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Army Chaplain named Alum of the Year

Army Capt. Pete Robinson (’04) wanted nothing to do with the military or hospitals when he graduated from MNU with a BA in youth and family ministry. Growing up in a household in which his father, a Marine commander, was frequently deployed and with a mother who suffered from a mental health diagnosis had turned Robinson off all things medical and military. Little did Robinson know he would end up marrying a nurse, becoming an Army Chaplain, and frequently consulting psychologists on behavioral health in his job. Robinson is the ­­­Chaplain Clinician of Behavior Health at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia. He has also been selected as this year’s male recipient of the Alumnus of the Year Award. 

Robinson provides pastoral care to staff, patients, and patient's family members in the Behavioral Health Care Center, which includes the Residential Treatment Facility for drug and alcohol dependence, as well as the Neurology and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitative Services. Working along side therapists, psychologists and medical personal, he says, in order to provide a “whole” healing process for his patients.

“Instead of working on one part of a car’s engine, now we are talking together and figuring out how to fix it together,” Robinson said of his role with the patients. “As secular as our world is, it seems to me that people really are longing for more.”

Robinson said he first discovered his passion while working on summer mission retreat in Reno, Nevada. He said while student ministry will always play a role in his calling, it is not the apex of his professional passion.

“I loved my job in the summer and on retreats,” Robinson said. “But the seasons between stunk because I wanted to be with people. That is the bottom line – I want to walk with people.”

Robinson said through many difficult trials, he grew more and more certain of his calling in the chaplain field. After having a candid discussion with his wife about the reality of deployment, Robinson said he felt God move. “Within one month, I was submitted to the board,” he said. Robinson said it took his brother, who went to (Army) jump school with him, almost a year to be accepted for his board.

Before he began his work in CPE, Robinson hadn’t educated himself comprehensively on medical research. But he said he was inspired by his wife Kim, who worked as a nurse, to explore the medical realm. With the help of MNU professors like Dr. Susan Larson, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Science at MNU, he began to put the pieces together.

Larson had focused on spirituality in nursing for her PhD dissertation, and she happily volunteered her time to help Robinson find resources that bolstered the benefits of integrated chaplain care in psychological healing. With her guidance, Robinson became aware of what is considered by some a wide gap between hospital patients who desired spiritual care during the healing process, and the nurses who were not trained to provide it.

“She was not only involved [with editing and sharing resources], but she was extremely affirming in the direction I was going and she really rooted for me. She undoubtedly played a huge role in [discovering my calling]; way more than she probably thinks she played,” Robinson said.

Robinson says chaplain integration is a critical part of the psychological healing process.

“Chaplains needs to be integrated with behavior health because people are spiritual,” he said. “If I am going to send someone to a therapist, that is not the same as having a therapist and chaplain integrated together. Even Christian therapists don’t do what I do. They will look at [soldiers] psychologically and socially. I have spent 10 years of my life learning how to look at things spiritually.”

Through the integration of these tactics, Robinson said his patients are not the only ones who have been enriched by the interaction. Robinson said he has discovered his own greatest spiritual growth outside the four walls of a chapel. He claims the challenge of balancing his duties as a chaplain and an Army officer  are the most satisfying aspects of his career.

“I have met more Wiccans and atheists in this past week than I did in seven years of church ministry," he said. "And I have only been to work twice this week. I am getting to be Jesus to them in a sense. It solidifies my pastoral identity and I learn about my own pastoral strengths and weaknesses. To me, it is an overwhelmingly awesome experience.”

Robinson admits it’s a challenge to meet soldiers in their darkest places and minister to them from neutral ground, while also remaining true to his calling. He achieves this connection through a practical, yet deeply personal avenue: creating real relationships.

“I believe relationships are one of the most spiritual things we have,” Robinson says. “The act of having a healthy relationship means putting [that person] above themselves… Jesus said it himself … to love God and to love your neighbor. Jesus is challenging us to consider that loving others is just as important as loving God.”

Robinson attributes his success to the support he received from both family as well as faculty members he met at MNU. 

“My wife has always been such a constant,” Robinson said. “The intensity of my job and the age of our kids means her primary goal is for her to be able to love on our kids and spend as much time with them as she can. She holds everything together.”

Robinson also gave credit to Dr. Mark Hayes, professor of Christian Education, who was instrumental in helping him discover his pastoral identity. “I would talk to [Hayes] every other day for several weeks because I didn’t know how to work [his pastoral style] out. Mark really helped me reaffirm that the process is a good place to be – asking questions is not a problem. Not asking questions is the problem.”

Robinson also wanted to extend a warm thanks to Dr. Jerri Sapp, professor emeritus for Innovative Adult Education, and Robinson’s freshman seminar professor.

“When Kim and I got married…Dr. Sapp drove out to Ohio for our wedding. She stayed connected with us throughout college…she was almost like a second mom while I was in college.”

Robinson said he is deeply grateful for the support and encouragement he received during his college career since it set him up for living out his passionate purpose today.

“Every day I have to process what it means to be a Christian; a chaplain; a pastor; an officer. You are dealing with real, deep issues that have huge implications. I absolutely love it. “



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