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Incoming top Air Force chaplain speaks about trust at Bolling Prayer Breakfast

Chaplain, Brig. Gen. Cecil R. Richardson, Air Force Deputy Chief of Chaplains, gives his message entitled "In God We Trust" at the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 12 at the Bolling Club. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dan DeCook)

Chaplain, Brig. Gen. Cecil R. Richardson, Air Force Deputy Chief of Chaplains, gives his message entitled "In God We Trust" at the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 12 at the Bolling Club. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dan DeCook)

BOLLING AFB, DC -- The Air Force's next chief of chaplains spoke about the importance of trusting in God, and the effect it has had on America and his life during an address at Bolling's annual prayer breakfast Feb. 12.

"Trust is critical to our faith, crucial to our prayers and central to who we are as Americans," said Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Cecil R. Richardson, Air Force deputy chief of chaplains.

"It is the confident assurance that we can count on God, no matter what," the chaplain added. "Trust is an act of the soul by which we surrender to God and hold tightly to His promises."

Airmen need to develop trust in God by always keeping their eyes on Him, according to Chaplain Richardson. When the storms come, Airmen shouldn't let the storms overcome them. They should "tell the storms how big God is," he said.

"Isn't it time you started trusting in God?" the chaplain challenged the audience.

During his introduction of Chaplain Richardson, Col. Kurt F. Neubauer, 11th Wing commander, said the Senate had confirmed him Feb. 8 for his second star as the next Air Force chief of chaplains. He will take over from Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Charles C. Baldwin, who retires May 29.

Almost 400 people filled the Bolling Clubs' Capital Ballroom for the early morning event. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David E. Wilshek, 11th Wing senior chaplain, said this prayer breakfast's attendance was the most ever, adding he admired Chaplain Richardson's oration. Chaplain Richardson's "message on trust was the most powerful National Prayer Breakfast message I have heard in my 21-year Air Force career," Chaplain Wilshek said.

The former commander of the 11th Mission Support Squadron also praised Chaplain Richardson's address. "I thought his message was timely and timeless," said Lt. Col. Dawn Sweet, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, Crystal City, Va. "He gives inspiration for everyone -- very uplifting."

To illustrate the power of trusting in God, Chaplain Richardson told the Old Testament story of Job, a wealthy landowner and rancher. Job ended up losing everything -- his wealth and his family -- and boils covered his body when God allowed Satan to test Job. Despite all this, Job still kept his faith and trust in God, according to Chaplain Richardson. "The Bible says Job did not curse God," Chaplain Richardson said. "Through it all, he learned to trust in God."

Job's message is applicable to today's Airmen, according to Chaplain Richardson. When an Airman can't find God, the chaplain said that person must reach deep down inside, take hold of the thing called trust and remember God is there, and He does care.

"When your faith is challenged and strained to its limit, when emotions sweep you off your feet, when you feel alone and abandoned and unappreciated, when you've reached the end of your road and you don't think you can go another step, just keep trusting in God," Chaplain Richardson said.

"Trust Him in times of trials; trust Him in times of affliction; trust Him when you've failed; trust Him when your heart is breaking; trust Him when you've lost your way; trust Him when you have no place else to turn." the chaplain added.

Chaplain Richardson gave a testimony about trust from his life. Early in his marriage, the chaplain said his wife and he didn't have much money. They lived mainly on macaroni and cheese, and chicken backs because they were inexpensive. Their money ran out one day, and there was nothing in the cupboards to eat.

"I went fishing and prayed, 'Oh, Lord, don't let my young wife go hungry,'" Chaplain Richardson said. The first fish the chaplain said he caught was about five inches long. The second -- and last -- was even smaller. He took them home and cleaned them for his wife to cook.

"My wife and I held hands in our little apartment and thanked God for our fish," Chaplain Richardson said, "and trusted God for our future."

The next day, the chaplain said, he received a letter with $600 in it. It was from the man to whom the chaplain had sold his car to two years before, but who had never paid for it. The man said he couldn't sleep because of it, so he mailed the check, Chaplain Richardson said.

"That $600 got us going. It got us back on our feet," he said. "To this day, when we're faced with challenges and I wonder where God is, my wife says, 'Two fish.' And then we take comfort and trust in Him."

Chaplain Richardson said trust has played a role in the development of the United States.

"There are people who think it inappropriate for the most powerful nation on earth to stamp 'In God We Trust' on every dollar bill, every coin and across every official seal," Chaplain Richardson said, "There are people who believe trusting in God is nothing more than foolishness, superstition, weakness.

"But what they forget is that Americans have always trusted in God. America exists because of men and women who trusted in God," Chaplain Richardson said. "It was trust in God that gave religiously persecuted families the courage to sail across the Atlantic and arrive in a new world far from the comforts of civilization."

It was trust in God that helped Puritans establish Massachusetts, led Roman Catholics to found Maryland as a Catholic colony, caused the Quakers to settle Pennsylvania, helped Catholic priests establish missions in California and gave strength and vision to our ancestors to build this nation, according to Chaplain Richardson.

"It will be our trust in God that will keep our nation free and preserve us as a nation," the chaplain added.

The prayer breakfast was ecumenical. The readings from Holy Scriptures featured Chief Master Sgt. Jan Duga, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Band, reading in Hebrew from the Old Testament's Proverbs 3:5-6; and Ramachandra Bhat, physicist with the Air Force Medical Operation Agency in the Office of the Surgeon General, reading in Sanskrit the Hindu Scripture "Upanishad."

In addition, Valerie Bowden, Bolling Health and Wellness Center fitness information manager, read from the Islamic Al Fatihah, Surah 1 in Arabic; and Father Arnold De Porter, Bolling's St. Michael's Parish, read from the New Testament's Matthew 6:25-34 in English. Chief Duga, Dr. Bhat and Ms. Bowden also read their passages in English.

"It was an honor to participate in today's prayer breakfast," Chief Duga said. "I believe it's important and relevant that the Air Force not only acknowledges the diversity of faith but also embraces that diversity by actively involving its members in a public forum such as today's event." 

"Having the opportunity to recite Proverbs 3:5-6 in Hebrew was cool," the chief added. 

National Prayer Breakfast such as this speaks to the true strength of the United States of America, according to Dr. Bhat. It affirms that Americans have a freedom to choose the religion or faith of choice and have the freedom to practice it, he added.

Ms. Bowden said the breakfast exposed people to other faiths. "The breakfast acknowledged and shared information of different belief systems," she said. "And no matter what our differences are, we all realize we need God."