Chaplains Join National Guard Coronavirus Deployment

Lt. Col. Yorlondo “Lonny” Wortham, a Southern Baptist and the Joint Forces chaplain for the state of Maryland, helped to pack and distribute produce items to those in need in Baltimore. Maryland Army National Guard chaplains organized a COVID-19 response team to help City of Refuge Baltimore, a non-profit organization, distribute food March 26.
U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Davis Jr.

BALTIMORE (BP) — Governors have called on the National Guard to assist in the fight to stop the COVID-19 coronavirus. A key component to that response, as in any effort by the U.S. Armed Services, is the work of chaplains.

Doug Carver, executive director of chaplaincy for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) said a growing number of Southern Baptist National Guard chaplains are mobilized in support of their state guard units.

“They are distributing food to the needy, coordinating community relief efforts with local religious leaders and advising their senior military leaders on the safety, health and spiritual welfare of their troops,” Carver said.

Carver is a retired two-star Major General who served as chief of chaplains for the U.S. Army before taking on the role leading Southern Baptist chaplaincy efforts.

So far, governors from all 50 states, three U.S. territories and the District of Columbia have mobilized all or part of their National Guard units. In California and New York, units have converted convention centers to medical facilities. Guard members in Connecticut and Ohio have delivered medical supplies and food to those in need.

In Landover, Md., one of the National Guard’s main missions has been to help Maryland’s governor set up at least 10 tents at FedEx Field, the stadium for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, and provide security for the site alongside local authorities in Prince George’s County.

The area will be used as a drive-thru testing site. Chaplains conduct a daily survey to check in with soldiers and provide spiritual care: counseling, prayer or devotionals.

“We’ve also coordinated with at least two other hospitals where we’ve set up tents that they can use as a prescreening area before patients enter the hospital,” said Chaplain Maj. Wayne Stinchcomb, a Southern Baptist chaplain with Maryland’s Army National Guard.

Members of the National Guard come from the communities in which they serve, Stinchcomb said. They are often leaving spouses, children and other support systems. Some chaplains are also pastors of local churches. So deployment means they are leaving their congregations as well.

Chaplain Maj. Gary Poplin, for example, is pastor of St. Augustine Road Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. Some guard units are already active in Florida, so Poplin knows he could receive word any day that he needs to leave his family and church to serve with Florida’s Air National Guard.

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Source: Baptist Press