From the time she was ordained in the diocese of Central Newfoundland in 1988, Major Maude Parsons-Horst has seen her ministry as one of evangelism and mission. That fits well with her current work serving Canadian Forces troops deployed in Afghanistan. Some are Christian, some come from different faith backgrounds and some “may not express any faith,” according to Parsons-Horst.
“It’s amazing the kinds of conversations you can get into,” she says, adding that her work is about making a spiritual connection, not about converting people. “I just don’t worry about how many I bring to the Lord today,” she says. “That’s not the point. More to the point is how many people’s lives have been touched by the love of God through me?”
Even in Afghanistan, Parsons-Horst says the chaplains still serve the families back home in Canada, sometimes just to reassure them that their son, daughter or spouse is all right. “I don’t know if our country really understands that the commitment the troops make impacts their families 365 days of the year. I believe that when deployed soldiers know their families—whom they love above all else—are being supported with kindness and a helping hand or an encouraging word, some of that stress can be alleviated.”
Parsons-Horst has served as a chaplain in Newfoundland, the U.K., Ottawa, Edmonton and Petawawa, Ont. Now she is a team leader co-ordinating the work of the chaplains in Afghanistan. She says she is amazed every day by the strength and dedication she sees in the troops. “I’ve never been so proud to stand in uniform as to stand in uniform with the guys over here.”
“Working as a chaplain with the Canadian Forces is a privilege and an honour,” she writes in email correspondence from Kandahar with the Anglican Journal. “The men and women who serve in our army, air force and navy…and their wonderful families…are special people who contribute to our country and our world as a form of duty. They are subjected to risks, to long times away from each other, to constant moves and disruptions to their lives, and all for the good of others.”
Parsons-Horst loves poetry and loves to write poetry. She shared the following poem, at right, which was written over a period of two years, with chaplains from Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Belgium who work as part of a coalition team in Kandahar. It expresses what she feels as a chaplain. “God has called me to serve those who serve,” says Parsons-Horst. —LAW Ω
When rays of light break
And dark dispels
When truth begins to speak
And grace to flow
Then comes again the certain hope of faith
That sends us to the place where we must go.
We go to stand on grounds
That shift and move
We stand on guard, on watch
Your love to bear.
We speak the words You write within our soul
Sometimes they’re words that ears can never hear.
But still You call us forth
Your love to show
And give us gifts to share,
Some one to bless.
And from the heart Your Spirit’s joy doth flow
That helps the broken learn again to sing.
14 June 2010