Journey of a Lifetime
Change of Mission
by Chaplain (COL) Terry Austin
I had just left the base camp for a two-day mission visiting NATO outposts along the Kosovo and Serbian borders in the mountains of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. My chaplain assistant and I were as prepared for the trip as we possibly could be. We knew the designated route, and our vehicle was fueled and packed with all the necessary gear and provisions. My commander had approved the trip, knew where I was, and how to get in touch with me—just in case something came up requiring a change of mission.
The Macedonian countryside was stunning. Its people and way of life were different than that to which I was accustomed, so I did a lot of sightseeing as we traveled north to visit the soldiers manning the NATO outposts. As my mind wandered from one subject to another, I was content just to sit in the vehicle and relax for the duration of the trip. But, an unexpected sound startled me out of my comfort zone. It was the squelch of the radio alerting me that the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) was calling us to return to the base camp as soon as possible. My commander changed our mission, so we immediately turned around and headed in the opposite direction to pursue our new directive.
I remember that day so well because of the impact it made on me. I had it all figured out. I had a good plan. It was the right thing to do. My commander had approved the mission, and I had everything I needed to accomplish it.
Like the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road, many of us have had to change the mission in our lives as directed by God or by someone with significant authority in our lives. We find ourselves going in a different direction—sometimes the opposite direction—in order to accomplish God’s will. When that happens, and we begin planning the new direction, the journey and the obstacles look bigger than they really are, and the road looks a whole lot rougher than it
I recall leaving home and showing up at Parris Island, South Carolina, for Marine Corps boot camp. I was excited to leave home because of my parents’ rules. (Imagine that: I did not like rules so I joined the Marine Corps.) I soon made the necessary adjustment, and boot camp did not seem to worry me much.
However, after trusting Jesus Christ as my Savior, answering the call to preach looked like an enormous task. That did scare me. What I did not fully realize was that everything I needed for the journey had been provided. I had a clear mission and the promise of God’s abiding presence, regardless how rough the road might get.
Once again, I slipped into a comfort zone, thinking I was headed in the right direction. With full assurance of my salvation and a burning call to preach, I settled in for the duration of the trip. Then God did it again. Oh yes, He did! He surprised me with a new mission and direction, and this one really did scare me.
When I left the Marine Corps, I thought I was done with the military, and I knew I would never serve as a military chaplain. I even told that to the Lord. I had my mind made up and knew exactly what I wanted. Again, I was at peace, so I settled in for the duration of the trip.
It happened again. During the quietness of an invitation given during a missions conference at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, the “squelch” of God called me back into the military as a chaplain. This nearly scared me to death. But, I submitted to this new direction, and now for over 35 years, my Supreme Commander has not disappointed me. He has blessed me and my family beyond our imagination.
Changing direction and adapting to a new mission is the challenge to doing and staying in God’s will. When those times come, I encourage you to welcome them and enjoy the ride . . . at least until God breaks into your life again.
About the Writer: Terry W. Austin CH (COL) is IMCOM Command Chaplain for the U.S. Army. Learn more about Free Will Baptist chaplains at www.homemissions.net.