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Diverse SBC chaplains share testimonies, celebrate calling

ATLANTA (BP)–Southern Baptist chaplains with diverse assignments met to testify to their calling and share their experiences June 14 at White Oak Hills Baptist Church, 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.”
Five chaplains described their discovery of God’s will for their lives and their responses to his call.
Larry Connelly, director of pastoral care at Atlanta’s Piedmont Hospital, 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, 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 with the Georgia Department of Corrections in Atlanta, 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 had good experiences with churches where 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 every since.”
Don Biadog, a Navy chaplain serving with 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, a chaplain at Atlanta’s Northside Hospital, 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, a chaplain with Allied Automotive Group in 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 (N.C. Conference Center) 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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  • Fletcher Allen