September 1: Chaplain David Peterson

Good Providence Sums Up His Calling

Reared outside the prairie town of Lemmon, South Dakota, David Peterson would travel to many war-torn countries around the world before his calling as an Army chaplain would be over.  But that thirty-year career did come to an end on September 1, 1995.  For the next thirteen years, he led the Presbyterian Church in America Mission to North America Chaplain Ministries as its Coordinator.  Currently he is the chairman of the International Association of Evangelical Chaplains, which assists foreign nations in developing and training of chaplains.

A key highlight of an adventure filled life and ministry for this Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary graduate was his experience as the Senior Military Chaplain for General Norman Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf War.  He was present in the underground bunker in Saudi Arabia when the first United States bombers were to take off for Baghdad, Iraq around midnight.  The general had gathered his staff together, including Col. Peterson.  Before the order was given to start the war, he asked his chaplain to say a prayer.

Chaplain Peterson prayed the following prayer on that momentous night: “Our Father, on this awesome and humbling occasion, we are grateful for the privilege of turning to you, our Sovereign and Almighty God.  We believe that, in accord with the teaching of your word and revelation, we are on a just and righteous mission.  We pray for a quick and decisive victory. Your Word informs us that men prepare for battle, and we have.  But victory rests with the Lord.  Therefore we commit our ways to you and wait upon the Lord.  In the name of the Prince of Peace, we pray.  Amen.”  Those military men affirmed the words with their response of Amen.

Let it be said that Chaplain Peterson suspected that this would be coming.   He had talked with the General for a time that very night.  Just before going to the bunker, there was a time when this PCA minister was alone by himself, waiting for the general to go to the underground bunker.  At that time, David Peterson composed his spirit and quickly wrote down some Scriptural texts and prayer requests on a three-by-five card.  Thus, when the time to pray came in that war room, he was ready to intercede with the God of war for the souls of the men who would enter into a battle that very night,  to say nothing of the victory over the enemy.

Just a few years later, in 1999, Chaplain Peterson would write:

During a recent missions conference, someone said to me, “As long as our nation is not in a significant war, people are not concerned about the military and therefore not concerned about the chaplaincy.” Reluctantly, I must admit that there is some truth in that statement. There is a tendency for the citizens of our nation to take our freedom for granted. Today, very few American citizens are aware of the historical role the military has played in our society and why it is important to continue having a strong force. Nor do we give much thought to the role and impact our chaplains have in the ministry to our military force and their families.

Words to live by: One of the more comforting doctrines of God’s Word is the doctrine of divine providence.  Sometimes the word providence was used in earlier times as a synonym for God Himself.  But properly used, it simply signifies, as our Westminster Confession of Faith states in Chapter 5 that “God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence.”  If we could as Christians simply live our lives in the full knowledge of, and trust for, that doctrine, how much we would live more comfortably  in this present world.

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