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A few days ago I spent some time with an individual who recently returned to Andrews University after many years. I was moved and encouraged by the stories he told me. I want to share some of what I heard with all of you.
A 22-year old Air Force medic, he walked down the hall of the hospital in San Antonio. Coming the other way he met a tall, young chaplain—a priest.
“I don’t know that I want to be a Christian anymore,” the 22-year-old told the chaplain; he just wasn’t sure any longer that God was real.
The young man doesn’t remember much of the conversation from that point on, but there is one sentence he has never forgotten: “Be faithful to your calling and be faithful to God.”
The chance encounter ended, but something about that conversation led the young medic to be open in a new way to the presence of God. He started to sense the reality he had doubted and so he decided to test God out.
First he took two weeks of leave, and what he chose to do in those two weeks was unique; he spent them in a library with “The Desire of Ages” and the Bible.
“God, I am going to give you two weeks to show me that you are real,” he prayed.
The days passed and he continued to read until finally he reached a chapter in “The Desire of Ages” on Gethsemane. As he read of the struggle of Christ in the garden, suddenly it all became real. He knew for a fact not only that God died for him but that he died because of him. He started weeping, so much that a concerned librarian came up to check that he was okay. He was. He had just experienced conversion.
A few months ago this young medic became a faculty member at Andrews University as assistant professor of chaplaincy: Johnnathan Ward. You can read the rest of Johnnathan’s story in Stories of Andrews, and it is worth reading. Since that experience, this young man with so many doubts has become a caring professional who has touched the lives of many through the service of chaplaincy. He served in the military and in hospitals, sharing in the darkest moments of countless individuals and representing faithfully the God he has come to deeply love.
Thank you, Chaplain Ward, for sharing yourself with Andrews University. Your story represents the spirit of Andrews.
Ward, Johnnathan Robert, "Johnnathan Ward" (2016). Fall 2016. 6.