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June-July 2023

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God of Promises

By Laura Hembree


I wish I could say I had some Spirit-filled response and bubbled with enthusiasm at the thought of this work. In reality, my reaction was closer to the biblical character Sarah. Perhaps you remember in Genesis when she overheard three men telling Abraham she would have a son within a year. She thought it impossible to have a child in her old age; in much the same way, I thought it impossible to change the course of our cozy, happy life. As newlyweds, we had already made a major move to Washington and, after living there two years, returned to Oklahoma. We had an infant son and a three-year-old daughter and were searching for the perfect home to put down roots in Oklahoma.

In that moment, I could only think of all the reasons this sounded like a bad idea. I dismissed his question and let him know I was not on board. He accepted my response and did not mention it to me again.

Months went by, and we bought a house in Shaun’s hometown of Haskell. Not long after moving into our new home, the Lord began to work on my heart. Chaplain ministry would come up in some way or another in what I was reading or in conversations I had. As time passed, I read verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and knew I was reading God’s promises that He would be with me on this journey.

After many months of not bringing up the subject, I approached Shaun and let him know if he still felt led to pursue chaplain ministry, I was at peace. We talked about it, prayed over it, and decided we would continue seeking God for a confirmation.

In November 2012, during a Veteran’s Day service, our pastor’s sermon spoke directly to Shaun and me. Repeatedly, our pastor addressed specific things about which we had been praying and seeking the Lord’s guidance. We both knew we had received our confirmation. From that moment, we began to take active steps toward a chaplain ministry. We called North American Ministries and active chaplains. We received encouragement and helpful advice on which direction we needed to go.

Shaun first needed to complete the educational requirements, a Master of Divinity, so he enrolled in classes the following January. Going back to school is hard. Going back to school while raising four children and working full time is even harder! We soon discovered how difficult it is to balance all the responsibilities well.

Throughout this journey, we were encouraged by the reminder in Philippians 1:6 that we could be confident, because the God who began a good work in us would faithfully perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. I can look back to that November day when we surrendered to God’s calling and see God’s hand in every step of this journey.

It would be false of me to say this process has been all sunshine and rainbows. We experienced times of both blessing and trial, but in all circumstances—good and bad—we saw God’s faithfulness. Through every obstacle along this path, we stood on the promise that God called us to chaplain ministry, and He would walk alongside us, helping us complete the work at hand.

When my husband submitted his paperwork to become a Chaplain Candidate in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, he did not pass his hearing test at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). That raised many questions and doubts for us because Shaun only had one more chance to pass the hearing test. He asked our home church to lay hands on him and pray for him to pass.

On Sunday evening, January 27, 2019, our pastor anointed Shaun with oil, and the church prayed for his hearing. The next day, Shaun took the hearing test again and passed! My pastor’s wife shared the great news in an email to the church. I have kept that email to remind myself that God is faithful!

He has proven that again and again. When we needed encouragement, He sent people along with the right words. During moments when we wondered how to pay for school and support a growing family, Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, would show up. We learned to trust God at His word. What He says, He will do. What He has spoken, He will fulfill.

Shaun completed his Master of Divinity degree during the summer of 2022. I relate well to the waiting Abraham and Sarah endured. I did not have to wait for a promised son, but I understand waiting for a promise to be fulfilled. I know what it means to learn about God and myself. I learned to overcome personal struggles during this season of waiting. I grappled with questions about whether we heard God right: “Did He really promise us this?”

I imagine Abraham and Sarah went through a similar experience of learning about themselves and how to trust God. I like to imagine they remained faithful because God had made a promise to them, and they clung to the hope God would fulfill His promise. Genesis reveals Abraham and Sarah went through a process to reach the place where they fully trusted God and His promise. They had their own personal struggles and doubts to overcome, but through it all, they remained faithful to God and allowed Him to work in them. Ultimately, He used them for His purposes.

I love that, in spite laughing at what she heard and then denying it, Sarah is listed in Hebrews 11 with other heroes of faith. She had her own questions regarding how God would work things out for them, but she received credit for her faithfulness. Sarah grew in her faith and learned to trust God at His word. Despite my reservations at the thought of chaplain ministry, through God’s patience with my growing heart during our season of waiting, I am now excited about the road ahead.

Shaun recently was selected to begin active duty. From the beginning of this journey, Shaun and I felt drawn to full-time chaplaincy. We received this great news right before Thanksgiving, and it brought us so much joy. We are so close to ending one journey and starting another. Our family will face new obstacles, but I am confident God will be with us. The lyrics of the song “Promises” encourage me: “Though storms may come and the winds may blow, I’ll remain steadfast. And let my heart learn when You speak a word, it will come to pass. Great is Your faithfulness to me.”

Whatever comes our way, I hold tightly to the One who began this good work in us and will see it completed. I’m anchoring my life on that promise, for He is the God who keeps His promises.

About the Author: Laura Hembree is the wife of Chaplain (CPT) Shaun Hembree and a mother of four. She has experience in many aspects of ministry: church planting, church pianist, and children's ministry. Laura loves playing the piano, guitar, and dulcimer. Learn more about Free Will Baptist Chaplaincy.

©2023 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists