The Luke Air Force Base community chapel sits on the corner of 139th Drive and Shooting Star Street. Under cathedral ceilings, members line velvet red seats for Sunday service and meetings throughout the week. Within the chapel’s walls are many offices filled with volunteers and assistants that drive Luke’s mission. Down the hall, past rooms filled with spiritual emblems and books, is a chaplain whose purpose in life is to help people. As he sits at his desk, the strands of gray in his hair shine in the light, giving hints of wisdom. He sits surrounded by pictures of his family and career accomplishments, and wears a steady smile that is both welcoming and assuring.
Chaplain (Maj.) David Barns, 56th Fighter Wing deputy chaplain, is a new chaplain to Luke with more than 24 years of ministry services. His purpose is to help those in need by serving first.
“I want to help people grow spiritually and assist those who may have nowhere else to turn by helping them work through the issues they may have,” Barns said. “A compassionate heart, a listening ear and an outside perspective through a spiritual lens are the things I provide.”
Barns has been doing just that throughout his life. He completed seminary school and worked as a civilian pastor and youth minister for eight years. He was always interested in military service, so he joined the Air Force.
“I always had an interest in the military, and I was at a point in my ministry where I was looking for something different,” he said. “In the military I could do what I was doing as a local pastor and so much more. It was an opportunity to serve my country, while serving God and people, which is what the ministry is all about – taking care of people.”
Since his arrival in May 2013, Barns has been helping Airmen at Luke with their spiritual needs. Some of the programs he is engaged in are the Spiritual Maintenance Center on the flightline, Oasis Ministry, flightline feast and many more. He gives credit of the success of these programs to the volunteers.
“We have a group of volunteers that are really unlike any I have ever met at any other base,” Barns said. “They are actively engaged helping us run a lot of our ministries and the things we are able to do for the base. If it wasn’t for those volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to do as much.”
Barns will deploy soon, and is looking forward to helping Airmen downrange. He plans to focus on developing relationships and fostering spiritual growth.
One might ask how does he reconcile being a chaplain with the cold reality of war. For Barns it’s not about which side is right or wrong, but helping people cope with the reality.
“To me, it’s not about that,” Barns said. “You’ve got people who are facing life and death issues, and they need someone there spiritually to guide them through that process. It’s not about the right or the wrong of the conflict. It’s about people who are in the midst of the conflict, having to deal with their own personal spiritual struggles and their own mortality and how they cope with that. Regardless of what I think about the rightness or wrongness of war or conflict to me it’s about the heart condition of the people I’m serving, taking care of them and letting God take care of the rest.”
One of the most rewarding things for Barns is knowing he’s making a difference in people’s lives and being able to see that difference. Being able to help people work through their problems and finding solutions to issues is his reward for serving.