Interview: Chaplain’s Wife Rhonda Joyner (Part 1)

Earlier in the year, I had the great privilege of interviewing Sharon Galyon, wife of James Galyon, ARBCA’s Air Force Chaplin. We had a wonderful time catching up over coffee and I learned so much about how to pray for them and the work that they do. Today, I’m sharing Part 1 of my interview with Rhonda Joyner, wife of  Patrick Joyner, ARBCA’s Navy Chaplin serving the Marines. I’m so thankful for Rhonda’s willingness to make time for me and all my readers in the middle of her busy schedule, but I’m even more thankful for the new friend I have found in her.

Rhonda Joyner

Rhonda Joyner

1) Can you give me a brief account of your salvation, and a bit of family history, i.e. marriage, kids, Patrick becoming a Chaplain?

I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family with a long Christian heritage. My Baptist parents led me to the Lord as an elementary student and I was baptized in our Southern Baptist congregation in Ward, AR. They modeled mission and charity and volunteer work both in church and the community, taught me the importance of daily devotions, bible reading and prayer, taught me to be an active, responsible church member and to give to others both time and money. They taught me to always rely on the Lord and look to Him for everything: needs, comfort, encouragement, security and safety, a future husband, decision making, etc.

I received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ouachita Baptist University (’87) in Arkansas and a Master’s of Science from Memphis State University (’89) in Tennessee. While in Memphis, God providentially brought Patrick into my life. We met, singing in the choir at Bellevue Baptist church. This is indeed Providential because my hometown at the time happily numbered about 800, my college about 1500 and now I was in a huge city in a huge school attending a church of about 20,000 coming from a church of about 40! Ephesians 3:20-21 came to new importance and meaning to me through this. I was quite biased about ‘city folk’ and to my surprise God gave me in Patrick an outstanding (and good looking) Eagle Scout, avid outdoorsman, fearless leader and most importantly, the most Godly earnest young man I had ever met.

God used the teaching of Proverbs in my girls college class at church to turn the tide of my career seeking, ladder climbing, doctoral plans so that by the time Patrick proposed and sought a wife who would be a stay at home mother to their eventual children, my spiritual journey had prepared me, just in time (as God always is), to joyfully and wholeheartedly assent.

Patrick and I courted for a month before he left for Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island for 4 months, fulfilling his training obligations to become a Naval Submarine officer. We were engaged when he returned for 3 months, then he left for Nuclear Power School for 6 months and we were married the week after that! Once aboard his assigned sub at Portsmouth NH Naval shipyard he deployed for months at a time so that for the first 5 years of our courtship and marriage we were apart more than we had been together. This was a very good way to get to know the really important parts of a person and their thoughts and solidified the priority we have of making the most of the time we do have together, to this day.

Patrick was the Christian lay leader on board our submarine, leading bible studies, prayer times and one on one outreach. During this time as we grew in our faith as a couple, God began working on  him, drawing him to a calling of full time ministry. He was ordained as a deacon in our local Baptist church and we both were very active in several capacities at church. With the birth of our firstborn, William Dawson, in 1993, Patrick fulfilled his first tour of duty and left the military to seek seminary training with the idea of possibly returning as a chaplain in the future.

During Patrick’s 2 years as plant engineer in Mississippi our twin daughters were born (Audrey Grace and Jordan Lee, 1995), he was ordained into the ministry followed by a move to Fort Worth, TX for full time MDiv studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where our next two children were born (Maggie Elisabeth 1998, Noah Patrick 1999, giving us 5 in 6 years). It was also during this time that we came to understand and embrace the doctrines of grace taught in the Bible. The next two years were spent pastoring a small church in AR and as that ministry came to a close, God used many closed doors and difficult circumstances to move us back to the Navy as a chaplain (2001) where He clearly has used Patrick as His hands and feet in ministry. Patrick has a passion for mentoring young men and young chaplains or ministers. Several he has mentored have gone on into ministry or are working toward that end. He does not prefer the administration of duties from a desk, but ‘boots on the ground’ ministry in the spaces where his marines or sailors are, providing studies and counseling, a ministry of presence by being there and being available, preaching at chapel as he has opportunity, etc.

Our first chaplain tour was Cherry Point Naval Air Station, NC where we had our first miscarriage, followed by our 6th born child, LaurelAnna Chandler (2004). The next tour in Virginia brought us our 7th child, Mary M’Cheyne (2006) at the ‘ripe old age’ for me, of 41! Her middle name is after Robert Murray M’Cheyne, the godly young Scottish minister of old. (All our children have a bible name and a family name, until Mary. We had used all the Grandma’s names on LaurelAnna, so we moved on to faithful ministers! William’s name describes Christ so that’s how we count his ‘bible name’. Each name has the meaning we have taught the children to live up to as well.)

With the birth of each of our 7 children we have intentionally desired and striven to stand on the shoulders of our parents and mentors taking the best from them and adding to it as God has grown us, and we teach our children that we hope they will do the same, standing on our shoulders and adding the wisdom and ways God grows them in as well, through the coming generations.

