Christian Union Hosts Bible Course for ROTC Students
by catherine elvy, staff writer
Christian Union’s ministry at Princeton University is helping to bolster spiritual readiness for a group of students who plan to serve in the U.S. Military.
The ministry is in its second year of hosting a Bible course that caters to the rigorous schedules and responsibilities of undergraduates who are enrolled in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to become military officers upon graduation. Each week, students receive robust biblical insights and Christian leadership coaching.
“These students may go out to some of the most challenging regions of the world. They need to be prepared to demonstrate what Christian leadership entails in difficult situations,” said Jayne Babij, a Christian Union ministry fellow.
During weekly gatherings, Babij, a former school principal, highlights the importance of maintaining personal identity in Christ, along with the significance of character and spiritual development. “We talk through issues of being a Christian in the military,” said Babij, the mother of a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and wife of a marine-turned-pastor.
Christian Union’s ministry at Princeton University hosts a Bible course that caters to students enrolled in Reserve Officer Training Corps. (From left to right) Katherine French ’22, Talitha Wisner ’20, Emma Pannullo ’20, Mikayla Blaska ’19, Robert Doar ’22, and Paul Spiegl ’19
Such conversations are important because of the leadership roles awaiting ROTC students. “Throughout ROTC, you go from being at the very bottom of the chain of command to being a leader within four short years,” said Paul Spiegl ’19.
Princeton’s Army ROTC embodies the university’s motto, “In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity.” Since the foundation of the U.S. Army, Princeton students have stepped up to the nation’s defense, and graduates have served in all of the country’s conflicts.
In fall 2017, Babij helped launch the Bible course after fielding an inquiry from a student who was exploring options for a military career. Today, most of the students who regularly attend the sessions also participate in Christian Union’s traditional Bible courses, which usually are set up by class year and sex.
Among topics, the ROTC students probe the similarities between following Jesus Christ and serving in the U.S. armed forces. As well, they discuss the ways believers transform as they pursue disciplined prayer and studies.
In addition, Babij tries to provide glimpses of the realities of active-duty service, some of the anxiety disorders that can accompany combat, and issues that often impact military families, especially during lengthy deployments. Her objective is to encourage students to become prayer warriors while also juggling the physical and mental hurdles of military training.
Mikayla Blaska ’19 expressed gratitude for the abundant support and spiritual training she receives from Christian Union. The ministry fellows have “really helped me grow in my faith,” said Blaska. They “always make themselves available to me as a resource,” she said.
Likewise, Blaska appreciates the ministry’s core emphasis upon Christian leadership. “It’s important in developing our leadership style,” said Blaska, a psychology major. In addition to ROTC labs and academic coursework, she is also a middle infielder on Princeton’s softball team.
Given her wide-ranging responsibilities, Blaska stands out for her commitment to excellence as a Christian, student, athlete, cadet, and future soldier. ROTC undergraduates participate in intense training, including field exercises, hands-on leadership workshops, and classroom instruction.
“My teammates and friends on campus really respect what we’re doing and going through,” she said. One result of this intense regimen: “you get better time-management skills,” said Blaska.
Blaska is fond of noting how her involvement with Princeton’s ROTC program is a reflection of her family’s emphasis on service. “We are here to serve, not to be served,” she said.
As well, Princeton’s Army ROTC embodies the university’s motto, “In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity.” Since the foundation of the U.S. Army, Princeton students have stepped up to the nation’s defense, and graduates have served in all of the country’s conflicts.
In fact, the university briefly became a battleground site in 1777 in the midst of the Revolutionary War when the Americans achieved a strategic victory during the Battle of Princeton. In 1783, the newly formed U.S. Congress received Gen. George Washington at Nassau Hall, where modern commissions take place. Since 1919, Princeton has hosted one of the Army’s original ROTC programs.
Spiegl expressed gratitude for how Christian Union’s mission dovetails with ROTC’s objective of providing training for leaders. “We try to support each other and grow,” he said.
As such, the Georgia native is ready to embrace his post-graduation military career. “We serve something greater than ourselves,” Spiegl said.
While serving their nation, Christian soldiers encounter “amazing opportunities” to reflect Christ’s Gospel and principles as they deploy to every corner of the earth, Babij said.