Army Chaplains' Blog

Archive for July 2011

In the writings of St Aidan on the desert fathers he narrates a thought provoking story. He records an incident concerning a certain Abbot Antony who was conversing with some of his monks when a hunter, who had been out in the wilderness looking for game, came across the jovial party. Seeing the monks and their Abbott laughing and joking he was offended that they were not about the Lord’s business.

So Abbot Antony told the hunter: ‘Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.’ The hunter complied. ‘Now shoot another,’ directed the Abbot. Again the hunter did, and the Abbot continued: ‘and another, and another!

Eventually the hunter complained, ‘If I bend my bow all the time it will break!’

Abbott Antony replied: ‘So it is with the work of God. If we push ourselves beyond measure, we will soon break. It is right therefore from time to time to relax!’ (Celtic Daily Prayer(1996) Page 419, HarperOne).

Since arriving in theatre life has been full on, and I thought I was coping well. I began to undertake my regular early morning runs around the camp, and was even going to the gym and taking part in some ’spinning’ classes. I felt good working literally from dawn until late after dusk. Then I made the long tiresome journey to Kabul. The visit went well and I enjoyed the 10 degree drop in temperature, the more relaxed pace and meeting the Kabul Support Unit Chaplain. We both enjoyed a wonderful moment together praying on the roof of our accommodation surrounded by the mountains of that ancient city. However, whether it was something in the food, or the close proximity you endure whilst flying in the back of a Hercules, I experienced a ‘relaxation’ and type of ‘runs’ I was not physically prepared for! It started with aches in my joints, and then bizarrely being cold when outside in 44 degree heat! So much so that I began to wear my sleeves down and shiver in the suns glare! Then came the stomach cramps and the inevitable problem with my bowels. I tried to soldier on, telling myself that it would soon pass and I even booked a doctors appointment but then felt a bit better so I cancelled it. The next day however, I was overcome by a deep lethargy, and aware that I could be infectious and therefore a liability to others, I reluctantly went to the medical centre and was pronounced sick and bedded down for 72 hours.

Relaxation is not something that comes easy to me, but that first 24 hour period passed – quite literally – between my bed and the toilet. The second day I felt mildly better but remained in bed having tried to eat a couple of pieces of toast but failed to keep them in my stomach!

By the third morning I felt significantly stronger and was able to get up and potter about the room. I was forced to relax and read, or watch TV, and do you know what? I actually began to regain my strength. Whatever the actual cause of my infection, it had not been helped by my eagerness to run only six days into theatre – when we are told to wait for fourteen days to allow your body to acclimatise. I had probably attempted too much too soon and the body, weak from attempting to cope with this new environment, its heat and its own unique strains of bacteria, had succumbed. But hey, I know better, at least I do now! Perhaps my confinement was the only way for God to get me to actually rest, and it is only then that we are able to hear his still small voice.

Padre Cole Maynard

Well not quite, but I am sure it’s going to happen soon. For those who have been interested over the past few months, I am nearing the end of the joy of being pregnant!! I am sure however, the ‘joy of being pregnant’ was not penned by a woman!! Getting larger every day, having cramp, being restricted as to what you can eat, drink and most forms of physical activity!! Everyone keeps commenting how quick it seems to have gone and yet I can’t remember not being pregnant! But I have to concede it is all quite a miracle…the first kick was interesting and the first batch of hiccups was amusing, but now I do feel over used as a personal gym for Junior. I think I either have a boxer, footballer or perhaps a drummer getting ready to come out.

What I hadn’t expected was the level of care and interest I have received from the Army and indeed the soldiers themselves. Initially I received all of their horror stories and the like as they competitively liked to entertain me with their partners experiences but recently they have shown genuine care. Indeed I have been yelled at quite alot over the past few weeks, for cycling, carrying a bergen and last week for trying to climb over a fence, none of which I am apparently supposed to do in ‘my condition’. But I am still allowed to give out sweets, I’m just not allowed to carry too many at one time!!

It has been wonderful to draw closer to soldiers and their partners as they offer advice but also many have opened up in a much deeper way about their own children, including both the joys and sadly some sorrows. There has been a real surge of Baptisms as well and I have to admit they have taken on a deeper meaning for me, not least as often during the service I have been kicked from the inside. Reminding me very powerfully of the words from Psalm 139 when King David praises God for being wonderfully made, assured that God knew him as his bones were being formed in his mothers womb!

It’s been lovely to have this blog open up so we have heard of different Padres’ experiences, and may I thank any regular readers for their support over the past year…but this is it from me for a few months, as I really ought to concentrate on getting Junior out and then apparently they need a little looking after!! Hopefully the Editor of the Blog will let you know what sprouts out in a week or so… [The blog team are hoping for a baby but are prepared to be surprised – Ed]

Padre Tracey Bateson