June 23, 1999

Chaplains say responding
to God's call leads to fulfillment

___By Fletcher Allen
___Baptist Press
___ATLANTA--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 in 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."
___Chaplains described their discovery of God's will for their lives and their responses.
___Larry Connelly, director of pastoral care at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, said he heard God's voice early in life, but didn't understand it. While a student at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., he attended a conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 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 a difference."
___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, 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 at the churches 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 ever since."
___Don Biadog, a chaplain in the 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 feet 3 inches.
___"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 at Northside Hospital in 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 of situations.
___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 answered him."
___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 are alone."

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