An Army captain matures in his faith as he works to help other cadets grow in their understanding of God’s Word.
Captain Kent Gavin opens his laptop to Zoom, the video chat application. It’s 8:30 a.m., and the other members of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Bible study he leads are smiling back at him. Just because the group can’t meet in person at their usual hangout—Pascal’s Coffeehouse on the University of Florida’s campus—doesn’t mean they can’t still join in the Word together.
“This Bible study is an important outlet for these cadets to come together and grow stronger in Christ, no matter what is happening in life,” Gavin says.
Growing in faith
The ROTC Bible study started in the fall of August 2018 when Gavin asked the group of cadets he teaches at the University of Florida if they wanted to start a small group.
This was an opportunity Gavin had long prayed about. He had witnessed his own faith grow through a Bible study when he attended the University of Mississippi. His mentor Mike Harlow, the recruiting officer of his school’s ROTC program, showed him “the power Jesus can provide.”
“I was living a lukewarm life before my senior year of college when Mike spoke to me about my faith,” Gavin recalls. Gavin grew in his faith, and he hoped he could help others grow in Christ’s love for them.
What started as a small group of four people grew to about a dozen individuals who consistently attended each week. It was the first organized Bible study for this ROTC group and attracted a variety of people with different backgrounds and perspectives.
Gavin himself grew up in a household that occasionally went to church but saw it more as an event to attend. His father was raised as a Catholic, but his mother was agnostic. As a child, Gavin and his family even attended a Lutheran church, but Gavin’s faith in God was limited, “lukewarm” as he described it.
It wasn’t until that transformational period in his senior year of college that his faith began to deepen and grow. Later that same year, he met his future wife, Allison, who became an integral part in his growth as a Christian.
As he launched this Bible study, Gavin was also becoming a member at Zion, Gainesville, Fla. He and Allison discovered the congregation through Allison’s aunt and uncle who attended Zion in the 1980s. After they attended a service at Zion, they immediately fell in love with the congregation.
“I’ve never felt a connection to a church before like I do at Zion,” Gavin says. Both found themselves growing in their faith though their worship at Zion.
In the spring of 2019, Gavin officially made his ROTC Bible study a part of the college ministry at Zion. Brian Wrobel, pastor at Zion, helped with the Bible study. He had previous experience with college ministry through Zion’s other college Bible study—Zion U. “Pastor Wrobel has been an absolute example of servant leadership,” says Gavin. “I can always go to him for more context or direction.”
The Holy Spirit has worked through Zion’s ROTC Bible study to strengthen and uplift everyone’s faith in different ways.
Wrobel loves to sit in on the Bible study to learn more about the military perspective and to engage in new points of view. Each week provides what he calls “aha moments,” where he listens to the insights that students find in the Word. “It’s given me a new appreciation for being a Lutheran and being in God’s Word,” says Wrobel. “They’re not afraid to ask hard questions. The students in these Bible studies are some of the most theologically sound people in our congregation.”
Three of the Bible study attendees have now gone through Zion’s Bible Information Class. One has joined the church as a member.
Fredrico Frech, a recent University of Florida graduate, has been a part of the group since its inception and has seen his life change in many ways through it. For him, the Bible study serves as a “restart every week” to get him focused on what’s important.
“Being a part of the ROTC and being a college student, you get sidetracked and can often forget about your faith,” Frech says. “But this Bible study puts things into perspective for me.”
As for Gavin, he’s seen his evangelism and outreach skills grow. “I’ve really grown in my ability to share my faith with others in the army,” he says. “I’m definitely more cognizant of it now as I perform my day-to-day functions.”
Right now, the group is taking a topical approach to their Bible study, studying the core army leadership competencies and how Christians can bring their unique understanding to the topic. Frech has enjoyed the real-life applications of this recent study. “The military is all about leadership,” he says. “What better way is there to learn about leadership than through the best leaders in the world, the leaders in the Bible?”
One of the most recent themes in this study centered on resiliency. The topic resonates on multiple levels for those in the ROTC group. For example, how does the resiliency of someone serving their country in a foreign land compare to Paul ministering to those in different countries? Also what do we need as Christians to be resilient right now during the pandemic? We all need the steady hand of God’s care and love as we face all kinds of changes and adapt to them. The Lord has provided a way for the group to meet virtually and continue sharing their faith.
Ministering to future cadets
Change is coming in another way for this Bible study. Gavin will be moving on to his next level of education in the army in the upcoming months. So now he prays for the Bible study’s new leader and the future of this group. He knows that God will provide just what the small group needs to continue ministering to future cadets and prays that Zion and the ROTC group will be resilient in facing the changes.
“The army profession is more than a job,” Gavin says. “It’s part of your life. We spend a tremendous amount of time focusing on our soldiers. The struggle is to balance your Christian values with your army values. But I think this Bible study has helped us find how we can apply our Christian life to our profession.”
As these cadets continue to grow in their faith, Gavin prays for one more thing: “I continue to pray that God will bless this Bible study as an outlet for the cadets to share their faith.”
Author: Gabriella Blauert
Volume 107, Number 08
Issue: August 2020