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Wings of Faith: Chapel keeps busy with holidays

By Kristi Langenbacher

Correspondent

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It’s a busy time of year at the Wings of Faith Aviation Memorial Chapel on Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, and Lt. Cmdr. John Mabus likes it that way. Mabus, who serves as the chaplain for Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, enjoys the flurry of activity and interacting with the people at the chapel and in the Coast Guard community.

In addition to his regular duties, holiday events and activities keep Mabus busy this time of year. Last week he helped chapel members and Coast Guard members and families pack 101 shoe boxes for the Samaritan’s Purse program Operation Christmas Child.

The Coast Guard Enlisted Association, or CGEA, sets up an Angel Tree in the chapel each year, with wish lists from local Coast Guard children. CGEA also stocks a food pantry in the chapel which is available every day for those in need, and includes items such as baby formula and canned goods. Mabus works with local community groups and charities to make donations to Coast Guard families and others in need during the holidays and throughout the year.

Mabus said the holidays can be stressful in many ways, yet Coast Guard members, employees and families are wonderful examples of those who serve and bring hope to their communities in difficult times.

“While we are often reminded of great darkness and distress in our world, this Christmas season, I give thanks for the gift of those that God uses to bring his light, life and hope to us even in the hardest days,” he said. “As we see the lights of the season, may we consider the greatest gift and meaning that these lights point us to and pass that joy on to others.”

Mabus said the base in Elizabeth City is unique because it is a group of several commands, including operational units such as the air station and boat station, a training center and a maintenance depot.

“A large number of civilian employees and contractors are here, which provides for a different scenario for chaplain services,” he said. Retirees and civilian employees are a vital part of the chapel and the weekly Christian worship service at 10 a.m. each Sunday.

Mabus began his tour of duty in Elizabeth City in 2013, following an assignment with the Virginia Beach Little Creek Naval Special Warfare Command where he worked with Navy SEALS and their families. Mabus was commissioned into the Navy, which provides chaplains for the Coast Guard, Marines and Navy, in 2004.

He has also served as chaplain for Marines in Iraq and Special Operations Forces serving in Afghanistan.

“In both experiences, I was honored to serve with some of our nation’s greatest leaders and courageous warriors,” Mabus said. “There were very hard parts of these deployments, especially the toll it took on people’s relationships back home and when we lost our own in combat. Yet, I will be ever thankful for the opportunity to serve with these American heroes.”

Serving as chaplain for the Coast Guard Base in Elizabeth City, and also as chaplain for Coast Guard Sector North Carolina which includes about 24 different commands in about a dozen different locations around the state, has provided Mabus with the opportunity to interact and learn about the Coast Guard and its members and families.

He has an office in the base chapel in Elizabeth City, and travels one to two days a week to visit the other stations.

“Primarily I am providing chaplain support, counseling and crisis response to those units,” he said. “I enjoy visiting our boat stations and the sector units and learning about their mission.”

The base chapel is open for prayer, meditation and reflection, and offers religious books and resources for the Coast Guard community.

“I hope the chapel can be a safe place where people feel welcome,” Mabus said, adding that it is a neutral place for spiritual encouragement in a familiar place. “I hope people know it’s a place of hospitality and welcome, and resources when they need them.”

The chapel provides weekly morning and lunch-time Bible study fellowship for service members, and a weekly women’s Bible study fellowship for military wives. Mabus, who has five children with his wife Elisa, said he loves spending time with the children during the women’s group, which utilizes volunteers to provide free childcare. Mabus also facilitates a Sunday evening 10-week series for Coast Guard students.

Coast Guard members and spouses also work with the chaplain to provide food and members to serve meals the third Friday of each month at SOULS Ministry in downtown Elizabeth City.

An adoption support group meets once a month at the chapel and a one-day adoption symposium is held once a year. In the summer, the chapel provides vacation Bible school for children of those with access to the Coast Guard base. Mabus leads local classes on suicide prevention and provides counseling on inter-personal and relational topics. He also works with the Navy Chaplain Corps which conducts a variety of marriage and family workshops and retreats in the Hampton Roads area.

He was honored Dec. 10 at the River City Community Development Corporation’s 2015 Men of Excellence awards breakfast.

Mabus also acts as custodian of the Aviation Memorial which stands outside his office window.

More information about chapel services and resources is available by calling the chapel office at 252-335-6202.

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