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    Finding Grace

    Finding Grace

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Kevin Spence | Chaplain (1st Lt.) Nathaniel Grace, 1st Army Division East plans and operations...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Kevin Spence 

    4th Cavalry Brigade First Army Division East

    FORT KNOX, Ky. — Destiny is the predetermined future of an individual’s life unaffected by the decisions made in the present. A finality of events.

    While some embrace their destiny at first glance and others go through life without knowing their purpose, there are those who run away when their futures present themselves.

    Nathaniel Grace, nearing the realization of his destiny, now reckons with a lifetime of poor choices and fate that have brought him where he is today, but as a teenager coming into his own he was just another preacher's kid tracing his father's footsteps on the road of divinity.

    “Growing up, we moved a lot,” said Grace, a 49-year-old Army chaplain and first lieutenant in the Kentucky National Guard on orders with First Army Division East.

    “My father would go into a city where there was no established church and meet with people who were interested in learning more about God,” he said. “As a church planter, he would teach and develop lay leaders within the church and then he would move on to another location and repeat the process.”

    The Grace family moved seven times and made continued sacrifices as his father followed his calling of minister and church planter.

    This left a remarkable impression upon Grace.

    “When I looked at my father and how he responded to his calling,” Grace said, “his compassion was evident throughout his ministry.”

    “I saw how much time he dedicated to seeing someone who was in pain and spending time with them to help mend their relationship with God,” he said, “and that type of care for people- on a personal level- really influenced me.”

    It was at his father’s small church outside Nackawic in New Brunswick, Canada, at age 16 where Grace said he eventually felt his own calling to serve God as his father did.

    “I was praying at the altar and I felt the Lord impress upon me that he had more for me in my spiritual journey,” he said.

    He preached his first sermon not long after this, but when time came for him to set out on his own re rejected what he seemed destined to do.

    “I decided I didn't want to follow in [my father’s] footsteps just to be the person I thought he wanted me to be, so I chose not to go into ministry,” Grace said.

    He enrolled in college to study marine biology instead- a decision he said left him completely unfulfilled.

    “I went for one semester and ... changed paths and enrolled in a bible college,” he said.

    Walking with God again, Grace's journey continued to be tested by deployments overseas, changes in his military career, and personal struggles, but a significant experience in 2006 seemed to bring everything within reach.

    “While serving as a religious affairs [noncommissioned officer] in Bagram, Afghanistan, our unit chaplain lost a family member while we were deployed,” said Grace, who had a civilian career in ministry at this time.

    “Because of this he entrusted me to take over his chaplain duties while he went home to be with his family,” said Grace. “For three weeks, I served as the brigade chaplain, which helped to confirm my true calling was becoming an Army chaplain.”

    The experience was so profound it helped Grace realize his personal dream to become a full-time Army chaplain.

    However, the feeling didn't last long.

    “When I returned from deployment, I went through a divorce,” he said.

    The event rocked his world and caused Grace to question everything. He said he spent a lot of time looking inward and focused heavily on his prayer life and his relationships with his children, but he had lost himself.

    “At the time I had turned in my civilian ministerial credentials,” Grace said. “I turned them in and said, ‘If I can't keep my own family together, I have no business being a minister.’”

    Unable to see the forest through the trees, and without the solace he desperately desired from his father who had died years before, Grace said the prayers, support and encouragement he received from his mother eventually saved him.

    “When I deployed for the second time after going through the divorce she was a huge support for me, encouraging me, and letting me know that she was behind me and supporting my kids—her grandchildren,” he said.

    “She also encouraged me to get back into ministry after my family split up- she had just been incredible,” Grace added.

    With renewed vigor he returned to ministry, met and married his wife Holly- a woman he’d known for years within the church- and is closer than ever to fulfilling his dreams, but it’s a race against time.

    “I’d like to work with Soldiers full-time as an active-duty Army chaplain, but at my age, I have to be assessed and approved before I turn 50,” he said.

    Grace, who turns 50 in January, knows he’d have to give up time as a civilian pastor to focus on his Army career but his life-long calling would never allow him to give it up completely.

    “I would still hold my civilian ministerial credentials,” he said, “but I would only be able to devote my spare time to civilian ministry.”

    “It’s like Steven Covey says, ‘You have a set amount of time in your schedule each week, and if you put the important things first, the big items first, then the smaller things on your scale of importance can fill in around that, but if you put the smaller things first, you won't have time for the really important things,’ so that's what I'm going to do going forward.”

    Grace recognizes he is somewhat of an anomaly and that with more than 20 years of service he should be looking at retirement but is instead beginning a new career as a chaplain.

    Despite this he has no misgivings about his journey.

    “It’s one of a kind and I have no regrets,” he said.

    When asked what advice he would provide to fellow Soldiers who felt the call of God, he said, “Look no further than Psalms 119: You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God- just don’t wait 27 years.”



    Date Taken: 09.21.2021
    Date Posted: 09.21.2021 10:37
    Story ID: 405682
    Location: FORT KNOX, KY, US 

    Web Views: 130
    Downloads: 0