After we arrived in Lebanon (June 2013), we moved into an apartment. During this time we looked for land and a builder. It was six months of living with a couple of suitcases and rental furniture. It was reminiscent of a scene from the movie, “The Jerk.” Steve Martin was worth a fortune. He lost everything he owned. His very shallow girlfriend complains, “I don’t care about losing all the money. It’s losing all the stuff.” We lived without ‘all the stuff’ for six months and survived. During this time Judy and I were caught in a windstorm in front of our apartment, while sitting in our car. We saw a trampoline flying across the parking lot hit both of our cars. We were fine but both of our cars needed body work.
Less than a month after we arrived, we bought property and selected a builder. Ground breaking was August 12th. We moved into our new home December 3rd. Making all the choices (what kind of floor plan, cabinets, fixtures, changes to blue prints, we also wanted the doorways to be large enough for a wheelchair – if that ever becomes an issue) was a stressful time. Now that we have moved in, we enjoy our home. Our movers from Dallas hoped to bump into an Amish buggy, but that didn’t happen. Our builder may have been the only Mennonite, full-time farmer, full-time builder, who sent text messages to his real estate agent from his tractor!
Behavioral health and hospice are the primary inpatient areas where I provide coverage. I enjoy hospice, but learning about addiction and mental health issues – this is new ground for me. It is really troubling when some of our addiction patients live shorter lives than our hospice patients. I can’t express how sad it is when a twenty-something vet says, ‘My will to use (heroin) is stronger than my will to live.’ We have several new buildings that will open this spring for our veterans struggling with addiction and mental health problems. Heroin seems to be the new drug of choice. Many are using it because it is a cheaper pain-killer than many prescription medicines.
I meet regularly with an older veteran who has been hospitalized for mental health issues more than 25 times. He is a godly Christian with a degree from a Bible college. He has helped me understand the heart of someone struggling with mental health problems. Thanks to him, I am seeking to be more compassionate towards these veterans. It is easy to become callous towards people when they have recurrent problems.
I stopped a staff member in the hall to talk about a veteran. I barely knew this person. Before too long this person was telling me how they promised themselves they would not become hard-hearted toward the veterans…and now they are beginning to see this trait in themselves. A part of my ministry is also to staff – to listen and to care for them.
In some ways mental health work takes more of a toll on me than hospice work. Since late this summer I am aware of 1 death from an overdose (parent in their 20s) and 3 suicides (one of which was a clergy person). With hospice patients, there is an anticipated death; in behavioral health the deaths are not expected and all are too soon.
My oldest daughter, Julie, was married (March 22, 2014) to a godly young man. They are living in Springfield, VA. I participated in the wedding, reading one passage and then asking the vows of my future son-in-law. We are delighted to be living close to family and be back in PA after a 38 year absence.
I love caring for veterans and feel like I have found my niche. I am so grateful for the prayer support from the Eagle Commission. In some ways I feel like they are Aaron and Hur who held up Moses’ arms while Israel was in battle: the work goes forward because the saints pray!
Pray for Veterans Affairs Chaplain and retired Navy Chaplain Jack Galle (wife, Judy) as they transition from the VA hospital in Dallas, TX to the VA hospital in Lebanon, PA, where they will be close to family. He writes about the sale of his home in Texas and his new ministry among veterans in central Pennsylvania: “I was concerned about the sale of our house. It was something I prayed about because I wanted to be a good steward with what was entrusted to me. We had a contract on our house in 8 days and closed on the house about 4 weeks later. It was a great relief and answer to prayer. I am speaking every other month at the chapel. It’s great fun but I seem to find a different veteran each Sunday who snores in the service. If I only got paid what an anesthesiologist makes! My primary job here is working with veterans who have drug and alcohol addictions; it is very humbling to serve these women and men. At this point in our lives, it is wonderful to live close to family…and the Hershey factory!”
Judy and I flew to Lynchburg, VA about 3 weeks ago. I was asked to do a training session on palliative care as part of an online gerontology course that the American Association of Christian Counselors was producing. It was difficult to speak to 3 cameras instead of a live audience. You guys would have laughed when someone covered me with a towel and then applied make-up. Judy knew I was nervous, so before I started she prayed for me. That meant a lot to me. Then she tried to kiss me, but I held up my hand and said, “Not now, I’ve got my make-up on.” Judy still kids me about that. While we were there Judy and I visited people from our time in Buena Vista (80-84). We felt like we were with family during that visit. When we flew back to Dallas, at the airport was a sign, “Welcome home to Texas.” When I saw that sign, I knew that Texas was not my home. It is a great place and much to do, but it is not my home.
Around the first of this year, I saw a chaplain’s job posted for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lebanon, PA. I talked with Judy about this. We thought this (Dallas) would be our last move, in part because the government has paid for all our moves. In addition, moves are emotionally draining. However, we have no family in Texas or anywhere close. Everything is a plane ride away. Judy finally told me that during the day she waits for me to come home. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my work years making her live like that. I applied for the job.
Professionally, it is not a step up and after I interviewed for the position, the chief there called some of my work references and asked, …’if I thought I would feel underutilized in Lebanon?’ I did my homework on the place and heard good things about the chief of chaplain services at Lebanon. I was offered the job on Wednesday and accepted. Our stuff will be put on the moving truck exactly 5 weeks from the day I accepted the position.
Judy and I will be living in a smaller, more rural area. That really pleases Judy. After following and supporting me since 1976 (seminary, pastorates, military, VA), I am glad I can provide a place for Judy where she will be more comfortable…and so will I. Our youngest daughter is moving from Oakland, CA to Wilmington, DE this summer. Our oldest daughter lives in Annandale, VA. The rest of Judy’s family and mine live around Allentown, PA. I will miss the palliative care job I have and influencing chaplain residents, we will miss our church and our house, but we are excited beyond what words can express to live within a driving distance to our family.
I would ask for your prayers for our transition: concluding my ministry in Dallas; saying our goodbyes; the sale of our home; travel to PA and forming good relationships in PA. This is a stressful time for us, but we know it will be worth it all to live close to family again.
Grateful for your friendship and support,