CRC chaplains reflect on Afghanistan

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

nbFour Christian Reformed Church chaplains shared their experiences while serving in Afghanistan and turmoil occurring at the airport in Kabul.

Chaplain (Major) Peter Hofman who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, from July 2010 to March 2011 and January 2012 to August 2012: "Maybe the future can hold some positive things, but right now there are so many vets and other people who are watching what is happening and dealing with a lot of emotions," he said. "I know some of them are asking, 'Was the war and its cost worth it?' I think this will ring in people's minds for years to come."

Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Tim Won served in Afghanistan from March 2010 to March 2011, traveling all over the country as a chaplain with a heavy-construction engineer battalion: "I developed friendships with many of the people we met," he said. "Right now, it makes me very sad, and my heart goes out to them. To see the fall of the government and the people who are in danger is hard."

Looking back, Won added, "I also have some awesome memories from serving there. We drove all over the country, and I saw amazing sunrises and, even with the terrible poverty of the people, so much beautiful country."

Chaplain (Captain) Cornelius Muasa was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.
He was born and raised in Kenya, studied at Calvin Theological Seminary, and later became a U.S. citizen and joined the Army. Was it worth it? His replay: "This is not a new question," he said. "I was asked that very question eight years ago after my battalion sustained multiple casualties. I was helping a platoon find meaning in their grief, and regain their sense of purpose for the mission. A soldier holding back tears asked point blank: 'Is it worth it, Chaplain?'"

Muasa said that was the toughest question of his entire deployment. "I knew it was not just my question to answer. As a group we needed to find our way out of despair if we were going to complete our tour with honor," he wrote. "Three words were key in helping us get back on the proverbial horse: faith, hope, and love."

As for himself, said Muasa, his faith in God gave him the strength to leave "the wire" (the base) and join soldiers and airmen on missions. "Faith kept us going. Hope kept us going. We held on to the hope that we were helping secure a better future for the local population."

Chaplain Tim Rietkerk said he grieves for the young people in Afghanistan and especially the girls and women there, who over the past several years have been able to attend school and pursue opportunities that were formerly prohibited under the Taliban.

News reports say that the Taliban have pledged to allow women freedom, but some stories indicate they are already threatening the rights of women and forcing them to wear clothing that covers most of their bodies. Some say women have been killed or abused.

"We spent a lot of resources, effort, and lives to help the people of Afghanistan," said Rietkerk, who served in Afghanistan in 2003 with the 7th Special Forces Group.

"With cell phones and social media, I'm hoping the world can continue to see what the Taliban is doing" and find ways to keep them accountable, he said. "Please pray for people in harm's way and for wisdom for the leaders in this difficult challenge."
Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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