Brief Narrative of My Ministry
VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System
Chaplain Roland Schaedig
April 11, 2015
From April, 1992, until June, 2003, I served as a full-time staff chaplain at the Ann Arbor VA healthcare system. My responsibilities included medical and surgical units, specialty units in substance abuse and PTSD, combat veteran support group, Sunday chapel services, funerals, weddings, and invocations at special events.
I retired in June, 2003, and spent six years in several meaningful volunteer activities.
Because I was missing deeper interactions and ministry with people in my retirement, I appealed to God in discerning the best direction of further retirement life. Within three weeks, I received a call from my former VA supervisor, who stated the need for chaplains at the VA was becoming great with a larger influx of veterans. She asked if I would consider coming back part-time. God answered my prayer and I said Yes to my supervisor.
I have been an intermittent chaplain, working half-time for six years now, and I consider myself immensely blessed to be in ministry again with our veterans. I am privileded to hear amazing stories of joy and sorrow, of hope and despair, of vitality and waning energies, of accomplishment and futility. As I walk down the corridors to my first assignments in the early morning, I consider what an awesome honor and responsibility it is for me, a Lutheran pastor, to be a witness to Christ’s resurrection in a federal institution. I truly encounter him in the lives of these very veterans. The VA is indeed Holy Ground for me!
While I tell many of my VA friends and colleagues that I can’t see myself ever retiring again, I know that my energies will find their limits some day. For that reason, I am concerned that there be a “supply line” of pastors who will take the place of us older chaplains in the many federal chaplaincies that the ELCA supports.
There are many ways in which ELCA congregations can provide direct support to VA chaplains and the hundreds of thousands of veterans who come to our VA facilities for help, health and refuge.
Comfort items, clothing, gift cards, newspapers, books, bibles, games, puzzles, and lap robes are prized gifts to veterans who come to use lacking in some of these basics or whose stay becomes prolonged.
The gift of your person is also highly-valued. In our facility we are in great need of volunteers to escort patients to the Sunday chapel service. We welcome volunteer groups to provide bingo games evenings and weekend afternoons. Many veteran patients come from great distances, and welcome a friendly visit when their own families can’t make it. And, as this is written, the Ann Arbor VA could use two or three barbers to come in and cut hair for those who spend several weeks in rehabilitation programs.
A most special service that individual volunteers can provide is to the “No Veteran Dies Alone” program in the palliative care unit. When a veteran comes to that time of life’s ending, and his or her family members cannot be present all the time, or if there is no family member at all, The comforting presence of another caring person is precious.
A phone call to the voluntary service office of your chosen VA facility will connect you to a staff member who will help you decide which type of support is right for you or your congregation.