As Christian studies Assistant Professor Dr. David Howard approached the microphone, he looked out into an enormous ballroom filled with the top U.S. military chaplains and their spouses.
Among the audience members was the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Major Gen. Douglas L. Carver, a man Howard met when he was just starting his Chaplaincy. Howard’s influence on him led Carver to become a chaplain.
“When we first met in 1976 in Germany, I was young and inexperienced in the ministry and the military,” Howard said. “God can use you when you are young and just starting out – even when you are unaware of the impact you are making in another’s life.”
Unbeknownst to Howard, Carver, a young Southern Baptist artillery officer, had little respect for military ministers. That is, until he met Howard, a new military man with an acoustic guitar and a passion for God and the troops. Inspired, Carver went to seminary and now is the senior chaplain in the entire Army. He asked Howard to speak at the event 35 years after they met.
Howard’s task was to speak for the retiree recognition breakfast at the chief of chaplain’s annual Strategic Leader Development Training Conference in Hilton Island, S.C. The event was far from home for the assistant professor of both the College of Christian studies and the Department of Graduate Counseling and Psychology, but Howard is no stranger to traveling or the military.
He enjoyed a 20-year career as an Army chaplain before retiring to family counseling and, eventually, teaching, So Howard’s talk about “re-tiring” to prepare for the next stage of ministry was one not only of knowledge, but of great experience and passion. He studied several retired chaplains who have gone on to lead productive and fruitful ministries.
Sitting before the stage was a new class of retirees, ready for the next step in ministry. He hopes that these retiring servants, “rather than rusting out, we would be pouring out and wearing out as we actively move toward the finish line of our lives.”
Howard received the title of chaplain even before he found faith. Attending Pacific University as an undergrad, he was named chaplain of his fraternity. His peers thought he was the obvious choice because he was “the only sober one on the weekend.” But Howard was no man of religion – yet. He turned to a book of prayers by Peter Marshall who served as U.S. Senate chaplain during the trying years after World War II for help leading his fraternity brothers.
“These prayers guided the men who were making incredible decisions for our country. I was intrigued by this powerful dialogue with God,” he said. “And I started reading the Bible.”
Howard considers this a spiritual milestone.
The prayers of Marshall began Howard’s spiritual journey to Christianity.He transferred to the University of Oregon where he met Christ and his other partner in life, Professor of communication and media studies Dr. Diane Howard.
Howard, hoping to earn the favor of his soon to be father-in-law, went to seminary and then, after civilian ministry, became a chaplain. His first station as a chaplain was Wiesbaden, Germany. That’s where he met Carver.
“I had no idea that I had influenced his change of heart about chaplains to the extent that he heard the call to the ministry and seminary, and later become an Army chaplain,“ Howard said.
As Howard addressed the room, former students of his across the world were now serving in the role he loved so greatly. He teaches graduate classes on counseling and had several groups of students go on to the service.
One of them, alumna Chaplain Maj. Insoon Hoagland is serving with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.
“I have been blessed to have him as my teacher, mentor and friend in my life and my military career,” Hoagland said. “He has shown me and set an example for me what kind of chaplain, mentor and counselor I should be as a follower of Christ.”
Dr. Diane Howard reflected on her husband’s ministry-filled life as she watched him address the breakfast, his figure dwarfed by the two “jumbotron” screens projecting his face for the whole room.
“I just kept saying you just have to share from your heart,” she said. “He had done this research and learned these stories …. It was so encouraging to hear how God had not only prepared them for chaplaincy, but also the next stage. We found that to be true in both our own lives. Not only does he use us when we are young but also into our twilight years.”