Years ago I spoke with an elderly man, Mr. Clarence “Clancy” Bishop.
He had served in the Army as a chaplain assistant way back in 1959–1961. Besides the historical value of his recollections, Mr. Bishop shared a profound faith lesson from his experience.
The story began fifty years earlier. Clancy was assigned to the Army training center at Hoenfels, Germany (now the Joint Multinational Readiness Center), along with his chaplain, Chaplain Calvin Garner.
Planning A New Chapel
One important project the two had worked on feverishly was a plan to build a new chapel. Now every chaplain, and chaplain assistant, dreams of making some contribution during their watch. They dream of leaving their unit or their chapel better than when they found it. But building an entirely new chapel is a long shot. For one thing, chapels are not typically high on a commander’s list of priorities when it comes to military construction (MILCON) projects. Plus, the process is very long. From the basic concept such a project must survive a stream of scrutiny from planners, architects, electricians, plumbers, HVAC experts, and comptrollers. Cost estimates must be done, blueprints drawn, bids collected, and contracts made—if the funding is available!
Most discouraging, however, is the reality for these planners. Those chaplains and assistants that do all the work and planning will never see the project completed. They are only laying the ground work for a project that someone else will take credit for and other people will benefit from. These chaplains and assistants start the race and pass on the baton, but never cross the finish line. They plant the seeds to produce crops—but another will reap them and give little thought to the labors that preceded his own.
Returning to Hoenfels
Well, Chaplain Garner and Clancy Bishop submitted their plan and did all they could to keep it alive. But ultimately they had to move on and commit their investments of time and energy to God. Chaplain Garner moved on to another assignment. Clancy separated from the Army and entered the civilian work force. And that chapel project faded from their memories.
Now, move ahead more than thirty years—to 1994. Clancy Bishop and his wife took a trip to Germany to visit friends stationed in Schweinfurt—Chaplain Daniel and Iona Parker. During the trip, the couples visited Clancy’s old stomping ground at Hoenfels. Wanting only to attend the worship service at Hoenfels, the foursome stumbled upon a dedication service, a chapel dedication service. There before them was a brand new chapel—the very chapel that Clancy and Chaplain Garner had worked so hard to plan and submit as a MILCON project more than thirty years before! The new Hoenfels Chapel included every detail of the original plan. By some miracle of providence, Clancy—for the first time in over thirty years—had returned on the very day it was being dedicated!
Besides a new awareness of God’s incredible timing, Clancy Bishop walked away from that experience with a profound lesson. God does not let our labors go to waste. We plant seeds for the cause of the Gospel, yet rarely see the fruit of our labors. Although we forget and count our efforts a loss, God does not forget or neglect the work we have done in His name. God will pick up the good we have done, bless it, nurture it, and cause it to grow and bear fruit. “Therefore, let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary” (Gal. 6:9) and “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil for the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Dear Father in heaven, I can become discouraged and fear my efforts to be vain and fruitless. Please remind me that my labors for You are never in vain. Help me to serve You faithfully and to commit my service to You, trusting that You will produce from it a harvest for all eternity. Amen.
In article photo: Seabees work on a school building in Thailand by the U.S. Navy licensed under U.S. Govt. Work