A Book Review: “A Journey to Hope”
By Chaplain Keith A Evans
A Journey to Hope: Healing the Traumatized Spirit
Michael W. Langston, DMin and Kathy J. Langston, PhD
Silverton, OR: Lampion Press LLC, 2016. 207 pages.
This is a timely book on a critically important topic. It is also very personal. Presented through both the heart and eyes of a wounded warrior and his wife, the Langston’s speak (write) from their “insider” perspective of traveling through the post-traumatic stress of a combat chaplain. CAPT Michael Langston (Ret.) was a career U.S. Marine and Navy Chaplain. Chaplain Langston’s last deployment was in 2005-6 to Kabul, Afghanistan where he was appointed and served as the Theater Chaplain to the Combined Forces Command. Upon returning stateside, he served as the Commanding Officer of the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center as well as the Executive Director of the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center in Ft. Jackson in Columbia, SC. As a military chaplain, he has literally done and “seen it all.” Prior to his retirement, Chaplain Langston was formally diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As the wife of a hurting soldier, Kathy shares invaluable insight from her side of a difficult journey.
Initially, a perceived weakness of the text by this reviewer was the more extensive life and career review of Chaplain Langston. However, one quickly realizes how the career review allows the reader to begin seeing through his eyes (and his wife, Kathy’s) as the post-traumatic stress disorder develops and impacts their relationship and family life. The Langston’s intertwine their personal experiences throughout the text which correlate to the clinical and theoretical aspects of PTSD. The balance between anecdotal and academic is well poised, allowing the material to come alive and not remain abstract or distant.
Creatively, all Chapter titles and topics are introduced and follow themes from various stanzas of the U.S. Navy Hymn. For Navy and Marine warriors with PTSD, this will certainly add personal depth and meaning to this familiar anthem, giving hope that the Divine Creator can well be their Eternal Father, Strong to Save. Academically, Langston’s advice to spiritually recover from PTSD follows Walter Brueggeman’s concept of “orientation – disorientation – reorientation.” He also incorporates psychological principles he personally gained from Charles W. Hoge’s, Once A Warrior Always A Warrior, and from works by experts such as Calhoun and Tedeschi; Charles Figley; Dekel and Solomon; Drescher, Smith and Foy; Robert Grant and many others. The thesis supporting Journey to Hope is academically and biblically sound.
The text is made up of three general but unmarked sections. Chapters one through three is the life and career review of the Langstons. Chapters four through eight discuss the nuances and manifestations of PTSD as well as the personal implications it had upon the Langstons. Chapters nine and ten crystalize the spiritual insights, concepts, and structured principles that the Langstons learned while on their journey. It cannot be stated enough that the personal stories combined with the academic will prove invaluable counsel to all counselors, chaplains and ministers as they assist others in healing traumatized souls.
Readers will fully understand that the psychological, emotional and spiritual distress of combat is real and that quality methods for mental and moral repair from being entrenched in war is desperately needed. But for those who also experience PTSD, this text may well become a “foxhole buddy” that will assist them and their families through long nights with a shattered soul. While the topic is focused toward military veterans, the information and guidance contained is easily adapted to all who suffered with cumulative traumas.
In summary, this text relates the Langston’s own journey through PTSD and the path which they traveled. For the warrior with PTSD, this text will provide hope that they are not alone, knowing that fellow warriors have successfully traveled the road that lies before them. This text will help the PTS sufferer navigate along trusted coordinates that when closely followed will lead them towards divine hope and deep soul healing. For ministers and specifically chaplains working with military veterans, this text will provide a manner for the chaplain to see more clearly inside the spiritually wounded warrior in order to provide in-depth, yet concise and compassionate soul care.
Rev. Keith A Evans DC, DMin
Board Certified Professional Chaplain
Adjunct Faculty (College of Theology), Grand Canyon University
Staff Chaplain, Wyoming Medical Center, Casper Wyoming
Police Chaplain, Casper Police Department