by Maria Erokhina
Jesus made clear, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” (John 15:13). All over this nation, there are men and women from various backgrounds who make sacrifices every day to protect this country and its freedoms. Christ For The Nations is grateful to veterans for their sacrifice and service. And, it is a privilege and honor to have some these brave people in the ranks of CFNI alumni. One such alumnus, Iraq War veteran Chad Swaringen, shared his stories about the challenges he faced being a Christian soldier, a CFNI student and now, a pastor.
Here’s the story in Chad’s words:
The decision to serve in the military was not a challenge to me. It was something I’ve always wanted to do. From September 1999 to September 2003, I was in the infantry. I was actually a part of the initial invasion force in Iraq, and our platoon served in other hotspots.
During my first year in the Marines, I got depressed. I had enough Jesus not to enjoy the world, and enough of the world not to really enjoy Jesus. One day I sat down and had a really honest conversation with myself. I had to make a decision: either I ought to give up on God and eventually go to hell, or follow God. I chose God.
The next two years of my life were all about me learning how to put down the things of the flesh and to really trust and seek God. I didn’t have a church to go to or any Christian to share my heart with. All I had was the Bible and my faith.
Sharing my faith with others was natural to me, but there were times when people would mock the Lord and make fun of me. I saw my fellow soldiers searching for love and meaning in all these clubs and bars. I got mine in Jesus. And I spent many weekends being lonely while standing up for Christ.
But when we got to Kuwait, before we went into Iraq, the situation started to switch around. All of a sudden, guys in our platoon began realizing, “This is might be it. I might not be here tomorrow.” So, a couple of them asked me to host a Bible Study. Each session began by reading the Word and talking about the Lord. And, by the time we were about to launch into Iraq the number attending the Bible Study had grown to 35 or 40.
The story I remember most vividly happened about an hour before we invaded Iraq. Our platoon Lieutenant called everybody over to give us a motivational speech, and out of nowhere this guy called out, “Hey, Colonel Swaringen, you need to pray for us.”
There was a surreal moment when everyone took off their helmets and bowed their heads as I was praying the most powerful prophetic prayer I’ve ever prayed. That was the first time the Spirit of the Lord ever came upon me. “Lord, deliver us, protect us, go before us, strike down our enemies. Glorify Your Name no matter what happens.”
We could really witness God fighting for us. Wherever we went, people would put their rifles down and put their hands in the air. I never had to fire one shot during this war. The glory of the Lord literally surrounded us and protected us.
After the military, I knew God was calling me to pastoral ministry. The decision to apply to Christ For The Nations Institute changed my life drastically. It was a great transition from military to the civilian world. CFNI is a place that helps you to focus on your personality and to deal with skeletons in your closet. It gave me a good start as a minister.
There, God blessed me with a beautiful wife, Megan. Now, we have three children – Chad, Isabella and Anastasia.
Last October, my wife and I planted a church in St. Louis, Missouri. It is called Hope of Life Church. To start it, we had to step out in faith and quit our jobs. Now we have 20 to 25 people coming to our services.
Our goal is to keep the church going and to be able to reach out both locally and around the world. We want to create a place where the power of God rests, where people can come and get healed. We want it to be a center of God’s glory and grace.
Drawing a parallel between military service and Christian life, I can say that as the Army of God, we have a mission to accomplish and we know that the enemy is real. There are no excuses. We have a job to complete and that is to glorify the Lord. I have learned not to focus on small things, which really don’t matter. It’s the big picture that matters. My life in a sense is a small thing, whether I live or die, but God’s glory is the big thing.
Do you know that veterans or their children can experience the life-changing environment at CFNI and get a CFNI degree through their GI Bill benefits? If you or a veteran you know would be interested in coming to CFNI or attending online courses, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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