Sharing the gospel and our lives with the military community

A Unique Ministry

A Unique Ministry

Written by Deric and Rebecca Sneller

What makes our ministry unique?

There are two things that always stand out in my mind: hospitality and the chapel.

Authentic hospitality—moving beyond entertaining guests to sharing your life—can be difficult to find in American culture, and with each passing generation it seems to be declining. Since moving here we have been both stretched and blessed by hospitality. Being a hospitality house director certainly forced me to step up my game and grow the direction that I wanted to go anyhow. Theologically and practically there is much more that I desire to grasp about opening up our home and our lives, welcoming others in, and pointing them to Christ. To that end, I am dedicating the fall semester to an independent study on the theology of hospitality . . . 

As for now though, I will say that it takes intentionality to create space to be hospitable. In saying that I am not speaking solely of hosting, which is quite different. Rather, I am speaking to both the calendar and heart condition simultaneously. If one is going to share life with people, one needs to prioritize accordingly and be present, both of which can be challenging to do. Intentionally creating space for hospitality is our ministry heartbeat and where we have the greatest impact for the gospel.

Partnering with the Chapel (on Kadena Air Base) is the second uniqueness of what we do. There are some really solid churches on Okinawa and I have been blessed to get to know their pastors. That said, we are different from a church because we partner with the chapel. As a former chaplain, I can tell you that the tyranny of the urgent is alive and well in military ministry because at least in part the mission demands it. Military chaplains not only serve a congregation on Sunday, but also conduct counseling for their units and manage a mountain of staff officer administration work. We seek to support them and their ministry to the military community.

When we first arrived, we strived to change our schedules and events to better support their ministries. In time, Chapel staff recognized that The Harbor supports the Chapel by providing further Christian fellowship and teaching, and praise God it’s developed into a beautiful partnership. It’s an honor to have Chaplains confide in me and provide them with pastoral care, and sometimes it’s their wives who thank me first. Being a Chaplain is a high-stress, high-capacity role, so it helps when they have someone who can listen to, encourage, and support them.

So what? You may be wondering why I am telling you these things and why now. Well, it is PCS season (Permanent Change of Station . . .moving time). We will say goodbye to many dear friends and show hospitality to new ones. Besides this, it is a major turnover of all but one Chaplain. It is time to invest again and start over, in a sense, with new leadership. At the same time, we will be providing stability for the chapel and I will be preaching there more regularly as we await the replacement.

I invite you to pray for the transitions. Pray for the remaining staff who have way too much on their plates as they wait for incoming staff. Pray for all those arriving on island and the learning curves ahead. Pray for all those leaving to their next assignments. Pray for us as we seek to attend to all of them, and that we would prioritize and be present; that whether old or new, everyone we encounter would experience hospitality. We really do want to share the gospel and our lives with the military community. Thank you for being a part of it!

Image: Lightstock by Pearl

To learn more about Deric and Rebecca and their ministry, view their profile here.