Family and friends welcomed Chaplain Jeremiah Cates safely home on Dec. 30 after his yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. With orders already in hand for his next assignment beginning two weeks later, Cates encapsulated his experiences in the following paragraphs.
Even though I knew I was going to Afghanistan six months before I arrived at Bagram Airfield on 3 January 2014, nothing could have prepared me for everything God would do in my life, and in the lives of my soldiers and many others to whom God gave me the opportunity to minister. My year in Afghanistan was a tremendous blessing far greater than I could have ever imagined.
Afghanistan is a beautiful country, marked especially by the Hindu Kush mountains, which run from Afghanistan to the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal and Tibet in the east. My ministry included flying over 20,000 miles to visit my soldiers spread out over 18 Forward Operating Bases. My signal soldiers were usually serving in small four- to six-man teams, whose mission was to support the communications networks to enable combat operations. I’m very thankful God enabled my Chaplain Assistant Specialist Joshua Persaud and me to safely travel to visit all our signaleers on multiple occasions. Several times the very day we arrived at a base, God opened the door to minister to soldiers who had received a Red Cross message giving the soldier the news of a relative’s death, or some other tragedy. Time and time again, I saw God’s hand open doors to share His love and eternal truth. We saw God clearly open and close doors throughout the year. We had scheduled a visit to our soldiers in the Afghan capital of Kabul in December, but God repeatedly postponed or closed the door, which I believe was God keeping us safe while opening other doors of service. I learned to be flexible to His leading and sensitive to listen to the Spirit’s still, small voice prompting me to visit someone. I was always amazed to see blessings follow when I followed in simple obedience.
I’m happy to be home with my family now, but I will never forget my year in Afghanistan. A portion of my heart remains there. I’m thankful for the blessing it was to serve my Savior and my soldiers there. I know God changed my heart this year. Something I was challenged with was learning about the plight of Afghan Christians who yearn to have the freedom we so easily take for granted. God reminded me to cherish the freedoms He has given us. As a United States Army chaplain, I’ve sworn to defend the Constitutional freedoms our nation’s founders rightly recognized came from God Almighty. May each of us as believers cherish and defend those blessings for the next generation.
I’m also truly grateful for all the prayers and loving support I received this year! I was continually amazed to receive hundreds of care boxes, letters, and e-mails filled with physical and spiritual blessings from so many folks across the country. I’m most thankful for the support I have from my wife, Jennifer, without whose support I could not follow God’s calling on my life. I truly believe it is our families who bear the greater burden when God sends us overseas. However, His grace is all the more real and sustaining during those times. Thank you to everyone who prayed for our family this year. We love you!