FORT SILL, OK - Twenty-four soldiers dressed in PT uniforms sat on the chapel stage on Quarry Hill before Spiritual Formation classes began. From varied backgrounds and more than 20 states across the country, the soldiers had little in common. This day, Sept. 29, however, would be a day they would each remember - it was the day they were going to be baptized.
Each stood before a room filled with their peers and shared their testimony: how they knew they needed Christ, how God has changed their lives and what they are going to strive for in their new walks with Him.
Then, they followed Texas Baptist Chaplain Kevin Burton outside to a large water tank where they were baptized. The baptism was an outward expression of an inward change in each life, a change that will stay with them long after their days of basic training conclude.
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These soldiers were just a few of the more than 200 who have been baptized in the last 14 months at Fort Sill since Chaplain Burton assumed his current position. Countless individuals have rededicated their lives to Jesus Christ.
"This is by far the most fruitful ministry I have been a part of," Burton recounted.
The mission field at Fort Sill is unique, in that it is a basic training base where the majority of soldiers he meets with are between the ages of 17 and 24. The soldiers are on base for nine-week terms before going on to advanced training units.
"Some of them hear the gospel for the first time here in basic training," Burton said. "Most of them probably do not come thinking 'I'm going to basic training so I can find Christ,' but a lot of them find Christ while they are here."
Burton sees his job as bringing God to soldiers and soldiers to God. On a typical Sunday morning at Fort Sill, 900 soldiers gather together for a contemporary Christian worship service in Sheridan Theater, the only space large enough on base to hold the congregation. Burton leads the service along with four other chaplains on base that work to provide spiritual guidance and encouragement to Fort Sill soldiers. One of his main tasks on base is to provide counseling to more than 100 soldiers a month, many of whom have left home for the first time and are carrying heavy burdens.
"It is our belief as chaplains that we can equip these soldiers by sharing the gospel with them if they are not Christians," he said. "We can share with them how that personal relationship with Christ, how the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us, is true. Even though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there Christ is with us. These soldiers who take that to heart and place their faith in Christ or the strong believers who come to us already knowing Christ as Savior, are very resilient soldiers and do very well with the complexities of life."
Previously in the Air Force, Burton then served as a pastor of a Mission Arlington church for seven years before rejoining the military as a commissioned Army chaplain. Leaving his congregation was difficult, but he knew his new mission field was where God was leading him.
"As a local pastor I waited for people in my church to come to me," Chaplain Burton recalled. "Now, I get to go meet my people wherever they are at: if they are on the range firing, on the confidence course, or out on patrols. Wherever there are soldiers, I can justify being there. That is a great honor and responsibility and privilege that I have - to be able to walk hand in hand with soldiers wherever they may be and be there for them in their time of need."
Grateful for the support he receives, Chaplain Burton was quick to note that he could not do all he does through his ministry without his endorsement from Texas Baptists.
Being a Texas Baptist chaplain, "gives us the opportunity to share the gospel in a setting with people who may not be able to be reached otherwise," he shared.
In addition to military chaplains, Texas Baptists also endorse chaplains in hospitals and prisons across the state and country. For more information about Texas Baptist chaplaincy, visit here.