It has been 5 days, 7 hours and 10 minutes since I landed this past Wednesday at the Capodichino Airport in Naples, Italy. In a sense it feels as if not much has happened, and at the same time it feels like A LOT has taken place… both, outside and inside of me. I’ve seen people in transition, events taken place, policies implemented. OK, I have to admit the real deal has really taken place inside of me.
Quickly after my arrival to the field and as I made my first entrance through the base gate, I was handed my first lesson: unauthorized media of military installations is prohibited. In other words, do not use your screaming white iPhone to record the gate entrance! Yeah… pretty embarrassing to say the least. Then there’s the massive amount of paperwork required for everything. Emphasis on the word MASSIVE. Then there’s the seemingly never ending grid of positions, abbreviations, initials, symbols, colors, policies and procedures.
All of this has had an effect on me already. It has made me realize how naive I have been in regards to the amount of effort, cooperation and enforcement it takes to protect and secure a community. It has also made me aware of the amount of work our military personnel dedicate towards efficiency, professionalism, and effectivity. However, the biggest change has been reframing my purpose in this community. You see, I first came in with the idea of implementing a program, to drive a healthy and sustainable ministry within the walls of the Chapel. While I still think that is important, I believe the reason for me being here is different.
It wasn’t until I was having dinner with my good friend and local sponsor, Tom and Audrey, this evening that it dawned on me the role bestowed upon me. As Tom shared with me how, through his many years of experience and skill sets, he has dedicated the majority of his life towards the protection of ‘the force’, and I felt as if clarity and simplicity were given to me. It all clicked and made sense inside of me. I too am here for the protection of the force.
I might not survey the traffic on and off base, or get to run critical tasks within powerful environments, or will never compete for a rank promotion. However, I am here to protect and support the military’s most precious and valuable asset, their families
. And within their families, I have the honor and responsibility to serve, instruct and form the character, resiliency and spiritual formation of their kids. As a father of five daughters I can tell you every person who comes in contact with my kids plays a crucial role to my peace of mind and becomes a crucial piece of the puzzle it takes to raise kids in this day and age.
You see, our Club Beyond has a critical place in this community. At first it could be confused with an exclusive group for ‘good kids’, or as just another option to keep kids out of trouble, but this is not our core. Club Beyond is here for the protection of our force through the provision of fun, significant relationships and the cultivation of faith. Our slogan goes, “Club Beyond, a place where fun, friendships, and faith connect”. When we are connected to the joy of life, the solidarity of each other, and the acceptance of our Creator, the result only leads to two things: strengthened teenagers and fulfilled families.
I have a place and a purpose in this community. I humbly surrender and offer my gifts to the protection and the enrichment of our teenagers on base, the military community and our nation. One hundred and thirty hours after my arrival I’m a changed man… and I’m proud of that.
Disclaimer: The content of this post is primarily intended as a report for the friends/supporters of the Paulino’s mission. This is in no way an attempt to solicit financial support from the local navy community in Naples Italy.