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LU Online military student aided Haiti relief efforts

January 11, 2011 : By Paul McLinden

U.S. Navy Chaplain Michael Howard thrives on challenge. A year ago, the Liberty University Online student had one of his biggest challenges yet as he helped earthquake victims in Haiti recover from the Jan. 12, 2010, disaster.

As command chaplain aboard the USS Fort McHenry, Howard coordinated relief efforts for Operation Unified Response, which provided humanitarian aid, medical and dental treatment, and construction to residents of the struggling island nation.

Now back on board, Howard regularly holds worship services and small-group studies and provides pastoral counseling to servicemembers.

Despite his workload, Howard finished his Master of Arts in Discipleship Ministries through LU Online in 2010. He also earned his Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from LU Online in 2001.

Studying is very familiar to Howard, who began his active duty in 1984.

“I joined the Navy to gain an education and obtain direction in my life,” he said.

A Navy counselor recommended Liberty University.

“It was one of the best, if not the best, educational experiences of my life,” Howard said. “It gave me the foundation necessary to eventually earn a doctorate in counseling psychology.”

He became a chaplain in 2002 and the following year completed his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.).

“I feel that God has called me as a chaplain to minister to the men, women and families in the military … those that fight for the freedom and democracy that we enjoy as Americans.”

When he became a chaplain, Howard asked God why the process had taken so long.

“He impressed upon my heart the fact that I had to be prepared,” Howard said. “I needed to mature, to become educated, and to gain experience as an enlisted sailor and as a chief petty officer. These experiences enable me to connect with and better understand those I am called to serve.”

As a chaplain, he is putting his education to work.

“I am learning how to better incorporate a stronger theological knowledge into my sermons, lessons and counseling,” he said.

Howard is a licensed counselor, speaker, teacher and published author. He also holds master’s degrees in addiction psychology and marriage and family therapy from other institutions.

He said he is looking forward to retirement in 2012, when he can spend more time with his wife, Lonna, of 24 years and his three daughters and son, and possibly start a private practice in Christian counseling.