Disclaimer: This is my own personal testimony. It is not to condemn or point fingers at current service members that are Seventh-day Adventists. May it encourage, inspire and edify everyone that reads it.
I was raised in a broken home where a relationship with Christ was not a priority. At the age of fifteen, I attended a Revelation seminar and responded to the seeds sown in my life by giving my life to Him. I decided to pursue the ministry.
If I could put myself in a box and label it, I considered myself a conservative. I had daily devotions in The Word, I pursued souls that were lost, ate a vegan diet and leaned upon the Spirit of Prophecy for additional guidance. After one year of pursuing my theology degree and another year of trying to repay my school debt, I decided to join the Army. My testimony is more like a lost sheep, than Desmond Doss.
In 2004 the memories of the Twin Towers coming down still resonated in my mind. After lots of wasted hours on computer games, the excitement of reenacting G.I. Joe was still resonating inside of me. I was also a bit naïve as I thought that I could tell the recruiter that I was a conscientious objector and still join the Army. But the recruiter told me that a conscientious objector could not join the US Army, they can only be drafted. So I joined anyway, knowing that I was going to be carrying a weapon. I thought that when I got into basic training I could tell my drill sergeant that I needed the Sabbath off, and that would settle it. Alas, I was too intimidated to tell the drill sergeant. But even if had found the courage to tell him, I wouldn’t have gotten Sabbath off. They don’t work that way.
I spent Sabbath after Sabbath doing rucksack marches, push-ups, going to the shooting range, and getting cursed. This began to weigh on my conscience. At nights I would cry myself to sleep in my bunk knowing that I let my Savior down by not standing up for his beautiful Sabbath. I was not Desmond Doss standing for the beautiful truths that which our Savior bled for, I was just another sinner making an excuse for his own sin. At the end of basic training, I got tired of breaking his holy Commandment and I told my newlywed wife that even if it meant going to prison I was no longer going to be breaking the Sabbath.
I served in the Army from 2004 to 2007 and during that time I never actually got to do my job that I was trained to do—which was field artillery. I was training to go to Iraq, or working in Iraq, or preparing to go back to Iraq. To my delight, the units that I was with allowed me to keep his Sabbath holy from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown even while I was in Iraq. It was very tough to find people to cover your shift, to go against or to argue with higher commanding sergeants and officers than you but they allowed me to keep God’s Sabbath holy by not working. No matter how much I tried to explain the Sabbath to my leadership it seemed like they would never understand exactly what the Sabbath was and why I kept it.
One time, when I was in Iraq, my sergeant noticed me throwing a football back and forth with another soldier. He quickly ran up to me and started yelling at me asking why I was throwing the football back and forth with the other soldier on the Sabbath. I told him that I didn’t consider it work but he said unless you’re eating, talking to your wife, going to the restroom, laying in your bunk and reading your Bible that that was the only thing that you were allowed to do. I laughed silently calling him “the sabbath police” but I obeyed.
Iraq certainly had its ups and downs when it came to my relationship with Christ. I did convoys transporting equipment and every day I was at a new base. I got shot at, mortared at, roadside bombs nearby me but no scratch. The Lord placed assurance on my heart that I was going to come back and see my beautiful bride, so I hung on to that. He didn’t promise me fingers and toes, but I came back with all those so I’m very thankful.
I remember one Valentine’s Day I waited an hour and a half in line to talk to my wife for 15-minutes. I was next to the same area that Abraham left, in southern Iraq—the land of Ur. As I hung up the phone with my wife we started to receive incoming artillery shells. This was one of my most frightening experiences in Iraq. I ran out of the tent. As soon as I got outside, I noticed that I left my weapon inside the tent. I yelled for my friend to stay outside and wait for me as I went back in and got my weapon. He told me to hurry up! Sometimes it’s like that in our walk with Christ. We are in Satan’s territory, we are fighting the battle but we have forgotten our sword, His Word.
Ever since I was 15 I’ve always been on fire for Christ. I’ve always felt the pull of the Holy Spirit to enter the ministry--I just never knew how. And when I got back from Iraq I had my sights set on the cross, and my vision of His will was clearer than it had ever been previously. I soon started to learn that there were different ministries that one could do or be part of to help lead people to Christ than just being a pastor. But I still had time in the Army left to fulfill my contract.
