As I think upon the time I spent in the Army, it strikes me as odd that I knew Ted as "Ted." Everybody else went by his last name or some variation thereof. I was "Haugaard." My best friend was "Lutes," and though the movie wouldn't be out for years, a man in my company named Rombold was "Rambo," or "Rambone," or the even less flattering "Blablow."
But Ted I knew as Ted, though I didn't know him for long since he came shortly before I got out. He was a chaplain's assistant with a quiet maturity and confidence in God that attracted me to him. Anyway, Ted and I were together in his room one night, as I recall, when he suggested we walk around the base and tell people about Jesus.
I had done this sort of "cold-call" approach before and generally didn't enjoy it. I remember speaking to one of the four women on the base and asking if she didn't ever feel an emptiness inside her. "Yeah," she replied, "but whenever I feel like that I go get something to eat." Then she and her girlfriend walked away laughing.
But Ted gave me confidence, and with him there I didn't mind.
As I recall, we wandered into the snack bar, but there was nobody sitting alone who might welcome someone to talk to, so we walked over to the barracks of an infantry company.
Just inside the door sat the Charge of Quarters, or "CQ," a sergeant in charge of the barracks at night. CQs never have anything to do but answer the telephone and send their runners for coffee, so it was always easy to get into a conversation with them, and this CQ was no exception.
In his quiet way Ted shared the gospel with the sergeant while off to the side I prayed. Then he asked the sergeant if he would like to ask Jesus into his heart. It is odd that I don't remember whether he said yes or no, but I do remember he was visibly troubled and agreed to let Ted and I pray for him.
So Ted put his hand on one shoulder and I -- figuring that was the thing to do -- put my hand on his other shoulder, and we prayed.
It was a heartfelt prayer, but then so are a lot of prayers, and I don't remember anything fancy or otherwise different about it.
But when we were done the sergeant looked at Ted and then at me with a shaken, suspicious look and asked -- almost demanded -- to know what we had done.
I thought what we had done was pretty obvious, but from his intensity, he clearly meant something that neither Ted or I quite understood.
So he explained: "Your hands got hot! How did your hands get hot!?"
Ted, taking it in stride, told him about the power of God while I stood on the side partly praying and partly dying to ask Ted if he felt his hand get hot.
Eventually, Ted finished, and we walked out the door.
"Did you feel your hand get hot?" I asked him.
Ted hadn't felt a thing. Neither had I.
We went back to visit the sergeant once and Ted went alone another time or two, but he was careful never to be available.
Since then I've occasionally prayed for people with my hand on their shoulder, but never with the response we got that night at Ferris Barracks.
Copyright 1996, Brad Haugaard.
“Let us strengthen and cheer ourselves with the persuasion that nothing can befall us by chance, that all our times are in his hand, and that we are immortal till our work is done.”
–Works of Rev. William Jay, Evening, Sept. 12