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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Leave Taking
November 26, 2006

      It’s official - I am now considered full-time Army as of 4 days ago.  As I write this, I am on a bus to Fort Riley, KS for training before deployment to Afghanistan.  This morning, my wife and children saw me off at the armory, watched me board the bus, and watched the bus drive away while I waved to them.

      Fortunately, I will be back within a few weeks for Christmas. So my time away will be short.  In many ways, this is a better way to break off - I have been away for training for short periods, and now for a longer period, before I leave for the long haul.

      My last days at home have been spent doing mostly routine things - cleaning up, getting after the kids to do their homework, fixing dinner, normal stuff.  I wondered about the wisdom of keeping to a routine, since I was going to be gone soon.  But I figured that this would be my gift to them; they will remember me in simple routine things, and hopefully remember to do them themselves without my reminders while I am away.

      I understand and empathize with what Jesus must have felt during the last week of His life - the certain knowledge of His leaving, His choosing routine things such as meals and foot washing to be reminders to His disciples after He left them, and His despair in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I felt like Jesus was less concerned about His dying than about His concern about so much of His work being left undone.  If He was at all like me (and I’m certain He was, because He was human, too), then He must have felt great concern about how His ministry would continue without Him.  His disciples would have to figure it out.  Ultimately, Jesus left it up to God to work things out for the disciples.  I also leave my family in God’s hands to work out all the problems they will face without my help.

      The National Guard had a small ceremony in Springfield to send us off.  The media was there, and our story is now part of a larger story which has drawn the attention of the national media.  The success of our nation is tied in some small part to the success of our mission, as far as our ongoing war on terrorism is concerned.  I think we’ll be up for the challenge.

      Interestingly, the Army has chosen the National Guard to train the Afghan National Army.  This is strictly a mission of part-time soldiers called to full-time service; people like me.  I’m not sure why we have been chosen instead of the full-time Army, but there must be some success by those Guardsmen who have gone before us to train these Afghan soldiers, or the Army would have changed the plan.  I feel honored to be part of such an important task.

      At our mobilization ceremony, the Adjutant General for the Illinois National Guard, Major General Randall, spoke briefly to us and our families of the importance of our mission.  He pledged the support of himself and his staff to helping us and our families.  It made my wife feel a little better - she has been very aware of how alone she will be with me gone.

      We are a small team, and in the past few weeks we have met and trained together, met each others’ families, and pledged our support to one another.  We are focused.  We each have our head in the game.  We are out to succeed.

      Whatever doubts and fears may have been inside any of us before now has passed.  It’s time to do what we have been called to do.  We are ready.  It’s time to get trained and go get the job done.

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.