For Ministry in Remote Areas, Steven Lambert is Your Guy
TAC Elder Steven Lambert takes “to the ends of the earth” phrase from the Great Commission in Acts 1:8 quite literally. For decades, he has eagerly served as a ministry ambassador for the conference in very remote areas ranging from the barren and blustery Aleutian Islands to the desolate Iraqi border. He enjoys finding – and sharing – God at the edge of the earth and has been recognized for leveraging his vocation for ministry.
“While on a one-year internship assignment during seminary at Duke,” says Steven, “I fell in love with Alaska, and a woman there and found this mission field to be fairly unchurched.” After completing seminary, he returned to Alaska to serve several churches. While at the end of the United State’s road system at Homer, AK, the Texas Annual Conference began supporting him with mission salary support and sent a few teams to help with the ministry and building up-keep. When Steven volunteered to move from Homer to the isolated Aleutian Islands shortly thereafter – with his wife and two small children in tow, his mother and others, again, wondered why he would go to the edge of the earth. “I felt called to be that person, and found it interesting and dynamic to minister to that seasonal population, even though our parsonage ‘trailer’ shook violently in the constant wind, in spite of being tied down with cables. We stayed six years on the island and God took care of us in all kinds of ways.”
Adds Steven, “The TAC was a huge partner in ministry, sending eight or so mission teams and helping with funding to build a church in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Alaska in 1999. Our church was featured at the Texas Annual Conference and designated as the Conference Advance Special for two years, which dramatically helped with building the church out on the edge of the earth.”
Susan Silvus, on staff with St. Luke’s UMC in Houston, was among those to travel to Alaska in 1999 to work alongside Steven. “Even then, it was obvious Steven was a visionary,” she shares. “He can see the missing parts and proceeds to fill in the gaps with a dedicated Christian spirit. Because he genuinely cares for people, he goes the extra mile.”
If that wasn’t enough of a wilderness experience, the Lamberts then moved to the mainland and lived in a cabin out in the wilderness 20 miles from the nearest road without running water, phone or electricity for two years. “Except for the outhouse experiences in minus 45 degree temps, the solitude and quiet family time was sheer heaven – until September 11 happened and my whole life changed,” he shares.
Being a chaplain in the Army Reserves, Steven was then recruited into fulltime service and more intense soldier training. His lifelong leadership experiences included time spent in Iraq “in the middle of nowhere” helping to provide ministry on the border and “learning firsthand about the community of faith and connectional system.” While there, he facilitated a care package system to bless not only the US soldiers but also the Ugandans who were guarding the Americans. “I choke up even talking about how I was able to publicize a list of items specifically needed by the Ugandans and thousands of United Methodists would respond and send items to meet the specialized needs of these guards. Supplies would arrive by chopper like manna from heaven, and, in time, the Ugandans learned by this Christian witness and even attended our worship services.”
Adds Steven, “The past year has been a blend of ministry status from being on full time active duty with the U.S. Army as a chaplain to returning to a part-time Army Reserve Chaplain status. I spent the first part of the year continuing to care for families of deployed soldiers, doing death notifications to family members and performing memorial services for soldiers killed in Afghanistan, providing counseling to returning soldiers and assisting soldiers and families to re-integrate together as a family and into society.”
This past year, 1) he received the Meritorious Service Medal for three years of work assisting the active duty Army during their deployments,
2) was selected as the most outstanding Unit Ministry Team (a Chaplain and Chaplain assistant comprise a Unit Ministry Team) for the entire Pacific Area, and 3) was recognized for his role in making a video about Suicide Prevention.
Back in the Army Reserves, he’s been focusing on counseling soldiers, developing and leading marriage and single retreats for soldiers, advocating for financial management programs for soldiers and finding ways to offer them to reserve soldiers. Adds Steven, “I continue to be the primary trainer for the Army Reserves in Alaska and for the active duty at Fort Richardson, AK teaching suicide skill interventions. I find the role rewarding as I witness soldiers successfully use the skills to save other people’s lives from suicide.”
He’s had time to volunteer as pulpit supply at his former parish, teach Sunday School, assist with the physical plant of the church and continue to lead a Centering Prayer Group. Living and working in remote areas all of his adult life has given him plenty of quiet time with God. “My spiritual growth area continues to focus on contemplative prayer and is my primary focus during my part-time status. “Recently, I was able to attend a five-day centering prayer retreat and have an eight-day personal prayer retreat alone in total solitude and silence in a wilderness setting.”
Spiritual Leadership Lessons
What has this solitude taught him?
- First and foremost: staying attentive to the Holy Spirit's nudges and promptings and then being willing to follow them.
- Second: Trust God and trust God to speak to us through other people.
- Third: Think outside the normal box trying new things and getting out of one's comfort zone.
- Fourth: Don't fear - the unknown or what one cannot control. God is in it.
- Fifth: It is not about us as leaders.
- Sixth: remember not to let money be the primary reason to do something.