The Naval Air Station Lemoore (NASL) Chapel has welcomed a new Chaplain into its chapel family. Chaplain (Lt.) Keith Ritter and his wife, Michele, hail from Salem, Oregon, where they launched Oasis Community Church, a part of the Church of Nazarene, in 2009 and spent the next nine years ministering there.
A civilian pastor for over 20 years, Ritter said that serving in the Navy Chaplaincy had never been on his radar. It wasn’t until a friend contacted him in 2016 and asked him if he’d ever considered it that the seed was planted.
“To our surprise, it kind of landed in our souls,” Ritter said. “Life was good in Oregon. We had our family, friends and the Oasis Community Church, but we felt led to serve God and our country as well.”
The Ritters have four children: Brooklyn (6), Emma (9), Abby (19) and Ben (22). Ben recently returned to Salem after serving in the U.S. Army for four years. Ritter said that it got him thinking about what kinds of chaplains were out there for young service members like his son.
“I have a heart for the young sailors who are making choices. I want them to know there is a deep, meaningful way of life. Faith gives you a compass that will serve you well your entire life and give you an internal sense of direction and purpose,” Ritter said.
Their transition from civilian to military life is a year in the making. Chaplain Ritter and his family moved to Lemoore in late December, and he began preaching at the 9:30 a.m. Contemporary Protestant Service several weeks ago.
Chaplain Ritter added that his mission is to minister and strengthen military families as they navigate the unique situations that come with military life.
“Life is lived from the inside out, and the Chaplain tends to the soul,” Ritter said. “I hope I can be someone who takes care of the inside of people. We want the Chapel to be a community of faith that builds the faith of those on base.”
Michele Ritter was also very involved with Oasis Community Church, occasionally preaching, leading Bible studies and speaking at women’s retreats. She said that she’s looking forward to her time here in Lemoore and finding out what needs are in the community.
Chaplain Ritter said he will be sharing his testimony and faith journey at this Sunday’s 9:30 a.m. service.