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Chaplain's perspective: a prayer offered is a prayer answered

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Eusebia D. Rios
  • Joint Special Operations Air Component Chaplain
Editors note: This is part three in a series of four commentaries.

As a chaplain, you never really know what the day holds. There are so many moments in the stillness of the day that you can actually see the hand of God moving in the lives around you. It is amazing how things seem to fall together and even someone who has not thought of God for a long time cannot escape the unexplainable truth that something greater than ourselves is at work.

Such a moment occurred when I met "Tony."

I remember walking toward an expressionless boy. He sat on a folding chair next to a broken down shed. The sun beat down upon his dark face. He sat where he was told and did not move. When spoken to, he merely looked up for a brief moment before returning to his stoic posture. He had no family and no friends. He'd been written off as a mute and perhaps mentally ill. To me he was a scared boy.

I knelt next to him and asked him his name. He would not speak. I took his hand and said come with me. We walked to the Gator and started on a journey. I had no idea where it would end.

My commander asked me what the plan was. I rattled off a few ideas. He seemed to buy off on the idea that I had it under control. In all humility, I was not quite sure what God had in mind. I just knew bring "Tony" with us back to camp was the right thing to do.

Once we got back, there were many concerns about safety and about his mental state. Yet, I could not believe God would set us up for failure. I strongly believed God was going to do something. It was the "what" I had to pray about.

As life would have it, I had to leave Tony with an interpreter for a few hours. Several emergencies arose, and, for some reason, I was pulled away. However, I did not give up on Hope.

My last stop before going back to see how we could help Tony was at a hospital. I got a ride there but had to walk back. As I started walking back, I said a little prayer, "Lord, if you could just help me help Tony, I would appreciate it. I really need for the nuns I had worked with to show up today. Lord, I know you can help me -- just let me know what you want me to do."

As soon as I finished that prayer, I heard from behind me, "Hey Chaps! Need a lift!"
I said, "Sure!" to the stranger. He was an older man in an Army uniform - I hadn't seen him around before. He didn't say much. But he was so happy to help me get back to my camp.

As I looked to the heavens and wondered if God had heard my prayer, the driver slowed down. I looked at the driver to figure out what was the matter and to my surprise I saw two nuns I had worked with earlier in the week standing right there on our left. I told the driver to stop and he did. He smiled drove away.

I immediately spoke to the nuns about what was happening with Tony.

Sister Olita said, "Take me to the boy. I want to see for myself."

I said, "Let's go!"

As soon as we arrived where Tony was, I began to see the hand of God at work. Soon, the mute boy began to speak. He answered one question, then two questions, and then finally he said, "My mother works. I don't know where she is."

The nun told me what was he was saying. I was amazed. Sister Olita grabbed her phone and made a few calls. She said, "Chaplain, I will be right back. I think I know someone that can help."

As I watched the nun walk away, I was trying to figure out another plan. I looked at Tony and watched him eat a few bites of an MRE. I knew God was at work. But I grew impatient and started walking down the flight line in search of the nun.

I looked to the heavens one more time and prayed, "Lord, if you could just help me find a place for Tony it would really help me out here."

I looked up and the crowd of people before me parted, and who did I see walking towards me? Sister Olita. She was smiling and gave me the thumbs up.

She said, "Let me make a call."

She called an organization that I had helped during the first few days we were here in Haiti. The nun recognized my name. She said, "Yes, we can help Chaplain Rios ... no problem, we will take the boy."

Sister Olita told me that a family would watch Tony, and they would help track down his mother. They'd make an announcement on the radio regarding where Tony will be located.

It amazed me how the events unfolded, but, as I watched Tony walk away with the nuns, I knew it was the right thing to do. I walked into my counseling area and noticed a piece of paper on my desk. It was a picture that Tony had drawn.

It was a heart and a cross.

I taped the picture to the metal wall and sat back to admire his art work. I thought to myself, "Tony knew exactly what he needed -- Love and God."