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Photo by Dave Pflederer

June 3, 2019

He Will Carry to Completion

Robert Dabney knows God began a good work in him as a child. But when Dabney left the Seventh-day Adventist church at 16, and joined the military at 18, little did he know God would continue that work in an army base camp in Kuwait.

 

Deployed for a second tour of duty in 2005, Dabney, a combat medical specialist, and his brigade hunkered down in Kuwait, awaiting orders to head to Iraq. What should have been a four- to five-day layover became a three-month training exercise. With little to do in his free time, Dabney went to a camp church service one Sunday.

“I went in bored and reluctant but, while I was sitting there, the songs began to make me cry,” said Dabney. “Suddenly I felt the same love from God that I felt as a child. That began my journey back to Him.”

That love drew Dabney to services each week. And it was that love that sustained him when his brigade was finally sent to Iraq. His renewed relationship with God made his second deployment much different than the first. “Being in the heat of battle was still frightening, but this time I felt like David in the valley of the shadow,” said Dabney. “I knew that God was with me and would care for me.”

Following his tour, Dabney and his wife decided to leave military life and return to his hometown of Memphis with their four children. Once there, he was asked to serve in local prison ministry. After meeting with prisoners once a week for two years, Dabney believed God was calling him to Southern Adventist University to pursue a degree in theology. Upon graduation, he had the opportunity to participate in an M.Div./CPE program at AdventHealth Orlando, and “fell in love with it.” After completing the one-year program, he took a position as chaplain at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center La Grange, where he has served since 2017.

As a combat medic, Dabney was accustomed to alleviating pain or addressing illness or injury through physical intervention. Today he offers spiritual and emotional support. “I try to connect with people where they are, and ask God to use what He has done in my life to be a blessing in theirs,” he said. “I often use my own life experiences as ‘scripture’ before I use the Bible to minister to them.”

In March, Dabney officiated his first wedding to celebrate a family he served while the bride was recovering following a cardiac arrest. After weeks on life support, she spent months at AMITA Health La Grange. While Dabney prayed with and comforted her and her family members, he was astonished at the woman’s progress. “I realized I was being careful not to offer false hope, but in the process God was saying, ’Let me show you that I’ve given you what you’ve been praying for.’

Now when he prays with patients and families, he is more mindful to pray in confidence that God can do anything. “Seeing God’s work is fuel for my fire; it’s what keeps me going,” said Dabney.