When I got back from Iraq it was obvious that I had PTSD. I was depressed and overweight. My unit decided to put me on extra physical training to combat the weight. This was good news because I actually enjoyed working out. Eventually, they changed the dates of the extra physical training from Tuesday & Thursday to Wednesday & Saturday mornings. I politely told my leadership that Army regulations stated that I was to have that time off and that I would do extra physical training six days a week but still requested the Sabbath off. I even told them that I would do it Saturday night but I needed that 24 hour period off. They decided to stick with their original decision and I was headed for conflict.
Here is the Department of Defense regulations in regards to the Sabbath:
Worship services, holy days, and Sabbath observance should be accommodated, except when precluded by military necessity. (Italics added for emphasis)
Did you notice the words “should be “? That’s just another way of saying “highly suggested”, and also where it said “except when free concluded by military necessity”? That statement really means “whatever the military decides” that your mission is, you need to accomplish that mission. In the military, your mission comes first and not the Sabbath, not God’s holy day.
For the next four weeks I would wear my physical training uniform, be at the meeting place at the right time and on the right day but I would not do any physical training. I would also be at parade rest as a sergeant yelled at me with his fist inches in front of my face using the foulest words possible that any human ear has ever heard towards me and tell me that I was a horrible soldier and all that I did in Iraq was for nothing. He would even sometimes try to get into a theological discussion with me which quickly ended with him cursing me out even more. After he got tired of that, he and the other soldiers would go running around the track at 7 AM Sabbath morning as I would watch their kids at the park.
After this, I would quickly rush to the church, put on my Sabbath clothes, conduct Sabbath school for the youth and go to service. After four weeks, I knew that this was not an environment for a Sabbath keeper to be in so I told my leadership that I would no longer be able to be there Saturday mornings for formation and accountability.
During that time, I was working with my leadership trying to get this morning off but they just weren’t working with me. They said that my mission was to lose weight and this is what needed to be done on Saturday mornings. They threatened me with taking away my pay, taking away my rank, and ultimately that I would be sent to federal prison.
They said that they talked with JAG and that JAG talked with a seventh Day Adventist chaplain that was on the Post. This chaplain said that it was okay for me to go running on the Sabbath.
I don’t know if they were lying or if it was the female Chaplain that never came to the local church, but I told them that this Seventh-day Adventist chaplain does not represent me, does not represent my church, and she does not represent my God. After about six weeks of trying to work with my leadership, it looked like I was headed to a federal prison. So I decided to call a Seventh-day Adventist Colonel chaplain that I previously knew in Washington DC. Thank God he took care of this issue for me!
The following day I was called into my commanding officer’s office. There he was with my first sergeant, my platoon sergeant, my section sergeant and the platoon lieutenant. I stood there at parade rest and braced myself for what might be coming. Somewhere in all the yelling directed at me, I got called every name in the book. They asked me why I went above their heads instead of working with them! I tried to explain that I tried working with them and that I was going to a Federal Prison by their orders, but they just glared at me and told me how much of a “piece of junk I was.” My captain ended this meeting by saying “Soldier you’ve got three months left. Do whatever you want, just don’t show up on my radar!” Three months later I was released with an Honorable discharge.
Some have asked me if I would have enlisted in the Army if I knew then what I know now. Here is my response:
I wouldn’t have enlisted knowing what I know now. I have a better understanding now of the politics and corruption of war, and the endless deaths of men, women, children. I look at what I could have done instead of my three years of military service. Instead of being trained on how to take human lives, I could’ve been receiving the training that I later got at Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism--training on how to save lives. My advice to young men that are considering joining the military is to consider two things:
- Are you willing to compromise your relationship with Christ and His Word?
- Does the Great Commission (which was given by Christ Himself to "Go teach and baptize") fit with the military's commission of always placing the mission first no matter what that looks like?
In Revelation 13:17 it says:
And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
As a Seventh-day Adventist, we know that eventually in the end times the Sabbath is going to be a big deal for Gods people. In fact, we will not be able to provide financially for our loved ones, we risk putting ourselves in prison, and possibly death. Now is the time that we set our sights on Christ, our focus on the Holy Spirit, and His will for us and be trained in using His sword--the Word of God. There is a famous old saying that says “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.” Are you willing today to take a stand for and with Jesus?
Jerrod Boling is a Disabled Iraq War Veteran, has been married for 12 years, he has three kids, a Bachelor's in Human Services, a graduate of Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism and has been a Bible worker for almost 2 years. In 2017 he will be a full-time revelation evangelist. Feel free to contact him for future series and talks.