I recently had the opportunity to visit members of the Spanish Armed Forces at the invitation of the Spanish Minister of Defense. The keynote event of this engagement was a Prayer Breakfast held at the Base Aérea de Torrejón de Ardoz, or Torrejon Air Base in English, in Madrid. This event was sponsored by the MoD and coordinated by Federación de Entidades Religiosas Evangélicas de España, or The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain.
Specific to this invitation was the opportunity to address the importance of providing and facilitating for the spiritual needs of diverse faith groups, or multi-confessional, within the military. Currently, the Spanish Armed Forces only have Catholic Chaplains. Knowing this, I addressed the need to provide Chaplains of multi-confessional groups the skills to address differing beliefs within their military. An approach to working across multi-confessional lines is for a chaplain to provide for their specific faith, facilitate for others faiths, care for all and advise commands on religious support. The base Senior Chaplain, Jose Obador Castro, who I had the unique opportunity to meet, understands this as he has deployed on several occasions and has worked with U.S. Chaplains.
Religious support and spiritual care are vital for overall readiness, which was the theme of my visit April 24 - 27. Ministry in a religiously diverse military provides a challenge -- but this was a good step. One example I shared was the heroic and courageous act of the four Chaplains who perished aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Dorchester during World War II. The “Immortal Chaplains” as they came to be known -- Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed -- all perished after giving away their life jackets to save others when their ship sank.
The highlight of my visit was the opportunity to meet and visit with numerous military and civilian Spanish Armed Forces, or Fuerzas Armadas Española’s, leadership along with representatives from the Ministry of Justice, and embassies of El Savador and Eucador. There were military representatives from each of their three main branches of military: army, navy and air force, along with the Civil Guard and National Police. I am grateful for some new friends from The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain who share the passion for ensuring readiness must include spiritual readiness.