Reflection from Alum Ray Henson, Chaplain Resident, VA Hospital, Nashville, TN
My journey into ministry has been a little bumpy but filled with amazing and almost miraculous interventions. The story of it begins about ten years ago when I came to the Nashville VA Hospital to be nearby when a veteran friend of mine was having a seven-hour surgery. We had both deployed during the First Gulf War, although he was an aircraft maintenance technician in the Air Force and I was an MP in the Army guarding an enemy prisoner of war (EPW) camp.
As I waited during his surgery, I decided to go to Volunteer Services to ask if I could begin doing some volunteer work. As expected, they were very enthusiastic and asked the area in which I was interested. With nothing clearly in mind, I surprised both the Volunteer Services staff and myself by stating that I wanted to volunteer with the chaplain.
Soon, I was loving what I was doing so much that I began to think about being a staff chaplain at the VA. I discovered that I would need a Master of Divinity degree, which I soon learned comprises 75-90 graduate hours in an accredited seminary. My hopes dashed, I continued to work as a school principal but became linked to Ircel Harrison, an early director of the CBTS Nashville satellite site. He was an early mentor and continued to alert me about courses available in my area. I finally took one and loved it. He introduced me to Sally Holt, who gave me contacts at the main seminary, and as a member of the Abenaki Nation, I was offered a tuition-free scholarship. I finished the M.Div. in four years, and then was able to intern at the VA Hospital. Finding my path, I retired from school and now I am in the second year of residency with the VA. All the folks at Central were my angels in helping me discern and follow my path into ministry.