We continue our series on the "I Am Second" movement by talking to former military leader, Chris Plekenpol. After watching his own soldiers die and others being blown up, he realised that he was an enemy of God. Now the lead pastor at Wells Branch Community Church in Texas, Chris talks to us about feeling alone and how God changed his life.
Chris was previously a U.S. Army commander in the Iraqi war and underwent intense training at the Ranger School. Being the most physically and mentally demanding leadership school the Army has to offer, Chris knew that the only way he could graduate was with God's help. He then went in search of the largest church in the vicinity and found one in Kentucky that had 30,000 attendees. That Sunday, the message brought streams of tears to his eyes. Although Chris had initially thought that Christianity was only for those who had committed serious sins and thus needed help, God revealed the depravity in him. It then dawned on him that he was more concerned about people's opinion of him, rather than God's. On 3 December 1999, he received the Lord Jesus Christ into his life and was baptised the very next day.
From that day on, Chris testifies that the Holy Spirit gave him the ability to face fear and overcome it. Even in near-death experiences, he was able to trust that God was in control. Within minutes of starting his first day of combat, he had lost his first soldier to a massive explosion. That night, while composing a letter to the late soldier's family, it felt as though God was not there, even though He was. Looking back at the difficult situation, Chris encourages us not to let circumstances dictate our view of the power and presence of God.
One scene that has since been seared into his memory was one where a terrorist was blown up by his own bomb just 100metres away. All that was left of him was dust. Chris watched, cringing and thinking that God in His mercy, was unfraid of the consequences and risks of dying for man; He did not just sit in His tank and watch man die. The humbling experience reminded Chris of the extent of God's love, even for those who are His enemies. It was in that moment that he heard God saying, "It's time", and knew that God had called him to leave the army to attend seminary.
While in seminary, Chris wrote two books, one of them being Stumbling Souls where he chronicles the true story of inviting a homeless, homosexual, hurricane Katrina victim into his home. After extending their friendship to him, the man was no longer just a homeless guy to Chris and his friends- he became James, their friend. Through this friendship, God revealed His unfailing love that never gave up on James and completely changed their view on living a sacrificial life for Christ.
Chris is now committed to living a transparent and authentic life that reflects Christ, in order that someone might receive Him into their lives.
Stay tuned for more on the "I Am Second" movement, which aims to inspire peoples of all kinds to live for God and for others.