Chief of Chaplains Carver looks beyond 'retirement'
PHOENIX (BP)--When Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Douglas Carver retires from the Army in July, the U.S. Army's Chief of Chaplains will take with him experiences with the armed forces' men and women that have helped form and transform him.
The first Southern Baptist in more than 50 years to assume the role of Army Chief of Chaplains in 2007, the two-star general will retire after more than 38 years of service.
"I don't use the word retirement," he notes. "This is a transition. God has ordered up something special beyond the Army. I don't know what it is, but it's something exciting."
In his final weeks of duty, Carver has "little white space on my calendar." He returned from an April base circulation in Afghanistan to an array of stateside visits and appearances -- among them the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix.
The busyness has done little to quell the emotion or distract him from the swell of memories.
"I've made friends literally around the world including many from other nations, and to walk away from that -- there's nothing that prepares you for that," Carver said. "I cannot go back. I cannot put my uniform back on and go into this community. I'm flooded with wonderful memories of great ministry experience."
His military career dates back to 1972, when he joined the Army right out of college during Vietnam; earned a Ranger tab; and served as an Field Artillery Officer. After six years, he went into the Army Reserves, attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and later pastored a church in Colorado Springs.
But he couldn't escape the call he'd always had to the military while serving as an Army Reserve chaplain at Fort Carson during those years.
In 1984 he went active again, this time taking a position as a North American Mission Board-endorsed Army chaplain, pulling together his callings to the military and to the pastorate.
Of the many experiences that stand out over the 27 years of chaplain work, standing alongside soldiers during wartime has been at the heart of Carver's work.
"No one wants to go to war, but it was rewarding to stand beside them as we crossed the borders from Kuwait to Iraq," Carver said, referring to military action following 9/11. "I didn't just send them. I joined them. I will always cherish and honor that opportunity to be in harm's way and to be with soldiers 24 hours a day. That was a great honor and experience.
"The men and women of the armed forces will never get out of my DNA. I will never forget them. Never stop praying for them."
And, Carver said, what he's seen God do among soldiers around the world makes him long to see God work in civilian churches back home.
"For the last 10 years our nation has been at war," Carver said, noting "the fervor and prayers we saw shortly after Sept, 11, 2001, our national leaders looking to God for help."
"I've not seen any of that stop within the military," Carver said. "It's continued to exist because going to war, facing life-and-death issues, creates a seriousness and passion about life itself and about what is truly a priority. During my entire tenure [as chief of chaplains] I have served as senior pastor of an Army that's at war. That's all I've known the last six or seven years. That changes your perspective on a lot of things. It changes you."
Carver was recognized during the North American Mission Board's presentation June 14 during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.
"Major General Carver, you are retiring this summer after 38 years of service and tonight we want to say thank you for your years of service," NAMB President Kevin Ezell said during the presentation. "Thank you for the way you have served our troops and for the way you have served the American people."
In his next chapter of life, Carver hopes God will use him to awaken Christians outside the military to the reality of war around them.
"There's a call to arms so to speak for the civilian church to wake up to what is going on with the desperation that people are experiencing and to call them to Jesus," Carver said. "If the local church is not experiencing the intensity that is in the air, I will probably be one of those that God will use to awaken them to what is going on around them and around the world.
"It's just as desperate outside the uniform and outside the Army," he continued. "Not only the wars and rumors of wars. But look at the earthquake in Japan. Floods and tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast. There's a struggle going on to face the difficulties in the age in which we live and not to throw in the towel, but to declare we serve a God who is our stone of help in these desperate times."
As unfamiliar as it seems to him, Carver will be a civilian after July 22, and he plans to use the "white space" on his calendar to strengthen his devotional life, his marriage and to serve the church.
"The work as an active duty soldier and chaplain is coming to an end. But the work God has for me won't end until He calls me home," Carver said. "I definitely won't be sitting on the porch unemployed."
Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.