Happenings On The Way To Heaven

Happenings on the Way to Heaven  

Our legislators gave us a great gift that has gone practically unnoticed by our secular society.

An unbelievably short two-page bill signed into law on September 1 provides a window of opportunity to schools.

“S.B. 763 would permit a school district to hire a school chaplain to perform the duties required of a school counselor.”  In a one-sentence law, we reversed course on our atheistic education system.

The bill’s author was Senator Mayes Middleton (R), Galveston and carried to the house by Representative Cole Hefner (R), Mount Pleasant. Both Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Representative Kyle Kacal supported it.

So, what’s a chaplain?

It has an ancient history, going back to around 332 AD. when a young Christian man forced to serve in the Roman army saw a beggar limping in the streets of Amiens, France. It was cold and raining, so this soldier named Martin took off his military cloak (“Cappa” in Latin) and tore it in half, giving half to the beggar. That night the soldier dreamed he saw Jesus wearing the torn cloak. When he woke up, his own cloak was restored whole.  He preserved his miraculous cloak in a room, and the room was called “cappela” which means “little cloak,” referring to the fact it had been torn in half. A guardsman was appointed to protect the relic, and he was called a chaplain. So that explains the root of this ancient word and explains the root of our word chapel. Martin would later become a monk and he was canonized as Martin of Tours.

In today’s context, a chaplain is a religious leader appointed to a special ministry, such as in the military, the police, fire, EMS, hospital or hospice, anywhere there’s life drama. In the case of this bill, chaplains would serve in schools, alongside or even in place of school counselors.

Senator Middleton explained why this bill was needed, “Chaplains are part of our communities in the military, the police and fire departments.” Chaplains They represent God in our government institutions.” Middleton told the Senate Education Committee that Texas lagged behind national averages in student-to-counselor ratios. “Schools don’t have to hire chaplains under this bill. However, for the same reasons why they work so well for our public safety officials are the same reasons that I believe chaplains will work well for our students.”
Under this bill, chaplains could be either voluntary or paid staff. Funding for “school chaplains will be allocated out of funds to promote school safety,” according to the language of S.B. 763.
By law school boards have until March 1, 2024 to authorize this program. If they do not act to authorize this policy before the deadline, they cannot utilize it. It is important if Brenham ISD and Burton ISD want to implement this policy, to place this item on the agenda soon.
Chaplains don’t have to be certified by the State Board of Education, but they do have to undergo all the background checks that state law requires. Furthermore, the school boards can set their own policies. Hefner said, “Local school boards could require endorsements, a master’s degree and post-degree training.”

He continued, “I want to make sure that we’re making it clear — that everybody knows — that schools may choose to do this, or not, and that they can put whatever rules and regulations in place that they see fit.”

There is an organization that provides school chaplaincy training. It is called the National School Chaplains Association. My husband Sybren and I had the blessing to attend their fundraising event in Houston in October. The founder, Rocky Malloy, started out in life as a merchant marine and ended up convicted of a life sentence in a Mexican prison.  While he was literally rotting away, he was saved miraculously. At that point, he committed life to Christ. He lived in South and Central America for 28 years working to minister to indigenous people and now lives in the Houston area. A pivotal moment occurred when he experienced seeing countries like Bolivia and Honduras turn “communist” in one day. Literally, after an election, the names of people to be imprisoned were published in the newspapers and patriots from all walks of life were arrested the next day. This experience prompted him to start the school chaplain program.

“The schools were ground zero for the Communists,” Rocky said at the dinner. “They would train elementary students, nine-or ten-year-olds to burn down their school buildings. Then the police would find the situation impossible to confront. How do you charge a 9-year-old with a felony?”  

Since Rocky Malloy started this program, his association has trained over 23,000 chaplains. There has not been one suicide or mass school shooting in any school where NSCA chaplains work. Licensed chaplains from NSCA testified in Austin last summer in favor of S.B. 763.
At the Senate hearing, a schoolteacher named Todd Taylor from Pasadena stated he left teaching to become a school chaplain to give children hope. As he spoke, he broke down, talking about the crisis team who came to his school after a kindergarten student drowned.

“They spent one day in our school with his class, and then they left,” said a clearly emotional Taylor. “If we had chaplains in schools, they would be there every day. They would personally know those kids. The teachers, me included, were given a phone number to call if you need help. If we had chaplains here, we would get the help we needed.”

Schools that use the program have also shown a great reduction in depression. In addition, school chaplains provide support to the teachers, parents, and staff and all their families.
Christopher Rhoades, an ordained minister and an educator, also testified. He specifically described how pastors could give support to the growing number of students suffering from depression and anxiety.

“I’m not asking you to let me browbeat people with the Gospel. I’m not asking you to let me force religion on people to be able to take up an offering at school,” Rhoades said. “Rather, I’m asking you to give me and others like me, who have a pastor’s heart and the appropriate qualifications, the privilege of offering pastoral care where students are when they need it.”
Let’s hope that both Burton and Brenham ISD trustees implement Senate Bill 763 so our schools can have the benefit of school chaplains. The window of opportunity is only open until March 1, 2024. Carpe diem!

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