My name is Juli Baumler and I have a chaplaincy call on my life. I am from Eugene, Oregon, USA. I had a happy childhood with two loving parents. Over my childhood, we moved from the East Coast of the USA to the Midwest (where I spent most of my younger years and most of my extended family live) to the West Coast. I also spent 2 years in high school on the East Coast. My father died of cancer when I was 16, which, of course, was a challenge for my family.
I was raised that we should all give according to our gifts and capabilities and have always tried to do so. As a child, my parents always volunteered and for a while, my mother was my Sunday School teacher. This allowed me to have one of my foundational religious experiences of being dedicated in the church at the Christmas Eve services (rather than a smaller regular service), which I remember well and provided a touchstone for me when I had doubts growing up. I would not say that I had one particular moment where Christ touched my life, but many small important ones that have grown my faith. I am a mustard seed Christian, not a Saul on the road to Damascus Christian; my faith is no less sure.
In college (I was blessed in that my father had been a professor and I got to go to the school where he had taught for free), I majored in Religious Studies and planned to go to divinity school after working for a few years. During that time I fell into a career I loved in computing.
Throughout my late 30’s and early 40’s, my health was going downhill and working was a struggle for me. There were a number of years when I could only work part-time. Finally, in my mid-40’s, I was diagnosed with epilepsy and was no longer able to work. Unfortunately, because I tried so hard to continue to work, I am not eligible for disability – my work record automatically makes me look like a slacker and not someone who is disabled.
Over the last few years, I have been struggling to get my health under better control and find a way to go back to work in some form that does not trigger seizures or migraines. It recently occurred to me that chaplaincy feels like a good path and if my health continues to improve, I should be able to do it. I think I misunderstood my calling to ministry when I was younger because my childhood faith tradition does not really have a tradition of chaplains as separate from church leaders, although there are a few ministers who have taken that route.
I think my own struggles in life (several of which are not fully mine to share publicly because they involve others), give me a good perspective to bring to this chaplaincy call. One of my struggles after realizing this calling has been figuring out how to get the education and training I will need. While there are many excellent programs to prepare people to be chaplains, I would be unable pay back any student loans I would need to take out, and currently, my health does not allow me to study during regular hours. Finding Christian Leaders Institute, where I can train for free and during the times and days that my recovery allows, is an immense blessing! I pray that there will be a time where I will be able to return the financial part of this blessing, I can already see that it is equipping me to return the spiritual part.
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