From Rebel to Chaplain

by Chaplain (Major) Bill Robinson

Mine is the typical tale of our age. I was a child when my parents divorced. My father remarried and I had a hard time accepting a new mother. My desire for my birth mother's love caused me to date at a very young age. I was always seeking the female love I had lost when my mother left. This early childhood trauma also manifested itself in a need to be accepted by others -- "external validation." Add to this mix the fact that we moved around the country continuously, from Oklahoma to Texas to Alabama to North Carolina to Kentucky to Ohio... all before first grade. It was a recipe for disaster.

I believed in God and Jesus and was convinced that sex outside of marriage would send me straight to Hell. The only thing I understood about Christianity was the "Don'ts" and going to church. The desire to fit in, to be a part of some group, caused me to form relationships of tremendous value outside of my family while my life at home was barely tolerable. Of course, the desire to fit in with the world cost. I was learning to cuss, drink, and smoke -- and all the things that go with these, like lies and deception -- all the while believing in God and Jesus. I could not see the disconnect.

My desire to fit in was perfect for the military; even as a kid I had tremendous success. I joined the Civil Air Patrol, made rank, went to Blue Beret school. I had found a place to belong: a family that loved me and a world that made sense.

I went to church camp and it changed my life. I made my confession of faith and was baptized into Jesus. For the first time I saw real Christianity and loved it. But when I got back to my home church, I was given my gift Bible and sat in the "Sinner's Pew" in the back of the church with the other teens. The Christianity seemed to wear off. I remember wondering why church and church camp were so different. In time, I was right back to all the sinful things I was doing before. And this happened over and over. I just did not get it. I could not see my own inconsistencies and contradictions.

I ended up having to go to a teen thing my Dad knew about at Bill Rudge Ministries and I met a guy who had a different Christianity. It was genuine; it lived and breathed; it was honest, sincere, and consistent. But since I had not seen anything like him outside of church camp, I figured it was the same difference between church and church camp -- a kind of "bait and switch."

As time went on, I continued to become increasingly like the world. But every time I ran into this "Bill Rudge guy," he was the same genuine full-of-life Christian that down deep I wanted to be like. I wanted the joy and hope that he lived and breathed through his faith in Jesus.

After high school, I went off to Bible college (the same one my Dad went to) but never felt like I fit in. Maybe because I did not get Christianity. I was suspended my second semester due to my own sinful actions. I could not go home and was 500 miles away from everything I knew with only $20 and a '77 Ford Granada. I did not realize that GOD sustained me during these times. I thought that I was too tough to break and that I made it through by means of my own grit. But as all sin is only good for a season, I eventually had to "pay the piper."

After being arrested, my fiancee spent all her graduation money to bail me out of jail. We got married and I joined the Army and left for Germany.

Wouldn't you know, this "Bill Rudge guy" showed up in Germany at a nearby military base. I went to hear him speak and met with him after the service. He still had the same hope, joy, and faith in Jesus I had seen years before! He was still real and it made me think. But think was all I did, because I was a Christian -- I went to church and gave my money. Wasn't that what it was all about?

The Army took God's place in my life and I worshiped it and its culture. All I wanted to do in life was get married, make Sergeant, fight in a war, and have a son. By age 25, I had done all of these and none of them brought satisfaction. I was very disillusioned after the Gulf War and hanging out at the bar with other veterans didn't help much.

Eventually, I was on the verge of divorce, had lost my job, and everything was falling apart. It was at this point I hit my knees and said, "God help me! I've ruined my life!"

The road back was not an easy one, but over time God restored all that had been lost and then some. Little by little, I acknowledged all the idols I had created in my life to worship and made the choice to put them away. I realized that my Heavenly Father loved me not because of what I did, but because of who I was - His beloved child.

As things grew in focus I wanted to share Jesus with my friends, especially those I had led the wrong way, and I wanted to serve Jesus out of gratitude. I was beginning to have joy and hope.

I got back in the Army, but this time I put God first. It was strange that all the things I sought before and never could attain now fell into my lap -- but they really didn't mean that much to me anymore. As I followed God closer and closer, more "God-incidences" began to happen. I was content to be a Christian Combat Engineer and help my soldiers come to Christ. I never considered the idea of college or full-time ministry. I had even turned down the Army College Fund because I would happily rather be a "grunt" for twenty years. I can almost hear God laugh.

Eventually I left the Army to go back to Bible college and while I was there my professors encouraged me to look into the chaplaincy. They viewed it as a mission field and me as a "native" in that field. God continued to lead and prepared the way. Impossibility after impossibility was overcome - money, age, graduate school, Greek, and Hebrew. In all of these, God's provision was more than sufficient. Through all of this, I have been blessed to know Jesus and one of His true followers -- that "Bill Rudge guy."

You would never know this story unless I told you or you asked Bill Rudge. Today, I have been married 19 years, have an 18-year-old son, am a chaplain in the U.S. Army, and am a beloved child of God. To God be the glory as He continues to work in our world. His ways surely are above our wildest imagination.

Bill Rudge Remembers Meeting Bill Robinson in Germany in 1990

A macho soldier (Bill Robinson) drove an hour from his base in Germany to hear me speak Sunday morning and Sunday night at Darby chapel on a Nuremberg Military Base. He spent the day with us and later that night he wanted to talk to me alone. He said, "Bill, I'm rough physically - but I can't resist the peer pressure." He continued, "I have listened to your cassette message on "Courage To Stand Alone" several times, and that's what I want!" A few weeks later he was sent to Saudi Arabia to serve in Desert Storm. God protected him in some amazing ways. Years later we met again in Pennsylvania. This time he was faithfully serving Jesus and in the midst of intense study at seminary. A couple years later he sat in my office and informed me of the wonderful things the Lord had done in his life. He also told me he would be leaving for Iraq to serve as a chaplain.

I am privileged to know Bill and his family and excited to see how God is using him. We continue to pray for him and his family and for God's protection and that much fruit be borne through his ministry and service in Iraq.