Edwards, you should be a chaplain!
"Edwards, you should be a chaplain!" It was a divine, life-altering moment on a rather ordinary summer day in 2011. Scott Edwards, traveling for work, left early for the airport, made his way through the TSA checkpoint, and waited for departure. Aside from his travel routine, however, Scott's day was not ordinary, and it would alter his family’s journey for the foreseeable future. The following years were filled with hours of prayer, long nights spent studying, and a family life turned more or less upside down. On his flight, Scott recalls, “I pulled out the book I brought with me to pass the time and began reading an account of a recent battle in Afghanistan. The author mentioned that he prayed with his men before the battle, and suddenly and literally I heard the Lord say, 'Edwards, you should be a chaplain!’"
The desire to be in the military was not new for Scott. "Looking back, I can see that God had been at work virtually my entire life when He called me to become an Army chaplain. I had always wanted to be a soldier. I participated in the U.S. Army Junior ROTC program at Meridian High School for three years and excelled at it; [it was] confirmation, I believed, that the military was my professional calling." God's plan and timing, however, was very different than what Scott had anticipated. "I did not enlist in the Army following high school. I went to MSU, earned degrees, started a family, and followed God’s calling to be a wildlife biologist." The Lord would methodically use each day and event marking the last 15 years of Scott's life to change his perspective and align it with God's. "My heart’s desire was always to [be] a soldier. Originally, I wanted to… fight; now, God wanted me to become a soldier to tell other soldiers about Him and to teach them what it means to have abundant life (John 10:10b)." The decision to apply would come nearly a year after that summer flight. Scott and Lydia, his wife of eleven years, sought God for wisdom through prayer for almost a year. Let's stop and think about that before moving on. The patience to spend nearly a year praying about a life step is inspiring and challenging because we tend to be so fast-paced and immediate in our responses and decisions that—to our detriment—we lose sight of the importance of stopping and seeking the Lord for wisdom.
For Scott to become a chaplain was no small undertaking, and his journey was marked by one hurdle after another. However, Scott had a clear plan to accomplish his goal. First, he had to go back to school and earn a Master of Divinity degree. It should be noted that Scott and Lydia have three boys, ages eight, five and two, all full of enough energy to zap any mom and dad living out a normal work-life routine, but then you add three years spending nights and weekends studying for a Masters of Divinity. "Lydia has always been my greatest supporter and helpmate – through applications, seminary, chaplain school, and many trainings. She gets a major award for running the family for three years while I worked at nights and on weekends to finish school." Scott graduated with an M. Div. in Chaplaincy from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in September 2016.
He goes on to explain that, "secondly, I had to become an ordained minister, and FBC Starkville ordained me to the gospel ministry in February 2016. Third, I had to be endorsed by an ecclesiastical body in our denomination, and I have been endorsed for chaplain ministry by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Lastly, chaplains must complete a 13-week Basic Officer Leader Course at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and I graduated in December 2016. There have been many challenges along the way, as it literally took three years for me to become a chaplain after I submitted my first application. [Additionally], joining the Army at 37 years old is much harder than at 18! I had to get an age waiver and a medical waiver (thanks, doc!), have numerous reference letters, and even a supporting letter from Congressman Gregg Harper!"
Scott explains, "As an Army chaplain, my job is to be a visible reminder of the Holy to soldiers. Chaplains are the guardians of a soldier’s First Amendment right to religious freedom, and we do it in ways that bring soldiers to God and God to soldiers. The majority of my time is spent in the ministry of presence as I circulate among soldiers while they train, getting to know them, and bringing them encouragement. This relationship-building is essential because soldiers must know and trust me before they are comfortable sharing their problems with me. Thus, about 80% of my time is spent counseling soldiers in various fashions. I also hold worship services during trainings where we sing, and I preach the Word. Soldiers in training rarely can attend a church service, so our worship services are often held standing in front of a Humvee, in a field tent, or a barracks dining hall."
We are fortunate to have Scott and his family as part of our FBC family, and we are thankful when we are able to partner with him in his mission. "This summer, our unit spent 28 days at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. This is a grueling, desert environment that pushed us to our limits in a warfighting simulation. I knew that our soldiers would be stressed, tired, and challenged, and my job, as their chaplain, is to help boost morale and keep them resilient through the training. I wrote 28 devotional thoughts that related to military life and our training so that they could read an encouraging, spiritual truth every day. FBC graciously partnered with me, and we produced 450 copies of this pocket-sized Words of the Day booklet. We even printed it with a waterproof cover to give it added protection for the field environment. This was a huge blessing because it placed truth from God’s Word directly into the hands of many searching souls, and numerous soldiers told me that it was very uplifting to read these daily devotions. I could not have made such a ministry impact without the help of FBC Starkville."
Our partnership isn't limited just to these devotional guides. The men and women with whom Scott serves need daily prayer. He asked that we specifically be praying for wisdom as he counsels soldiers, strength to remain positive in challenging situations, courage to face his own fears, grace to always speak kindly to everyone, and opportunities to share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone who will listen. He also asked that for all soldiers, please pray for safety, faithfulness in marriages, and for the ability to cope with the trauma, grief, and loss that comes with their jobs. He also asked us to pray that suicidal thoughts never enter their minds, and that they would be drawn to the love, hope, and forgiveness found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And always, always pray for peace. He concluded our interview with this reminder, "When should you pray these things? Every time you see an American flag waving in the wind!"
Scott Edwards is a United States Army Chaplain (First Lieutenant) in the Mississippi Army National Guard. He serves as the battalion chaplain for the 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment that is headquartered in Starkville.