Student Commissioned as Chaplain in U.S. Navy
You might assume “launching leaders into ministry” means sending 22-year-olds to the mission field. But what if that ministry leader looks more like Jack Capen?
Jack Capen (far right) meeting online classmates in person before the May graduation
ceremony at Moody Bible Institute
In his early 60s, Jack Capen was looking forward to retirement. “I was going to play golf once or twice a week, work out at the athletic facility, and stay in good shape.” But as he realizes now, “God had other plans.”
Jack grew up in a small paper-mill town southwest of Green Bay, Wisconsin. After graduating from college, he accepted a full-time job in the paper industry and spent the next 35 years traveling the country. He and his wife, Jean, moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where they raised two sons.
It was in St. Louis that God began working on Jack’s heart. “I didn’t have a close relationship with the Lord. We were what I’d call non-practicing Christians.” But in 1996, the couple started attending a church that Jack said felt “entirely different.” He began attending a Saturday morning men’s Bible study and listening to preachers on the radio when he traveled. “The Holy Spirit was working in my life.”
Two men at the church had a huge influence on Jack’s life. “Not only did they talk the talk, but they walked the walk. That was new to me,” he says. “They also led the Sunday School class and urged us to read the Bible in one year.” Since traveling provided a lot of time for reading, Jack found a two-year Bible and started reading. “For the first time, Scripture started making sense to me.”
In 2003, the Capens moved to Arizona where Jack planned to retire, but God had other plans. Seven years later, Jack said, “I was praying to God about it, and I kept hearing God ask, ‘Retirement or refirement?’”
When the pastor of his Arizona church said he was considering adding a pastoral intern, Jack couldn’t get the idea out of his mind. He tried to dismiss it. “After all, I hadn’t been to seminary or Bible school.”
Then his pastor asked, “Why don’t you look at Moody Bible Institute?”
So Jack enrolled in the Master of Arts in Applied Biblical Studies online program. “When I first started, I was nervous about going back to school. I hadn’t been in a classroom setting for 40 years. And I was worried about doing it online. I’m not computer illiterate, but not far from it. But I figured if the Lord wants it to happen, He would work that out.”
March 12, 2013, was Jack’s first day of online classes; it was also the day he had a heart attack. Just three days later, Jack underwent triple bypass heart surgery, and thought, "I’m not going to start classes anytime soon." Then, after recovering from heart surgery, he had a second diagnosis: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “I got almost a full year in at Moody and had to stop for chemo,” Jack said. “When you are diagnosed with cancer, you ask the Lord, ‘Why this, why me, why now?’ I did a lot of reading and praying.”
Jack felt the Lord continuing to work in his life, even during his chemo treatments. “My heart attack and cancer took away my fear of sharing the gospel with others. I couldn’t care less about [fear] now. When you’ve looked death between the eyes, you realize, we don’t have much time!”
Jack started back to school again in May 2016 and graduated one year later at the age of 69. Much to his surprise, the church council voted to send the couple to Chicago so he could attend the graduation in person. They said, “You put all this time into it, we want you to see what the campus looks like.”
A walking testimony to God’s provision and His ability to commission ministry leaders, even on the cusp of retirement, Jack says, “I wasn’t ready. Best advice: Don’t look back. What the Lord has in mind for you is going to be incredible. For me, Moody’s online learning program worked very well.”
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