Hunger For God: Nearly 1000 Soldiers Come to Faith
Written by Rhett Burns on July 19, 2018
When I was a young boy I met someone who seemed like a giant to me. At six-foot-seven-inches Jose Rondon was the tallest person I had ever seen in person. He was also incredibly kind, a good baseball pitcher, and loved Jesus. Originally from Venezuela, Jose lived briefly with my grandparents before staying long-term with another family in their church. Jose is currently a captain in the United States Army, serving as a chaplain. He has reported nearly a thousand soldiers professing faith in Jesus in the last several months at his base. I caught up with Jose to ask him about military chaplaincy and what he is seeing the Lord doing among soldiers.
Rhett Burns: Introduce yourself and your ministry to us.
Jose Rondon: I am Chaplain Jose Rondon, a captain serving in the United States Army at the Training Command base of Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. My wife, Rachel, our two kids, and I moved from Fort Bragg, North Carolina at the end of 2017 for me to start my duties and role as the Battalion Chaplain of the 787th Military Police Battalion, which has 1,300-plus soldiers. This has been the best time of my seven years in the Army because I am seeing God doing amazing things everywhere. The best of which is that I see a generation of young soldiers coming to Christ for forgiveness and salvation. As of today (July 2), I have seen 981 soldiers calling upon the name of Christ since March 11th. I have the responsibility to preach on scheduled Sundays during the morning Protestant chapel services to all of the Engineer, Chemical, and Military Police soldiers-in-training who come to the three services. These soldiers remain at our base for about five months. They come to our chapel services according to their religious convictions and upbringing, or just out of curiosity. A team of chaplains are always there to encourage them through the preaching of God’s Word; we also arrange worship music and counseling on Sundays. I love to provide world-class religious support to all of my soldiers, whether or not they have a religious background because I love all of them.
RB: You recently said on Facebook that you are seeing a hunger for God in your area of service that you have not seen in your 25-plus years of ministry. Describe for us what that looks like.
JR: It is one thing to preach the gospel—the message that Christ alone can save us of our sins to have eternal life—to hundreds of soldiers-in-training who want to hear the Word of God, and for the first time they are so broken that they come to give their lives to Christ. However, it is another thing entirely to speak about Jesus to soldiers who, without being prompted are constantly asking me how to be saved, how to have a personal relationship with God, how to be baptized, or how to include God in their daily lives. I believe that boot camp gives our soldiers the unexpected realization that they are actually weak, fragile, and not as invincible as they thought they were. Our soldiers become hungry to know about God because they are constantly going through training, and they fear they won’t succeed. They start grasping the fact that they cannot truly succeed without God. They finally pay attention to the things of God because when the training becomes hard, they also see how much they miss their loved ones and how overwhelming life becomes through the potential adversities and fears they experience being away from their families and friends. The need of God naturally comes as an ongoing realization that is finally understood through head-on confrontations with their past hidden scars, their present abrupt challenges, and the uncertain future of not knowing if they will make it through the trainings. They want to become soldiers more than anything. But many of them see that for that to happen they need help. So, they come asking for assistance, advice, counseling, prayers, love, understanding, and, ultimately, for a God who is good to them and who is ready to forgive their sins and give meaning for their lives.
RB: You have reported many soldiers coming to Christ in recent months. Why do you think that is happening?
JR: Simply put God desires to save His lost creation. We want to obey the Captain of Salvation, Jesus Christ, who has called us to make a difference in the lives of the soldiers. The key of seeing 981 soldiers-in-training coming to Christ since March 11th is summed up in one word: intentional. If we want to see people coming to Christ we must be intentional to speak clearly about: 1) our problem as sinners; 2) God’s solution to the sin-problem through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; and 3) our individual response to God’s desire to forgive us of our sins and His desire that none should perish. To Christ’s church I say: Stay intentional.
RB: How do you connect with soldiers in order to proclaim the Gospel to them?
JR: I connect with my soldiers through running with them, attending their major events, being in the field during training, visiting at the range or mess hall, and encouraging them. Soldiers love their chaplain because their chaplain loves his soldiers through daily caring for them and connecting with them at whatever level they find themselves. I try to become all things to all soldiers so that some will come to see God’s love for them. In a nutshell, this approach has an incarnational impact to our soldiers. I attempt to show the same thing Jesus did while on earth: he became like us in everything except sin so that we might see there is hope for eternity through us becoming like Him.
RB: What are some of the most strategic ways we can pray for soldiers?
JR: This movement of seeing 981 souls come to Christ in less than four months started with a petition to prayer using Colossians 4:2-4 where the Apostle Paul says:
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”
Please pray that God will give chaplains 1) focus to see the lost as He sees them; 2) fervor to pray and know that our most powerful God can bring the greatest soul awakening to our military and society at large so that millions of millions will come to bow down to the One who is worthy of all praise—Jesus Christ; and 3) favor with those who will hear the gospel as He enables us to speak clearly with the Holy Spirit’s power.
RB: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about what God is doing among our military personnel?
JR: Please pray, pray, pray. God is up to something amazing in the near future. He wants to bring a great turnaround in our military, our country, and world. But it all starts with all of us seeing that we cannot do anything apart from Him, and so let us go to Him in prayer so that He will change our lives, our military, and our society. Thanks.