BRANDON, Fla. (BP)–While Army chaplain Mike Fox ministers to the men of the First Cavalry in Camp Taji, Iraq, his father and stepmother are praying for his wisdom in accomplishing what God has called him to do.
Dave and Liz Fox of Brandon, Fla., also pray for the family their son had to leave behind.
Mike left his home in Killeen, Texas, on Oct. 30, 2006, with his unit. His family unit, including his wife Jennifer and children, Reagan, 10, Eli, 5, and Kendra, 1, await his return, possibly in early 2008.
Mike and Jennifer, whom he met in the youth group at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon during high school, are in contact by webcam almost daily, but the children miss their father deeply, his stepmother said.
Mike was home on leave for a few days in June, and the family gathered at Disney World.
According to Liz, the Army recommends that soldiers with small children not go to the family home in order to avoid confusing the children. Dave and Liz visited in Orlando for one day and then let their son concentrate on his wife and children.
“I think that he now understands the guys [in his unit] better,” Liz said. “It was the hardest thing for him to leave this time.”
When still a teenager, Mike told the Bell Shoals Baptist congregation that God had called him to Christian service. He joined the Air Force and served as a chaplain’s assistant for 12 years, through deployments to Cuba, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He left the military briefly, worked in the financial planning business, and attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. As soon as he was eligible, he applied to become an Army chaplain.
“When he called me to tell me that he wanted to be a chaplain, I said, ‘Well you know there is a war on,'” Dave said. “He knew he would have to go to Iraq, and he went in with his eyes open.”
Dave served in the Army during Vietnam and retired 24 years ago as a lieutenant colonel. With a veteran’s perspective, he told the Florida Baptist Witness he advised his son “not to do anything stupid.”
“I told him to do his job no matter what the circumstances and do only what the mission calls for,” Dave said. “I know he is a soldier first, and sometimes he is in harm’s way.”
Although Dave and Liz know that Mike lives and works in a dangerous place, they pray “not out of fear, but out of thanksgiving,” Liz said.
“I know that he is in God’s hands, and I pray that he will be comforted in knowing that God is with him whatever he does,” she said.
Since Mike’s tenure in Iraq began, he has spent much of his time counseling young men and women dealing with marital and financial issues from a war zone.
“Mike has even asked us to pray that nobody would get ‘Dear John’ letters,” Dave said, referring to notices that a loved one has given up on the relationship.
Dave and Liz pray for their son to have the right words in counseling situations, and they pray for Mike’s family to be able to see the work he is doing as worthwhile. They also pray that “he’s not so busy for God that he forgets to be with God,” Liz said.
Linda Townsend heads up a ministry to the military and their families at Bell Shoals Baptist Church. She and the congregation are partners with Mike in a ministry to his unit called Bunker 182. The name comes from Psalm 18:2, which praises God as “my rock, and my fortress.”
In a sort of Christian USO, soldiers gather in camp for entertainment and food. Bell Shoals provides coffee, popcorn and other snacks for the ministry. The chaplain sends out a monthly list of needs, and the church provides whatever he requests. His request for coffee, however, was followed with a “please, no more,” when storage space ran out because of church members’ generosity.
The chaplain’s dedication to his ministry makes Dave and Liz extremely proud, Dave said.
“It just makes my heart feel so good,” Liz said.
Until Mike Fox returns home, Dave and Liz will continue to stay in contact with him through e-mail and instant messages, but “most of our contact is through prayer,” Liz said.
Carolyn Nichols is a newswriter for the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.