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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. ...

Chaplaincy: Beyond the Call of Duty

By Scott Harrup
June 25, 2014

Having traveled as a bilingual evangelist across the United States to serve both English- and Spanish-speaking churches, Angel Berrios is comfortable if his name is pronounced An-hel or An-gel. To the soldiers he has served at Fort Hood, Texas, in Iraq, and now at Fort Meade in Maryland, he is simply Chaplain Berrios.

Berrios’ journey into military service came relatively late in life. He ministered 23 years as an evangelist, and visited 45 nations besides his travels through 47 states. In 2009, with the U.S. involved in two wars, age restrictions were less stringent when Berrios took his oath of service at 44 years old.

Five years into his military ministry, Berrios is grateful the Army honored his request to be close to his elderly parents when he accepted his current assignment. He’s a graduate of nearby Meade High School. Since 1979, the Berrios family has attended Bethel Assembly of God in Savage a few miles drive northeast of Fort Meade on the Patuxent Freeway.

“Bethel Assembly has been our home church, and the place where our family grew in our faith,” Berrios says.

The church entered their lives during a season of crisis. Berrios’ parents have been married 53 years, but in 1978 they were separated and on the verge of divorce.

“Two Baptist ladies knocked on the door and invited Mom to church,” Berrios remembers. “She got saved and then found out about Bethel Assembly. Soon, Dad gave his heart to Christ at Bethel, and then my two brothers and I. I was 14.”

After graduating from Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo., in 1986, Berrios was credentialed with the Potomac District of the Assemblies of God and served as Bethel’s youth pastor for a year before commencing his decades as an evangelist.

“I speak Spanish fluently, so I was able to do missionary evangelism work,” Berrios says. “I traveled through Central and South America and the Caribbean, and ministered in Spain several times and in other countries in Europe.”

Berrios’ heart for youth carried over from his year at Bethel Assembly into the evangelistic field, where he often spoke at youth retreats, camps and rallies.

“It was very fulfilling, and laid a foundation for my service to young soldiers,” he says.

Iraq represented a year of both intense stress and intensive outreach. Berrios ministered to soldiers at his own Forward Operating Base and at least twice a month joined a convoy to a smaller FOB an hour’s drive away.

“Our convoys were always at risk of attack, particularly through IEDs [improvised explosive devices],” Berrios says. “Within our own FOB, we were under missile attack more than 25 times that year. At any time of the day or night, the alarm could go off and we would have to evacuate our housing and go to the bunkers.”

Near the end of his deployment, two soldiers died in Berrios’ unit.

“The unit we had replaced had suffered no losses,” he says, “and we went nine months without a loss. When we lost two soldiers in two months, it was a shock.”

Berrios poured himself into crisis ministry, offering comfort and counseling to the deceased soldiers’ many friends. Near the end of his year in Iraq, the command team recognized Berrios’ ministry as “beyond the call of duty” and awarded him the Bronze Star.

Besides his move to Fort Meade, Berrios is transitioning into another life change. He wed Carmen Alvarez on May 17.

“Getting married at 49 is God’s will for me no doubt,” Berrios says. “He used me in my singleness to further my education, to travel the world, and to be in the Army deployed in Iraq for a year without having a wife who would have been concerned for my safety.”

SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.


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