Pastor’s Column: Marketplace Chaplain

In 2008, a lunch that my wife Sue and I had with a couple from Michigan was destined to change the course of my life over the next decade. I was surprised to learn how the wife was involved with Marketplace Chaplains USA (“MChap”), where care was offered to employees through weekly worksite visits at Gordon Food Service, offsite visits requested by female employees, grief support at funerals, and hospital visits.

A year elapsed after I retired from Deloitte Consulting, and while considering the prospect of offering my services as a professional mediator, the possibility of offering care as a chaplain became increasingly more appealing.

Having served as a board member for Transform Minnesota (formerly Greater Minnesota Association of Evangelicals) for many years, I had acquired unique insights into the fruitful and caring ministries of its affiliate ministries: Arrive Ministries, Damascus Way Reentry Center, and New Life Family Services. I desired to replace my former, heavily regulatory pension, employee benefits, and executive compensation consultancy for a similarly caring ministry following my retirement.

Following graduation from high school in Texas, I devoted five years as a Carmelite monk preparing for the priesthood in a Niagara Falls, Ontario college. At the age of 30 while employed with a Minneapolis law firm, I was invited into a relationship with Jesus Christ through the ministry of Christian Businessmen’s Committee of Minneapolis.  I was led by a manufacturer’s representative to trust Christ alone for His sacrifice for my sins and to receive the gift of eternal life.

After sharing my story during an interview with the MChap regional vice president and his Minnesota director, the regional leader pointed at the three of us around the table and exclaimed that our luncheon was illustrative of both the Kingdom of Heaven and the diversity of 93 different denominations encompassed by the MChap chaplains, which offers care to employees of differing races, cultures, and spiritual persuasions.

Following my MChap training, I was assigned to provide regular worksite visits to an Arden Hills manufacturing company, and joined four Minnesota chaplains who were offering care to the employees of several Minnesota companies. Donning my steel-toed boots, I witnessed firsthand the solid work ethics of many manufacturing employees. I developed strong caring relationships, attended funerals of their loved ones, prayed for pending operations, and enjoyed the banter of company picnics and appreciation dinners. I developed a boldness in meeting new people and the ability to remember their names.  As a former Deloitte human capital advisory services consultant, I understood the importance of employees having someone to listen to them in a thoughtful and confidential manner.

After I was tapped to provide oversight to chaplains in Minnesota in 2011, I became impressed at how our part-time Minnesota chaplain teams offered confidential 24/7 care at the worksites by regular weekly visits. They had provided support to employees and a business leader after an employee had died on a factory floor.  They had offered encouragement to employees who experienced addiction issues.  They had visited employees threatening suicide at their homes at night.  They offered consolation by officiating or attending numerous funerals and by conducting memorial services in the plants.  They faithfully visited employees or loved ones who were hospitalized.  They facilitated referrals to treatment centers. They even assisted employees in locating unknown relatives and in retrieving missing children.

By 2016, the number of part-time Minnesota chaplains had increased to 24, serving employees of companies located in Arden Hills, Brooklyn Park, Foley, Lakeville, Little Canada, Maple Grove, Maple Lake, Minneapolis, North Mankato, and Winsted.

MChap supports 1,569 chaplains serving 207,746 employees at 859 companies in 1,393 cities in the USA and six foreign countries.

The Biblical Expectations communicated to the MChap chaplains are to pray and worship God; show and share Jesus; serve and respect others; live godly lives; and build trust with everyone.  MChap’s stated goal is to dramatically impact the lives of employees in America’s work places by offering confidential chaplain care to at least one per cent of the country’s workforce, which is 1.2 million employees.

In anticipation of the extension of our care in 2018 to hundreds of employees of a chicken processing plant with many Spanish and Somali speakers in the St. Cloud area, MChap hired a full-time Executive Director of Operations, to provide leadership to our 58 chaplains in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

When I crossed the bridge into the United States at Niagara Falls, Ontario after completing my fifth year of collegiate studies at the Carmelite college, I mistakenly believed that I had satisfied my spiritual quest through hours of prayer and meditation.  Little did I realize that rewarding chapters of my spiritual life awaited me: my marriage to an amazing Minnesota girl, four wonderful children, three precious grandchildren, a fulfilling professional career, and a calling to become a chaplain.

Sam Raia is a Chaplain Coach for Marketplace Chaplains, serving the MN/ND/WI division.

July 23, 2018