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2009 Conversations

2008 Conversations

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

2005 Conversations

Benji creator Joe Camp: Moral movies, personal cost (12/26/04)

Gloria Gaither: A Gaither family Christmas(12/19/04)

Allyson Feliz: Olympic medalist  shares passion for following Christ (12/12/04)

Dan Dean: Walking by faith (11/28/04)

J. Don George: Every church can touch the poor (11/21/04)

Brock Gill: Jesus is no illusion (11/14/04)

Ted Dekker: Good, evil and the battle for souls (10/31/04)

Bob Kilpatrick: CCM: Growing and changing (10/17/04)

Eugene H. Peterson: Man with a message (10/10/04)

Caz McCaslin: Fixing kids sports (9/26/04)

Jerry B. Jenkins: A novel approach to evangelism (9/19/04)

Natalie Grant: Living the dream (9/12/04)

Sharon Ellard: A life-changing education (8/29/04)

Steven Curtis Chapman: All things new (8/22/04)

Jim Ryun: Running to Jesus (8/15/04)

George Barna: Today’s church: By the numbers (8/8/04)

Randy Singer: Made to count (7/25/04)

Holly McClure: Morality and the media (7/18/04)

Don Miller and Richard Flory:Taking the Church to today's culture (7/11/04)

Cecil Richardson: Pastoring the Air Force’s 'Pastors' (6/27/04)

Barry Meguiar: Driven by faith (6/20/04)

Thomas E. Trask: Concerned for America (6/13/04)

Dr. David Yonggi Cho: The work of the Holy Spirit (5/30/04)

Tom Greene: High school: A great mission field (5/16/04)

Jennifer Rothschild: Walk by faith, not by sight (5/9/04)

Chaplain Alex Taylor: Forgiveness and restoration (4/25/04)

Joshua Harris: Not even a hint (4/18/04)

Nicky Cruz: Changing America (4/11/04)

Jason Schmidt: Lessons learned on life’s field (3/28/04)

Scott Temple: One church, many colors (3/21/04)

Michael W. Smith: Called to worship (3/14/04)

Representative Jo Ann Davis: Christians in politics (2/29/04)

Darlene Zschech: Sing, shout … just shout the praise the Lord (2/22/04)

Surgeon James W Long: For your heart’s sake, get fit (2/15/04)

Jerry R. Kirk: Battling pornography (2/8/04)

Dr Michael Ferris: A choice to heal (1/18/04)

Chaplain Al Worthley: Outside the four walls of the church (1/11/04)

2003 Conversations

2002 Conversations

2001 Conversations

Pastoring the Air Force’s 'Pastors'

Cecil Richardson, deputy chief of chaplains for the United States Air Force, is one of two general officers in the Air Force who serve as chaplains. Brigadier General Richardson provides military chaplains to USAF military units around the world. A graduate of Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., Richardson has been an endorsed Assemblies of God chaplain for 26 years. He is stationed at Bolling Air Force Base, the support base for the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C. Richardson recently spoke with staff writer Isaac Olivarez.

PE: What are some of your responsibilities, opportunities and challenges?

RICHARDSON: Most of my work in overseeing the Air Force’s chaplains focuses on needs that exist within the Air Force and trying to match our ministries to those needs. I oversee funding, our relationship with the Pentagon and how we fit into the military structure, and I make personnel moves. I also ensure we’re making maximum impact into the Department of Defense and into the Air Force in particular, and that we’re providing for the free exercise of religion. Most important, I oversee the quality of our worship services and religious ministries, what we offer to military men and women through our chapels and outreach programs.

PE: What is your vision for military chaplaincy?

RICHARDSON: I want to stay focused on our distinctives. Two primary things distinguish us from civilian ministry. We’re deployable — that is, we can be sent anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice — and we’re trained to survive in a combat environment. I constantly look at training to make sure Air Force chaplains are not a liability to the commanders but an asset. One of my top priorities is to get chaplains into areas where soldiers are in harm’s way so they have access to a chaplain. I want to ensure our young men and women have somebody who will pray for them and be their pastor as they serve their country in dangerous and hostile places.

PE: Has there been a spiritual awakening among soldiers due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

RICHARDSON: No one ever asks, “Why do we have chaplains in Iraq and Afghanistan?” Our uniformed personnel welcome every opportunity to talk with a chaplain. Young people today have lots of questions to ask, and they’re just as spiritually hungry as any generation ever. I’ve been to the Persian Gulf region at least 40 or 50 times, and every time I go I run out of Bibles to hand out. I’ve never left that area without wishing I could have stayed longer and spent more time with our troops. And I never cease to be amazed at the quality of our young people. Their commitment and dedication to our country will literally bring tears to your eyes.

When they’re out there in the desert they have plenty of time to think about what’s important in life. They say, “My family is important, my wife is important, my husband is important, my children are important.” They also say, “My relationship with God is important.” If they’ve not been going to church, they consider whether their life’s priorities are right. Throw a fear factor into that picture, add to it the fact that they’re seeing people who are hurt and dying, and you can easily understand why our military people experience a sense of urgency to find God. They know firsthand the importance of having a firm spiritual foundation to stand on when the storms of life arise.

PE: What are some spiritual benefits of being in your position?

RICHARDSON: Even though I outrank people and they stand when I walk in, they still warmly receive me as their pastor. Additionally, I have access to many of America’s senior leadership. I was recently in the Pentagon and I noticed a name on the hallway; it was a very senior person I had known from a few years ago. If I were a lieutenant colonel or colonel, I never would have walked into the office. But I knew that person and walked in. The person said, “Chaplain, I can’t believe you’re here. Can I talk to you?” He pulled me into his office to discuss a current problem he was going through. We prayed together. It was a pastoral moment God set me up for.

PE: Was there ever a time in your career when you doubted your faith?

RICHARDSON: No. I’ve never doubted Jesus. I have seen answered prayer and I believe the greatest faith builder is answered prayer. I was a young two-striper airman when I first heard the gospel and walked the aisle of an Assemblies of God church. God changed my life at that altar. I’ll never forget that. I’ll never stop telling people what Jesus can do.

PE: What is your view of the spiritual status of the United States?

RICHARDSON: There are some who say America has turned from its spiritual heritage, but I don’t see that. I speak at prayer breakfasts at base communities — whether it’s Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines — where soldiers get together once a year to do a mirror operation of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The prayer breakfasts are packed out. I thank our people for who they are and what they do. I also thank them for wearing the uniform and standing up for their country. I tell them about God, and I tell them God answers prayer. Then we pray together. That encourages me. Yes, America is spiritually challenged right now, there’s no doubt about that. But there are still millions of sincere, committed believers who are bringing the needs of our nation to the Lord every day. That can’t be overlooked.

PE: During your career have you seen God’s hand of protection?

RICHARDSON: There were times when I had to speak up for what was right and I realized I was putting my career on the line. Yet God watched out for me. I saw the protecting hand of God when I was at the scene of the American Embassy terrorist bombing in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1999 and there was carnage all about me. Death everywhere. Bodies, blood, grieving families, panicked people. In the midst of it was some of the most wonderful ministry I’ve ever experienced. Just by walking into the bombed-out building wearing a cross on my uniform, people came to me and asked me to show them something in the Bible or to pray with them. The presence of a minister made all the difference because those people were literally grappling with faith issues and the meaning of life. God only knows how many people have been affected for the Kingdom by the presence of a chaplain or by a word fitly spoken by a chaplain.

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