MMA chaplain holds multiple duties at academy, combines two passions of ministry and sports

HARLINGEN — Chris Elliott is a master machinist who became a youth minister who became the chaplain at Marine Military Academy.

But that’s not all.

He’s also the MMA athletics director and the announcer at the academy’s football, baseball and basketball games.

As he says, he’s combining his two great passions – ministry and sports.

Among his duties as chaplain, Elliott holds Bible studies and other classes and chapel services.

“I’m just trying to get a pulse of not only the cadets, but the faculty and staff here on campus,” he said.

He was asked, what is the most challenging part of being a chaplain for a military academy?

His answer pretty much describes how he sees his job – helping the cadets grow and be prepared for life.

“Learning how to do ministry in such a unique environment,” he answered.

“It’s unique in the sense that ministry is not really the priority, but it undergirds the effectiveness of everything that we do from the military department, to the athletic department to the academic department, of taking a look at the whole man and trying to grow him and mature him and prepare him for life.”

He’s been chaplain for 12 years. Then six years ago, he took on the added role as athletic director when that position opened up.

As athletic director, he has every sport you’d find at a typical public high school, plus more.

“We’ve got some that make us rather unique,” he said. “We have an aerospace program where a young cadet can come and learn how to fly a plane.

“We’ve got an in-house boxing program and an in-house jiu-jitsu program. And we’ve got a rifle team.”

He describes himself as “a jack of all trades,” because he’s also announcing sporting events, including field events that are held at the end of MMA’s 28-day summer camp, where the cadets demonstrate everything they learned during camp.

When it comes to announcing football games, that’s also unique.

He is not only announcing for fans in the stands, but also for parents around the world.

“Understand that most of our families are not local,” he said. “We’ve got kids that come to us from all over the world.”

So the academy records all of the games and posts the video to the academy’s athletic web channel, “so that our parents can plug in and watch what’s going on in the athletic department at a time of their convenience all over the world.”

He also understands some parents may not know a lot about American football.

“So I’m describing what’s happening on the field. I’m giving them an education about why number 13 is throwing the ball and who the receiver is,” he said.

“So, I’m helping them understand what’s going on.”

Elliott is a former master machinist for a NASA contractor at Johnson Space Center in Houston. He also was youth minister for Fellowship Bible Church in Pearland, a suburb of Houston.

But he felt God was calling him to full-time ministry.

He thought he might pursue a ministry in a church, but then he heard MMA needed a chaplain.

“I forwarded over my resume and philosophy of ministry and those things,” he said.

“They flew my wife and I down and as soon as we stepped on campus, we knew immediately this is where God was calling us to minister.

“And we’ve been here 12 years.”