Christopher H. Wisdom
One important reason that we send OP ministers into the military to serve as chaplains is because members of the OPC and other Reformed churches who serve in our nation’s armed forces need and benefit from God’s ordinary means of grace as administered by OP chaplains.
This year marks the thirty-first anniversary of my meeting OP ruling elder Michael C. (Mike) Cloy and his family while I was serving as chaplain. We have now enjoyed three decades of mutual military active duty and military retirement.
In 1989, Mike was a US Army captain, and I was a military chaplain in the same rank. We had been deployed separately to Friedberg, Germany, and met for the first time at the US Army’s Ray Barracks Chapel. I preached a sermon titled “Not Ashamed of the Gospel” from Romans 1:16–32 at the chapel’s Protestant service. Mike later told me that, as he listened to the sermon, he nudged his wife, Debbie, and whispered, “This chaplain is preaching the text! We need to find out who he is.” As I was shaking hands with exiting worshipers at the front door, Mike introduced himself and his wife and asked, “What church are you with?” I answered simply, “I am an Orthodox Presbyterian.” Mike replied, “I knew it! I knew you had to be Reformed.” Thus began an abiding friendship in Christ that has borne fruit in many ways over the years and around the world, by the grace of God.
Previously, the Cloys had been members at the OP church in Santa Cruz, California, where Al Moran was the pastor. When the church at Santa Cruz was dissolved by presbytery at the congregation’s request, the Cloys, serving in Germany, found themselves without a home church.
Since 1986, I had been serving under a call as associate pastor for military ministry by Grace OPC in San Antonio, Texas, during my tenure on active duty. So, at the Cloys’ request, I asked our church’s pastor, Jack J. Peterson, if he would gain the session’s approval to visit Germany and interview the Cloys on behalf of the session for communicant membership in Grace OPC.
On October 8, 1989, upon reaffirmation of their membership vows, the Cloys were received into communicant membership of Grace OPC with Peterson representing the session during the evening worship service I was leading. With the session’s approval, I also baptized Mason Cloy, as he and his sister Melanie were received as non-communicant members.
But our fellowship was by no means a one-way ministry relationship.
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Although Mike and I were in different combat units, we both deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in January 1991 for Operation Desert Storm because our units served under the same high-level commander. Mike, serving as a company commander, invited me to conduct field services and preach to his soldiers in his company’s tactical assembly area. I gladly accepted, and on one occasion preached a sermon, “Living in Tents and Longing for Home,” on the nearness of death and the hope of our resurrection in Christ from 2 Corinthians 5:1–21.
When the time came for our division to support the invasion and liberation of Kuwait, and my unit was under-supplied for night vision goggles, Mike generously issued me a pair. It was an invaluable asset for me, because as a noncombatant chaplain it was my duty to drive 120 miles through the desert into Iraq during the first night of the ground war as our brigade defeated opposing Iraqi forces and then pushed into Kuwait by the end of the last week of February 1991.
Following the victory over Saddam Hussein’s forces, Mike and I redeployed to Germany, rejoined our families, and continued to enjoy our fellowship as we each prepared to go our separate ways at the end of our overseas tour.
Our mutual military ministry, however, did not end in Germany. We managed to stay in close touch over the years as our Army careers progressed and our children grew up. When Mike was assigned to the US Army Southern Command in Miami, Florida, he and Debbie encouraged our son, Tom, then a freshman at University of Miami in fall 1997, to attend Lord’s Day worship services with them. They provided Tom with regular reminders and rides to the services at Sharon OPC in Hialeah, Florida, where Dr. Jeffrey Boer was and still is pastor.
When the Cloys’ daughter, Melanie, later became engaged to be married to West Point graduate Second Lieutenant Ed Murdock, I was honored to be asked by them to provide counseling and to conduct their military wedding service on June 2, 2007. On this solemn occasion, I preached from 1 John 4 on how Christ declares to us and demonstrates for us the foundation and fruits of God’s faithful love to us.
In June 2008, after an exceptional career that included combat commands at the battalion and brigade level, Mike retired from the active duty Army, having served in the rank of full colonel. At his retirement ceremony at Fort Monroe, Virginia, on June 13, 2008, I was honored to offer prayer on behalf of the Cloy family. I especially rejoiced to be able to give public thanks to God for Mike’s faithful testimony as a Reformed Christian and for his exemplary competence and blameless conduct as an Army officer and field commander.
The next waypoint in our ministry journey with the Cloys was the joy of seeing Mason Cloy, the little boy I had baptized over twenty years earlier, grow to maturity and become a communicant member in Christ’s church. Upon his college graduation, Mason was commissioned as a second lieutenant of infantry in the US Army on August 9, 2012. In 2016, we had the joy of traveling to Fort Benning, Georgia, to attend his Army Ranger School graduation, following his successful completion of the grueling 61-day combat leadership course.
Today, Mike and Debbie Cloy are active members of Reformation OPC in Gastonia, North Carolina. Mike serves on the session as a ruling elder and on the provisional session for Landis OPC in Marion, North Carolina. He is also active periodically as a ruling elder delegate to the meetings of the Presbytery of the Southeast and serves on the diaconal committee of the presbytery. He is a member of the OPC Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel as well as the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Their daughter, Melanie, her husband, Ed, and their six children are currently members of Covenant Community OPC in Taylors, South Carolina. Their son, Mason, and his wife, Shannon, with their two children and a third due this month, are members of Covenant Presbyterian Church of the Low Country, an OP mission work in Bluffton, South Carolina.
Our story provides but one illustration of the fruit that God has been pleased to bear over the years and around the world by his sovereign grace alone, through military chaplain ministry. “Pro Deo et Patria—Soli Deo Gloria!”
The author is an OP minister and former member of the Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel. New Horizons, February 2020.