Ph.D. Student Receives Distinguished Service Award
"I knew at four years old that I was called to ministry," said Regent
University School of Business & Leadership Ph.D. student, Juliana
Lesher. "I felt that there was nothing else that I could do than to just
humbly seek to be a representative of Christ to a world that is
In April, Lesher received the Distinguished Service Award from
the Military Chaplains Association. As Chief of the Chaplain Service
for the South Texas Veterans Healthcare System, Lesher oversees the
spiritual well-being of more than 95,000 veterans in 63 counties
throughout the state of Texas.
Since 2011, Lesher has taken part in writing a 400-page manual that
enabled her Veterans Affairs Chaplain service to be the first to be
granted accreditation by the COMISS Commission for Accreditation of
Pastoral Services (CCAPS) and the Association of Clinical Pastoral
But, Lesher's journey of becoming a distinguished Chief of Chaplain
Service has not been easy. In fact, according to Lesher, her life has
been a collection of "firsts."
"There was a time that I felt like a damaged freight, like I was
unusable," said Lesher. "But when God has a call in your life and you
walk in obedience, He can do immeasurably more."
During her pursuits of theological education, Lesher became the first
female accepted into the M.Div. program at Evangelical Theological
Seminary—with the clear impression that as a female, serving within this
particular denomination would allow her to do little more than teach
Sunday school to children.
"Of course people [at seminary] would say, 'Well, we've decided we can
educate you at the school here, but there won't be opportunities for you
to minister within the church,'" said Lesher. "But I figured God was in
Lesher's conviction to serve in a ministry was still strong, and her
hope was restored when a United States Navy chaplain recruiter visited
her seminary. However, Lesher has a health condition—congenital
scoliosis—that required a complete spinal fusion, resulting in a steel
rod running from her neck to her tailbone.
"[The recruiter] said, 'I'm telling you, Ms. Lesher, you will never,
never serve in the United States Army, Air Force or Navy; the answer is
But, the recruiter continued, encouraging Lesher to pursue her calling
further, because one day there would be a door that "God would open, and
no man could ever shut." Lesher found that door by way of serving as a
chaplain for veterans.
Lesher explained that she believes there is a sense of feeling rejected
or abandoned in the heart of every human. And though she is not a
veteran herself, she is able to use the pain she experienced in her own
life in order to help others.
"My favorite part about what I do is hearing people's stories and
walking them through difficult times," said Lesher. "It truly is an
honor—a sacred honor to be a chaplain, and to represent God in a federal institution."
Learn more about the School of Business & Leadership.
Mindy Hughes, Public Relations
Phone: 757.352.4095 Fax: 757.352.4888