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A Divine Deployment

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I just finished sharing my testimony of Jesus Christ in front of hundreds of emotionally drained, physically worn-out and mentally exhausted air force trainees in basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. The response to my testimony and the ensuing altar call was humbling. Close to a hundred trainees filled the aisles and the area in front of the altar to pray to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The harvest was fruitful.

Lackland Air Force Base is often referred to as the “gateway of the air force.” It is where every enlisted airman must go in order to become a member of the U.S. Air Force. Lackland is not only the beginning of my air force journey but also of my spiritual journey in Jesus Christ. Flying back into Lackland this past summer (as a second lieutenant and chaplain candidate), I reflected on the previous time I had flown into the base.

It was December 2003. I was a 20-year-old running away from a destructive lifestyle. Before entering the air force, I was an atheist and had no desire to read the Christian holy book. But after I took the oath of enlistment at the Cleveland military recruiting center, I received an invaluable gift. A man from the Gideon’s ministry gave me a small camouflaged Bible that consisted of the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. I had nothing else to read on the flight to basic military training, so I opened up my Bible. Soon I could not stop reading the Word of God!

I read it under the sheets at night. I read it at chapel. I read it whenever I was able. I soon found myself being changed and shaped by the Word of God. I became convicted of sin, repented and turned to Christ as my Savior. Soon, other young men in my element and flight noticed a change within me. “Hey, Kocak,” they asked, “what’s up with you? You’re always glowing and seem so joyful.” I very innocently told them, “I started reading the Word of God, and I believe in Jesus’ message. It’s changing me.”

My conversion experience at basic training was just the beginning of my spiritual growth in Christ. At each new military assignment, I grew deeper in my knowledge of Jesus; He no longer was just a Savior but also a Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. I attended chapel services and Bible studies whenever my training allowed. After I finished the clinical training for my previous career as a medic, I started to lead Bible studies and even had the opportunity to preach in chapel on occasion. I was blessed to have godly and wise men disciple me in the faith. They invested their time, prayers and energy so that I may abide in the Word of God and pursue a deeper journey with the Lord.

All of my growth and training up until that time was preparing me for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. During this time I faced death, dying and disease on a daily basis. I worked in a theater hospital north of Kabul as an X-ray technician. We were so busy and understaffed that for weeks I could not make it to chapel and missed many Bible studies. Despite this opposition, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God lifted me up daily on wings like eagles to help save lives. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I was able to live out the hope, compassion, healing, restoration and wholeness that are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of a chaotic, pain-filled, dark and uninviting environment.

After I returned from my deployment, I saw the great need for chaplains in the military and began the process of becoming an U.S. Air Force chaplain. Today I am completing my master of divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, Ky.) and am a chaplain candidate in the Air Force Reserves. Serving in the air force has taught me that the gospel of Jesus Christ can find fertile soil in the culture of the military, an organization whose employees, in their daily duties, face the consequences of our fallen world. When dealing with these sobering realities, they need people who are willing to stand in the gap and share the hope, redemption, salvation, light, peace, joy and new life that the gospel brings to those who believe. I want to share this with them. I want to be their chaplain.

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