By Geoff Moran, Frankfurt, Germany
My most interesting, challenging and fulfilling assignment in a twenty-four year active duty career was as the chaplain for American Forces Network – Europe. It came as the utilization assignment from a year’s schooling at Princeton Theological Seminary. From summer of 1987 to 1990 I was on the air, both AM and FM, six days a week to the American audience in Europe of 700,000. It was a very
unusual “pulpit” for a chaplain. Five days a week I gave three and a half minute morning devotional messages called “The Word in the World” and had a Sunday morning music-and-talk one hour radio show. As everyone knows a chaplain only works one hour a week, and for me it was only four minutes a day! But believe me, preparing and delivering 260 daily messages per year was much more difficult than preaching 52 Sunday sermons.
Unlike preaching to a worshiping congregation my listeners were in their cars, in the gym, making kids lunches for school, or getting ready for a morning formation. Our surveys told us 300,000 listened to that segment daily and I took that as a great responsibility to point to the spiritual dimension of life in each message.
Feedback from the audience came in many forms: letters from East Germans who heard the AFN signal from the West, an Army wife who said, “I know your voice better than Walter Cronkite’s,” a soldier who said in the weight room at the gym everybody kept working out during the news and sports but stopped and the room was silent during my message, and an Air Force Wing Commander who said, “I spend more time naked with you than my wife!” (He quickly clarified that he listened to me every morning when he was taking his shower.)
Most of us don’t know the many ways our lives have influenced others. Certainly we get some words of appreciation, but most of the time we don’t get the feedback or see the fruit of our labor. A very meaningful event for me came three years after I completed the AFN assignment. Back at a stateside post a lieutenant colonel came to see me and introduced himself by saying, “You saved my life.” Long story short, he was in a crisis in his life, driving around a US base in Germany ready to commit suicide. The car radio was on and he said it was the right word at the right time, and his life turned around for the better from that point. Many of us don’t have the blessing I had that day to hear about how a word of kindness, encouragement or even correction affected someone. We can all hope our example, leadership and insights have left positive ripples that touch many lives.