John LaNoue understands trauma. He witnessed it around the globe as a pioneer in disaster relief ministry with Texas Baptist Men. He experienced it as a 4-year-old on the day his father—a boilermaker who worked in a Southeast Texas shipyard—left his family and again, a few years later, when his mother and his alcoholic stepfather divorced.
Working with Col. Charlie Reynolds, the U.S. Army’s Africa command chaplain, and in cooperation with Unlimited Potential Inc., an Indiana-based sports ministry, LaNoue leads father-and-son weekend retreats for military personnel. He has conducted the retreats at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Wiesbaden, Germany. The most recent, in Italy, was scheduled in May.
Reynolds helped develop the weekend format in response to a soldier who, after being deployed 180 days a year, noted problems maintaining his relationship with his son and asked for help.
Reynolds has known LaNoue since their student days in the doctoral program at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Considering LaNoue’s four decades experience working with men and boys, the chaplain realized he would be an ideal speaker for a retreat geared toward fathers and sons.
“The best ministries are the ones the Holy Spirit does, and I get to just go along with them,” Reynolds said.
For some, the retreats offer opportunities to reconnect after long periods of separation. For others, they provide soldiers the context for establishing strong bonds with their sons prior to overseas deployment.
“One of the awesome ones was at Fort Drum before deployment to Afghanistan. Everyone knew we would lose some soldiers, and for some of the fathers and sons, it would be their last outing together,” Reynolds said.
During the weekend retreats, while former Major League Baseball players provide sports clinics for the boys, LaNoue speaks to their fathers. He establishes a rapport with the soldiers by telling them about some of the places he has served with Texas Baptist Men disaster relief.
“I let them know I’ve never been in the military, but I have worked below the radar in some places like North Korea, Iran, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina” on Christian humanitarian missions, he said.
That captures the attention of the military personnel, Reynolds noted.
“The Army guys love John. When they find out about the adventures God has given him, they instantly respect him and relate to him,” he said.
This excerpt is from an article featured in the July issue of CommonCall magazine. Read more stories like this, plus commentary, news and other resources, by subscribing here.