Chaplain Cliff Pappe Cares for His Soldiers

By Kayleen (Brewer fs82) Reusser Published: Feb 15, 2018

Cliff Pappe and Michael Mortensen at the Alumni Center

Editor’s Note: Please keep Cliff and his family in your prayers, as he is scheduled to be redeployed soon with his unit.

“Being able to provide a sense of hope to soldiers in crisis and going through desperate times is the reason I became a chaplain,” said Major Cliff Pappe g00 (pronounced ‘pop’). 

Pappe grew up in a Christian home near Churubusco, Indiana. He attended Taylor University Fort Wayne (TUFW), graduating with a degree in Pastoral Ministries. During his years as a student at TUFW, Pappe gleaned spiritual insight from Dr. Dave Biberstein g66. “He was a wonderful adviser,” said Pappe. “I also credit Michael Mortensen g91, whom I came to know on mission trips. Michael had a big influence on my spiritual development.”  

Pappe later earned a Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministries from Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana.Pappe at Podium 390x390

In May 2000, with a desire to serve his country, Pappe joined the Indiana National Guard. Based in Fort Wayne on Cook Road, Pappe spent one weekend each month at the armory.

When hired as a youth pastor at North Webster United Methodist church, Pappe’s military service was not a problem. “The church was willing to accommodate my schedule because they understood my commitment," he said. “I was usually back on Sunday nights to conduct youth services.”

As he realized the military men and women he worked with each day often dealt with some of life’s biggest issues, Pappe saw them as a mission field. He applied for and was assigned to the base chaplain as an assistant. 

Pappe’s duties as chaplain’s assistant included preparing for church services and maintaining the chaplain’s vehicle. A military chaplain does not carry a weapon, but his or her assistant does so for protection. “I was like the chaplain’s bodyguard," said Pappe.  

In January 2003 Pappe was deployed with the 1-293rd unit to Kuwait as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He continued with his duties as chaplain’s assistant at Tallil Air base in the southern part of the country. Even with little fighting in the area and good base security at Tallil, base personnel still experienced stress due to absences from family, friends, and home. Pappe and the chaplain conducted church services to help alleviate the tension. “Some soldiers attended because they were dedicated to God," he said. “Others attended because there was nothing else to do.”

One bit of interest for Pappe was the nearby location of the ancient Babylonian city of Ur. Known as the birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch, the site had been excavated to reveal what was thought to be the house where Abraham had lived. “On a tour it was interesting to see places we had read about in the Bible," he said. (Note: In December 2011 U.S. Forces vacated the Tallil Air base. It was then renamed Imam Ali Air Base).

In 2009 when a slot for a full-time chaplain with the Indiana National Guard became available, Pappe was accepted for it, seeing it as another means of serving his fellow soldiers. He resigned his church job in North Webster and moved his family to the Indianapolis area. Pappe and his wife Kristina are the parents of five children. They attend LifePoint Church.

Cliff Pappe at Brickyard 400 390x390Since 2012, Cliff Pappe has spent the majority of his time serving Hoosier military throughout Indiana. “I supervise a program called ‘Strong Bonds’ for Army personnel," he said. Begun in 1997, Strong Bonds was created with the idea that the increased number of deployed troops meant assistance needed to be offered to them in several areas: communication, conflict and resolution, parenting, and strengthening relationships.

Curriculum for the Strong Bonds program was designed for married couples, parents, and singles. The classes are free. “In one year we may do 30 training events in the state,” said Pappe, who leads the program. Currently, the Strong Bonds program in Indiana has trained 3,000 soldiers.

Pappe is thrilled with the program’s successes. “One couple was a week away from filing for divorce when they attended," he said. “The program’s steps caused them to change their minds.” 

Being able to practice his faith with soldiers is fulfilling for Pappe. “I often interact with people with no church background," he said. “As I work with people, it’s in my mind that I might be that one person they meet who is a Christian. That’s a responsibility I’m ready to face.”

Cliff Pappe is using his unique gifts, skills, and life situation to fulfill his part in carrying out the Great Commission that Jesus Christ has entrusted to His Church.