JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
How many opportunities have you had to learn about various faith practices, as well as their historical and cultural impacts within your community?
This was a question that Chaplain (Capt.) Ryan Ayers, 692nd Intelligence Surveillance Recognizance Group (ISRG), had as he moved into a venture to provide Airmen with knowledge on the spiritual impacts on cultures throughout history.
Wanting to incorporate cultural impacts into his ministry, Ayers put together a plan to facilitate groups of Airman on educational off sites.
“The Spiritual Enlightenment Series not only helps our Airmen learn about various faith groups, they also help facilitate an understanding of how religion influences cultural and policy throughout the world,” said Ayers.
During the event, Ayers serves as the subject matter expert on spiritual education while supplemented by a historical site advisor or tour guide. Providing multiple subject matter experts allows Airman to receive the maximum benefit from the sites.
“America is one of the few countries that is not heavily governed by spiritual leaders or advisors,” said Ayers. “This provides our Airmen to understand why faith plays an important role in decision making around the world, and how we can use spirituality to understand some of the political decisions world leaders make.”
The Spiritual Enlightenment Series has proven to be very popular, with people of all faiths utilizing this opportunity to learn and understand others and their cultural beliefs.
“These trips are awesome, I learn so much about different faiths and it helps me do my job better,” one participant said.
Chaplain Ayers, utilizing his expertise in world religion, reaches out beyond the tenants of his own faith to offer these events from multiple perspectives.
In February 2017, 30 Airman had the opportunity to visit the Valley of the Temples, on Oahu and gain knowledge of Buddhism.
In May, 30 Airman visited the Lolani Palace and learned of Christianity’s impact in Hawaii and around the world. This was followed by a full tour of the palace where Airman received an up close and personal experience of the rise and fall of the Hawaiian monarchy from a palace guide.
The next chapter of the Spiritual Enlightenment Series is schedule for September and will include a visit to Polynesian Temple Ruins on the North Shore of Oahu. Airman will receive an in-depth look at the effects polytheism has on culture while receiving a tour of the temple ruins.
Events like this will continue to become the norm for the 692 ISRG as part of the Faith Works program the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps rolled out in 2017. Events like this and other Chaplain lead programs will be able to build upon the ISRG Airman’s knowledge and social engagements for the future.