My father was a chaplain in the U.S. Army. I like to say that growing up I was “double trouble” — a preacher’s kid and an Army brat.
When I was in the seventh grade, Dad was stationed at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, N.Y., in order to attend chaplain’s school. It was a one-year refresher course for military chaplains who had served about 10 years.
I attended Public School 104, which was in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood. It was a good school with strict discipline and excellent academics. I still remember that my homeroom had 22 Catholics, six Jews, four Protestants and no atheists. All four Protestants were children of chaplains stationed at Fort Hamilton (there were no Catholic children from the Army post, since Catholic priests do not marry).
Soon after school started that fall, we learned that on Wednesday afternoons they had “release time.” This was when students got out of school early and could go to their house of worship for religious education. Jewish students went to the synagogue and Catholic students went to the Catholic church. On that first Wednesday, all of us Protestant chaplains’ kids, being brand new, simply followed our Catholic friends down the street to their church and attended the catechism. Then we returned to school in time to catch the Army bus back to Fort Hamilton.
Needless to say, the phones were ringing off the hook that night when we started telling our parents what kind of notebooks the nuns wanted us to buy for catechism. It only took one week for those chaplains and spouses to organize a Protestant religious education class for us to attend.
But what really got some parents rattled was what happened to my little sister Nancy and some of her friends during their first “release time.” Nancy, who was in second grade, and a few other Protestant chaplains’ daughters from our post, went to the Catholic class and missed the bus ride home. Their parents had the military police frantically searching the streets of New York for them. Imagine — little girls from places like Kansas, Texas and Mississippi, all lost in Brooklyn. When the girls were found, they didn’t know they had been lost.
Jesus said that he came to seek and save people who were lost (Luke 19:10). He told three parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost (prodigal) son, to illustrate how God goes to great lengths to find people who are lost in sin and without God (see Luke 15). Sadly, some people don’t even know they are lost. But when one person turns to faith in God through His Son Jesus Christ, all the angels in heaven rejoice, particularly our Heavenly Father (Luke 15:7). If you don’t believe that makes God’s heart rejoice, just ask my mother about the time Nancy was lost and then found.
Copyright 2007 by Bob Rogers. Read this column each Thursday for a mix of religion and humor. You can read more “Holy Humor” on the Web page of First Baptist Church of Rincon at www.fbcrincon.com.