“There is hardly a night I don’t still dream about flying,” says Lt. Col. Stuart (“Stu”) R. Boyd, a Foursquare chaplain for the Civil Air Patrol. A retired Air Force brigadier general, the 70-year-old father of two adult children with his wife, Marnie, recalls dreaming about flying as early as age 2. Stu’s dreams were to become reality in a storied career that included flying combat missions in Vietnam, serving as a test pilot, working for a decade on the F-16 program, and managing the logistics for all U.S. Air Force overseas programs.
The word “retired,” however, is hardly in Stu’s vocabulary. In addition to his duties as Civil Air Patrol chaplain coordinator, he serves as an assistant pastor at Crossroads Christian Fellowship (Ogden Foursquare Church) in Utah. In his chaplaincy role, he functions as wing chaplain for the Utah Civil Air Patrol, recruiting, training and supervising the activities of officers assigned as chaplains as well as the Character Development Instructors to the 13 Utah squadrons.
You may never have heard of the Civil Air Patrol, but you are familiar with their work—95 percent of all air search-and-rescue missions in the U.S. are flown by the Civil Air Patrol. The entity is an auxiliary of the Air Force, meaning members serve as volunteers but respond to Air Force tasking. They also train 12- to 18-year-old cadets in a program similar to the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), and work with middle and high school teachers, providing them with aviation-related curriculum.
“One of my passions has always been flying,” says Stu, who has logged 6,000 hours of flight time in fighter jets. “This seemed like an opportunity to share Christ and flying with a group of men and women. I believe relationship is at the heart of ministry. That is how Jesus did it. As a chaplain, I am focused on establishing and developing relationships with the folks I serve. Not surprisingly, the emotional connection through relationship will often mature into a spiritual relationship.”
Opportunities to develop relationships in Stu’s line of work are indeed plentiful. Whether it’s amid disaster relief efforts, where Stu is expected to maintain a cadre of ordained chaplains for support, or in situations dealing with extreme family stress or death, where he cooperates with local clergy and other emergency organizations, occasions in which to provide help and impact lives are abundant. From time to time, Stu even gets to fill in for active duty Air Force chaplains, due to the fact that they are stretched so thin by the war.
“Through establishing relationships with the members I associate with, I can often step into a situation before a crisis develops,” Stu tells Foursquare.org. “One of the best ways to do that is sitting beside them in the cockpit as we fly our missions. We learn to work as a crew to accomplish our missions, and our lives grow closer as we meet those challenges both in the air and spiritually.”
So how can we best pray for the people Stu meets? First, notes the chaplain, the need for Christ tops the prayer list. Second, he says, there is a lack of relationships in the lives of those he serves. Third, they lack a sustainable value system to live by. Last, he encourages men and women in local churches to become part of the Civil Air Patrol, as they can play an important role in our nation’s future.
And then, there’s a personal request. And it’s not a surprise that it has to do with his original childhood dream.
“I would like my health and professional skills to endure to allow me to continue to fly,” says Stu, “and to reach out to the crewmembers I fly with. Jesus saved my life and my marriage in 1974. Over the intervening years, our companionship and His kingdom grew in my life. This has been a way to share that with others.”
From fighting in the air to fighting on the ground, we turn to 56-year-old Jay Donnelly, a career firefighter for more than 30 years before he became senior pastor of New Life Christian Center (Jackson Foursquare Church) in Jackson, Calif., not far from his home in Pine Grove. Jay, the father of two adult children with his wife, Patty, also serves as chief chaplain of Cal Fire Employee’s Association Local 2881.
Having worked his way up the ranks from firefighter to chief chaplain, Jay understands the unique demands of this public service.
“The career can take a real toll on firefighters and their families,” he explains. “Early in my career, I almost lost my marriage because of how I was reacting to the demands. As Jesus got hold of my heart, I started sharing what I learned.
“There was much I learned in the years of healing,” Jay continues. “My wife, Patty, partnered in the ministry with me, began serving hurting fire service marriages, and the rest is history. Patty has been with me through the entire journey, and to this day is my debriefer and counsel when I get impacted by all that I encounter.”
Jay encounters a lot, to put it mildly. His duties are myriad and include crisis intervention, critical incident stress management, marriage ministry and family support, suicide prevention, pastoral care, and training and mentoring, to name just a few. And in the firefighter world, the adage “it takes one to know one” is especially applicable. To develop the trust needed to minister, it helps if a chaplain has walked in a firefighter’s shoes, or boots, literally.
“Firefighters as a culture are very different, and the personality profile of a firefighter is very different,” Jay explains, noting that firefighters tend to be competitive adrenaline junkies who don’t normally reach out for help, and that it takes a lot before one is accepted into the culture.
“The station life actually develops a second-family syndrome, and that can be hard to break into if you are not a firefighter,” Jay continues. “That is the reason fire chaplains who are not firefighters have to take a long time to develop trust and become accepted into the family. If you breach the trust, you are done, and the door is closed to minister.”
Jay has gained that trust through the years and has seen many firefighters come into a relationship with Christ, and hundreds of marriages and families restored. Some to whom he has ministered have become fire chaplains themselves.
So what is Jay’s greatest challenge? If you were to guess fire, you’d be wrong. It’s the constant attack of organizations such as the ACLU, he says, that want to push chaplaincy out of the fire service. For chaplains to win this battle is one of his key prayer requests.
Other prayer needs include safety and health in marital and family relationships; the ability to be more proactive, instead of reactive, in presenting information to firefighters and their families relating to the impacts of the career on life and relationships; the ability to better educate firefighters and their families early in their career; and the expansion of the California Fire Chaplain Association, which needs more chaplains to meet the growing need.
“I thank the Lord for the privilege to serve Him,” affirms Jay. “I will always be in awe that Jesus has called me to serve in this way, but I will do my best to give Him glory in all that I do.”
This article is Part 2 in a four-part series.
To read Part 1, covering Foursquare Chaplains International statistics worldwide and the profile of a military chaplain, click here.
To read Part 3, the story of a hospice chaplain, click here.
To read Part 4, profiling a couple who serves as hospital and legislative chaplains, click here.
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles