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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Jerry Durham

Guarding the Coasts

Assemblies of God Chaplain Lt. Jerry Durham is one of only 41 Navy chaplains serving with the U.S. Coast Guard. Durham, who earlier served in the Marine Corps, has been a Navy chaplain for eight years, following graduation from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. The Navy deployed Durham to the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea before assigning him three years ago to the Coast Guard base at Clearwater, Fla. Durham and his wife, Kim, have four children, ages 13 to 8. Durham, 42, recently spoke with Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.

evangel: Why did you become a chaplain?
It’s a place where I could tie together the love for the military and a love for God’s calling into ministry. I love to care for people. Every day is something different in crisis intervention.

evangel: What special stresses do Coast Guardsmen have?
They are constantly doing counter narcotics, migrant interdiction, vessel inspections, port security, and search and rescue. They have a huge responsibility, but little manpower. There is no down cycle for these guys.

evangel: Subsequently, they don’t always take care of themselves.
They basically are care providers who aren’t necessarily good about self-care.

evangel: What do you do to try to help?
I help them remember they are human beings, created in God’s image. I remind them they don’t have to solve every crisis in the world right then. They don’t have to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders. On occasion, I have opportunities to share Christ with people, then watch them grow in their faith.

evangel: You have a large territory yourself.
I do, but it’s only 500 square miles along Florida and the Caribbean. I’m on the road a lot, covering 2,800 people. But it’s small compared to other chaplains. Some have to cover seven states. There are 40,000 Coast Guardsmen for all U.S. coastlines and islands.

evangel: Guardsmen have to deal with a great deal of trauma sometimes.
Our guys deal with traumatic rescue events, and compassion fatigue from constantly being out there on the mission. Some are very good at compartmentalizing that, but the stress sometimes can bubble over.

evangel: Who helps you deal with stress?
I’ve got a great support structure through my supervisor, who is Assemblies of God Chaplain (Cmdr.) Cartus Thornton in Miami. We talk things through and pray together. I meet with a pastor at my local church. I have a great group of mentors that I can call at any time. I have a group of close friends who are chaplains. We keep each other accountable.

evangel: How do you live out your faith?
Just like with any other Christian, it’s important to maintain a quality relationship with God and be faithful to my calling. At the end of the day, I have to ask, “God, are You still the Source of my strength?” If not, how do I get back to Him? My wife is my barometer and is a great source of feedback and strength.


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