While at Providence Baptist church (now West Suffolk Baptist Church) in Virginia, Patrick was an elder and that year the church was admitted to ARBCA. Patrick had desired for some time to be endorsed by an association which was more aligned with and better reflected his doctrine of ministry, outreach, teaching and worship, so it was a tremendous blessing and perfect timing to become ARBCA’s first military chaplain.

The Joyner Family

The Joyner Family

2) How long has Patrick been a Chaplain? Does your family enjoy being a military family? Do you have any official functions and/or duties as a Chaplain’s wife?

Patrick served 6 years as a submarine officer, including several patrol deployments as well as deploying to the 1st Gulf War in Iraq. He has served 13 years as a chaplain for a total of 19 years to date, and has 2 deployed tours: to Africa with a destroyer squadron and Afghanistan with 2nd Marine Regiment. (Navy Chaplains serve the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines.)

I love my life. I love being anywhere with my husband and family. I have enjoyed moving every 2-3 years and always look forward to the next place and seeing a new part of the country, meeting new folks, worshiping in different churches. We have been married 25 years, moved 17 times in 10 states, attended 15 churches and chapels, collecting children, friends, and spiritual growth along the way.

Homeschooling has been icing on the cake as we can finish and start, break and resume at any time, around our moves and planning travels when others are in school. Our family is large enough to just take our friends with us, and then add some new friends in the new place. Our family literally does almost everything together so obviously we really enjoy each other’s company. Our children perform music together, play sports together, are church musicians together, study together, share rooms together, cook and watch movies together, camp and backpack, even run and win races together.

I will admit that our moves were easier on the children when they were younger than it has been on our teenagers these last couple of moves. But they have never complained and always embrace what God has next for us, trusting Him and building contentment. (Phil 4, my favorite chapter) Our children are proud to be a part of the military community and are very patriotic, doing much volunteer work with Wounded Warriors and each regiment or battalion that we have been a part of. They say the main con to it all is moving from friends and teams when you are a teenager, and not having the ‘hometown’ feel of longevity in one place. We have always tried to make it a priority for them to spend time with grandparents and cousins to keep those ties strong and stabilizing, promoting the importance of heritage and family. Patrick looks forward to settling down in one place someday and will not miss the moving!

As a Chaplain’s wife my functions are typically unofficial, as any pastor’s wife duties might be. Currently I do have an official function as a 2nd Marine Regiment Command Team Advisor. This role involves giving input on family readiness issues and events in our regiment as a ‘seasoned spouse’ along with a young married spouse, the rest of the commanding officers including Chap. Joyner, the Sergeant Major and enlisted team leaders.

Typically, at a duty station I join in with the other chaplain wives for bible studies, socials or volunteer work in addition to my responsibilities at church. Sometimes I have been involved with the OSC, Officer Spouses Club. On this tour, I prayerfully made the decision to volunteer with the regiment spouses instead of the chaplain wives, while continuing to work in different areas at church including mentoring young mothers and ‘new to homeschooling’ moms. (only so many hours in a day)

Often it is hard for stay at home moms to have an outlet for ministry to non-believers or non ‘church friends’. I volunteer work alongside the family readiness officer and other volunteer spouses planning events for the regiment families, doing potluck meals for the single marines in the barracks, calling family members, wives or parents of marines to share information or check on them during deployment. Our children volunteer for most of these events as well. Some things they have done with me include giving out Christian books to the marines, decorating their rooms and providing goodie bags upon their return from deployment, greeting marines at homecoming who do not have family present. I also make sure that new parents or families with a sick parent get meals, and during deployment I led a devotional fellowship time addressing marriage, parenting or deployment related issues.

We have raised our family to be a team, and since we are Navy, we go by ‘The Joyner Crew’. Our motto is Hold Fast and our theme song is Be Thou My Vision. We enjoy the expeditionary lifestyle for the most part, seeing it biblically as an example to be ready for wherever the Lord sends you, learning to be content and live joyfully where we are, not holding ‘things’ too tightly.

I have endeavored to teach my children (and other young military wives) that as a family, we are an intimate part of my husband/their father’s ministry. This would be true if he had a secular job as well. Everything we do to come alongside him builds him up and like Proverbs 31, also builds his reputation ‘at the city gate’. Wherever Patrick works, they know his family and thereby know him better, because we are around volunteering, helping, cheering at unit physical training events and being a part in whatever way we can. Another huge way we do this is also by the ministry of hospitality which we all take part in liberally, regularly having folks in our home and including them in our nightly evening family worship.

Chaplain Patrick Joyner preaching at Camp Leatherneck.

Chaplain Patrick Joyner preaching at Camp Leatherneck.


In Part 2 we will talk about Patrick working with ARBCA and how this busy Mom handles life when Patrick is on gone on Tours. If you have any questions you would like to ask Rhonda please comment below and let me know!