside the base. We took a whole convoy of gun trucks and one 5 ton truck loaded with toys, shoes, school supplies, and other necessities of life. The experience was unforgettable as all humanitarian missions are. The village sheik was out of town, but I got to meet his brother, who asked me what I did. I guess he noticed I was the only one not carrying a weapon, and I was telling everyone what they needed to be doing. I called a translator over after my own unsuccessful attempt to communicate. I asked the translator to tell the man what I do for the Air Force. The translator looked at me for a second, himself trying to figure out what I do. This is common as most people wonder what we do besides preach for an hour on Sunday. I told him what to say, and he would laugh at me because what I was telling him the Sheik’s brother would not understand. He wouldn’t understand because the Iraqi people have never had a point of reference for someone serving in the military in order to protect their Constitutional freedom to worship however they wished. In fact freedom of religion is something he had never heard of nor considered. In the end it came down to me being a Christian religion teacher for the military members and an adviser to the commander on religious matters, no matter what the faith belief. How blessed we are to have such freedoms that we do. I pray that one day that man will come to fully understand what it means to practice whatever faith he wants without fear of retribution or intimidation.

I also have been very blessed spiritually in my own life. One of my goals for placing myself in this environment was that God would meet me here in the toughest of situations. Meet me he has. This week God revealed his love in ways that have been very personal and deep. I have continued the assault on our spiritual enemy this week just as he has brought the fight to me in so many ways. But this week that enemy has lost ground in my life. I have always heard that there is a place in my heart that only God can fill, and this week I learned that there is a place in God’s heart that only I can fill. He desires intimacy with me that much, because without it, he has an empty place in his own heart. Romance between a person and his God is vital. G.K. Chesterton has said that romance is deeper than even reality. Song of Songs 2:14 says, “Show me your face, let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” To think I would say for the first time in my life that the voice and face referred to could be mine in the heart of God.

Our worship service yesterday was so difficult. Everything went wrong as we were setting up. I looked at the Praise Team and said that the enemy really doesn’t want us to have this service today. Come to find out that the service went off really great. We had one person accept Christ, and we are now planning a baptismal service. AWESOME!!! None of this would be possible without you, however. A forward combat unit is never successful without the support they receive from their units in the rear who send supplies and air coverage when needed. You are our rear support. Thank you for being there, we need you, and cannot achieve success without you.

Let me give you an opportunity now. I am the chaplain for the fighter guys and the guntruckers (convoy personnel). If you would like a flag flown on a mission and certified as such, I can also get my gun truckers to carry the flag with them and certify that flag as having been on a combat convoy and send it back to you. You will get your flag back along with a certificate that tells you where it went and a little information about the mission. Just send your flag to me and tell me what you want done with it. The sooner the better, because there are many requests, and they can only take so many per sortie.

ABPnews will publish one entry a week from the journal then-Capt. Charles Seligman kept while deployed to Iraq as an Air Force chaplain in 2005. Now a major, Seligman currently serves as the deputy wing chaplain for the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is endorsed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

You can read more of his story published September 11, 2013. You can also read older journal entries from Maj. Seligman

Chuck Seligman

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