Monday, November 30, 2009
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LCU's Diefendorf recalled into military service

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[November 30, 2009]  The banner hanging behind LCU Academic Dean Karen Diefendorf's desk reads, "For God, For Country, and For Yale." Diefendorf has been all over the world for God and country. For the last three years, she's landed in the middle of a cornfield in Lincoln, where she's served God more than country by pastoring students at Lincoln Christian University. Country is about to insert itself into her life in dramatic ways once again. Just in time for Veterans Day, she received word that she's been called back to active duty in service of her country.  

RestaurantWhen Diefendorf retired from the U.S. Army before arriving at LCU, she knew that all military retirees are subject to recall for the good of the military until age 62. "Recalls can be either voluntary or involuntary," she explained. If a retiree contacts the military to express an interest in returning, that is a voluntary recall. If the military finds they are in need of certain skill sets that take years to engender into soldiers, they may decide to recall retirees who already possess those skills to teach them to younger soldiers. When the military initiates the recall, it's an involuntary recall. "This recall is a little of both," Diefendorf said. "They called me and asked how I would feel about a recall."  

Diefendorf was amenable to a recall because she's never lost her heart for female chaplains. Given the opportunity to come back as chief of the Training Development Division will give her an opportunity to mentor young female chaplains and prepare them for leadership roles.

"A recall is typically for a period of one year," she explained. "(LCU Vice President of Academics) Clay Ham will assume my duties during the day, and I'll catch up with him in the evenings. After all," she quipped, "I'm working what the military calls half-days: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m."  

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 protects the civilian employment positions of soldiers called into active duty for up to five years. Lincoln Christian University is committed to keeping Diefendorf's position open while she assists the Army chief of chaplains in the training and development of junior female chaplains.  

In returning to the military service, Diefendorf will take back with her some new strengths she's developed during her time at Lincoln Christian University.

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"Chaplains are never truly in command positions," she said, by virtue of the function of their role, "so this is the first ‘command position' I've been in. I naively believed that a group could come to consensus and everyone would be happy with the decision." She laughed at her own learning curve. "I had to realize that everyone didn't have access to all the information, and they might not agree with my decisions. I beat myself up over that and I had to grieve over that, but God grew in me the ability to make decisions and not second-guess them," she said.  

"I owe whatever success I've had in this position to a great team of associate deans," she said, and she spoke of the influence of a strong support system provided by those individuals, along with LCU President Keith Ray and Ham, the academic vice president.


"Leadership is very lonely," she said. "It ought not to be entered into without a very strong prayer life ... and being surrounded by people who are different from you, who will see things you don't." 

Diefendorf said that while she is away from Lincoln Christian University, she will miss the friendships she's developed on campus and the relationships that have been forged with students. She'll miss the joys that come with watching God grow those students over the course of the year.

"I am thankful that God brought me here, out of the Army," she said. "And I continue to trust God to direct my steps. I'm responsible only to be faithful for putting one foot in front of the other."  

[Article courtesy of the Lincoln Christian University newspaper: The Luminary]


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