This February, Texas Baptist Chaplaincy Relations, in partnership with the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), reached and exceeded a milestone of 1,000 chaplaincy endorsements.
Over the past 18 years, Texas Baptists have endorsed 1,011 chaplains. More than 600 of these individuals are still actively serving. Texas Baptists endorse in eight distinct categories including military, correctional, biker, public safety, healthcare, marketplace, crisis response and pastoral counseling.
In celebration of the ministry’s continued growth, Texas Baptists recognize the calling and vision of two recently- endorsed chaplains.
Healthcare chaplain provides personalized care
Allan Escobar is a newly-endorsed healthcare chaplain at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, TX.
Chaplaincy endorsement provides great value to Escobar’s ministry. “It communicates that you are supported by the community of faith,” he said. “When pastors are ordained, it indicates the church supports them --— it’s the same with chaplaincy endorsements.”
Escobar has a seminary background and is an ordained pastor. He worked in youth, singles, church-planting and missions ministries at multiple churches before training to become a chaplain. He felt called to healthcare chaplaincy because of the great need he saw there.
“It’s not just patients who need support. Nurses and doctors also need spiritual care. They work so many hours and often don’t get the chance to attend church. Their workplace becomes not even a second but sometimes like a first home to them,” explained Escobar. “When I saw an opportunity to minister to them, to be their pastor, I wanted to seize it.”
As a chaplain, Escobar provides guidance to patients, families and hospital staff who are hurting both physically and spiritually.
“One of my favorite things about being a chaplain is my ability to provide more direct, one-on-one care to people,” he said.
“When I was a pastor, this was difficult for me sometimes, but chaplaincy has given me many opportunities to personalize my ministry to individuals.”
Escobar completed Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Hospital.
“Most CPE programs require that you come in with a seminary degree,” he said. “They want that foundational understanding to build on. The next step is learning how to use your theological understanding to truly connect and minister in healthcare situations.”
The Chaplaincy Relations Endorsement Council voted in approval of Escobar’s endorsement in mid-February. Supported by the Texas Baptist chaplain community, Escobar plans to continue serving in Tyler while he pursues further chaplaincy certification.
“This endorsement affirms that I am where God wants me,” Escobar said. “It creates opportunities for me to continue learning and growing as well as to expand my influence and reach.”
Military reserve chaplain learns from chaplain community
Amelia Barton is a recently-endorsed military reserve chaplain for the U.S. Air Force living in Georgia. She personally attested to the benefits of a Texas Baptist chaplaincy endorsement even while living out of state.
“Chaplaincy Relations is a family,” she said. “Whether we are in times of struggle or joy, the Texas Baptist community of chaplains wants to live through those moments with us. I have so many friends who are endorsed by other organizations, and they’ve never spoken to or met with anyone involved in their endorsement. This has really helped me appreciate the Texas Baptists endorsement model.”
Barton felt called to military chaplaincy in 2016 after graduating from the University of North Georgia with a Master in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
“That summer, during a Fourth of July celebration, I remember hearing the audible voice of God telling me to join the military,” she said. “At first, I was terrified and didn’t know where to begin. I knew nothing about chaplaincy at the time. I’d never even heard of the word. But I could clearly hear God’s voice, and I knew I had to obey Him.”
Eric Whitmore, associate endorser for Calling and Endorsement with Texas Baptist Chaplaincy Relations, helped educate and counsel Barton during her calling.
“I talked to Eric for probably two hours. He explained to me everything there is to know about military chaplaincy,” Barton said. “After that, it was like my life just made sense. I knew this was what I was meant to do.”
Barton began training in the Air Force Chaplain Candidate Program, pursuing a seminary degree and mentoring with a military chaplain serving in the Air Guard. She also participated in Texas Baptists’ Chaplain Candidate Cohort.
“The cohort training was honestly the best I received,” said Barton. “For 10 weeks, our group met once a week through online video conferencing. We learned about ministering in the military from other endorsed chaplains and Chaplaincy Relations staff.”
Barton has also attended two Texas Baptists Chaplaincy Training Events to supplement her required training.
“Continued education is so important to military chaplains because our field is constantly evolving. If we are not willing to continue molding ourselves, chaplains may easily become ineffective,” she said. “For example, mental health awareness and suicide prevention have recently become big topics in the military. Chaplains are on the front lines of addressing these issues, but we must be properly trained to confront them.”
Barton’s endorsement was approved in mid-February. She is currently working as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA), filling in for active-duty chaplains while she continues to learn and grow her ministry skills.
“I am thankful to be supported by an organization that is as on fire to minister as I am,” Barton said.
To learn more about Texas Baptist Chaplaincy Relations, visit txb.org/chaplaincy.