For one chaplain serving in the 82nd Airborne Division, his calling did not come in the form of a thunderous voice or dramatic event. It came when he opened the local classified section.
Captain Jacques Albertyn, the battalion chaplain for the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, heard a soft voice while sitting in a church pew, third row from the front. He didn’t think about it much until getting home and reaching for the newspaper.
“My calling happened March 10, 2002. Some people might have that big moment where God speaks to them in a thunderous voice or something dramatic happened in their lives that calls them to ministry,” said Albertyn. “For me, it was a quiet voice.”
Albertyn was born in Pinelands, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, in a hospital that was once a Catholic monastery. A Southern Baptist and endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention through its North American Mission Board, he attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Orlando Campus, before joining the Army.
“Military Chaplaincy is about selfless service; it is about giving yourself to others with no expectation of receiving anything else in return,” said Albertyn about ministering to soldiers. “Army chaplaincy provided me with an opportunity to walk next to the young men and women that serve this country, to share God’s presence with them and support them in the midst of anxiety and fear.”
Albertyn had just started a new career at a local company in Florida after immigrating to the United States when he heard that voice in First Baptist Church of Deland, Florida.
“I am calling you for my people,” the voice said, calling him by name. After getting home from church, Albertyn prayed to God to reveal the ministry He wanted Albertyn to serve in. “As I opened the newspaper, on the left page there was a quarter-page advertisement about the need for US Army chaplains to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Albertyn. “I looked at the ad, read it, and went onto the next page, thinking to myself, ‘that is not church.’
“Each time I served in a church since that day, my wife would say, ‘You do know this is not where God wants you to serve,’” continued Albertyn. “It might have taken me fourteen years to get into the Army, but every day I serve as a chaplain is a blessing as I fulfill my true and direct calling from God.” Albertyn Jacques was endorsed for active duty Army in 2015.
Being a faith leader in an Airborne Infantry Brigade Combat Team requires not only steadfast courage to conduct static-line airborne operations, but also empathy to understand the reservations some paratroopers have before jumping. Primarily, it demands a chaplain serve alongside those he ministers to.
“Being Airborne is not just a job, it is a way of life. Airborne is not for everyone, but those who are here deserve a chaplain who will look after them,” said Albertyn. “Airborne operations provide an aspect of service that can challenge the toughest soldier. Being next to paratroopers through their challenges and hearing their opinions, fears, and joys about jumping is what military chaplaincy is all about.”
Albertyn’s sending church is Stetson Baptist Church in Deland, Florida, where he and his wife Marlize maintain their permanent church membership.
1,617 The number of Southern Baptist military chaplains endorsed by the North American Mission Board currently serving in the military.
277 The number of Southern Baptist chaplains serving in the US Navy.
328 The number of Southern Baptist chaplains serving in the US Air Force.
1,012 The number of Southern Baptist chaplains serving in the US Army.
4,095 The total of all chaplains endorsed by the North American Mission Board. These include chaplains serving in state and federal prisons, hospice, hospitals, disaster relief, as volunteers, and in other settings around the world.
Major Thomas Cieslak is Public Affairs Officer, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, US Army.