Gaylord T. Gunhus

Gaylord T. GunhusThis essay was originally published in the Autumn 2001 issue of SPU’s Response

I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the greater Seattle Pacific University family for your prayers, e-mail messages and phone calls. I’ve had little time to respond, but I want you to know that I read all of them with humble gratitude for your expressions of support and care.

I was away from Washington, D.C., at the time, but watched in horror the attack on the World Trade Center. Then I learned of the attack on the Pentagon and that all but three people from our staff were safe and accounted for. Thank the Lord those three were out of the area and escaped altogether. You can imagine how difficult it was to account for the Pentagon’s 22,000 people.

I lost many of my close friends and associates in the attacks. It was the Lord’s unchanging grace that sustained me through this tragic time. Quickly, 90 percent of my and my staff’s time became devoted in ministry to the survivors, families of the missing and dead, and rescue and recovery teams. The mental and emotional stress on those who performed the remains recovery is indescribable. Twelve hours a day, around the clock, our chaplains were at the site of the attack to pray with and encourage the recovery workers.

Every place I go in the Pentagon, people ask if I will come to their offices and pray with them. In addition to the chaplains on my staff, we have called to active duty 20 Army Reserve chaplains to minister to our terrorized, grieving personnel.

Getting back to “normal” will be a long-term process. Bringing healing to those who grieve will be our focus for the months and years ahead. But out of the pit of despair, our God gives us his blessings. People are seeking the Lord and his grace for comfort, support and emotional healing. At the end of “two-a-day” operational updates, I pray with the senior Army leadership for the Lord’s courage, grace and strength to face the horrendous task of responding to terrorism.

Our nation is rallying as a people united in spirit and purpose. Christians must respond with lives that echo the spirit of the Prayer of St. Francis: “Lord, make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow your love.”

Those who directed and carried out these barbaric acts of terrorism must be brought to justice. We pray that God will give the military leadership wisdom and understanding of the awesome responsibilities they now face. We need to pray that the right solutions will come to light and the right decisions will be made to rid this world of the terrible threat of hatred, and that peace, justice and harmony will be perpetuated throughout the world. But we cannot act out of revenge, for we are people of faith whose Lord and Savior prayed for forgiveness for those who nailed him to the cross.

We must demonstrate through our lives that Christ loves all peoples. Across America, peaceful, loving Muslims need the friendship of Christians whose lives convey the message of the second greatest commandment to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Major General Gaylord T. “GT” Gunhus was the U.S. Army chief of chaplains. A 1962 Seattle Pacific graduate, Gunhus was charged with administrative oversight and pastoral care of 2,323 active duty National Guard and reserve chaplains worldwide. In January 2001, he was honored as the SPU Alumnus of the Year. Gunhus passed away in 2016.

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