FORT POLK — It’s often said that being a soldier’s spouse is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

FORT POLK — It’s often said that being a soldier’s spouse is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. The spouse often serves as both mother and father when the soldier is deployed, whether on a local field exercise or for an extended stay in combat zones.

Another demanding job is a minister’s spouse. Not only does the minister’s spouse serve as host or hostess to events within her spouse’s congregation, she also has to fulfill spousal duties at home.

When the minister is an Army chaplain, the spouse doubles the duties, serving as both a minister spouse and Army spouse.

A third demanding job is that of a minister. In addition to issues that might arise in the minister’s family, they are also referred to as “shepherd” of their congregations, providing spiritual and personal guidance and a shoulder of support during times of tragedy. Most ministers would tell a person that their vocation is not a job, but a calling.

What if a person serveS in all three capacities — oldier spouse, minister spouse and minister? One might think it was a job for Superman — or Superwoman.

Fort Polk has just such a person: The Rev. Andrea Godwin-Stremler. Godwin-Stremler is the spouse of Fort Polk Installation Chap. (Col.) Ted Godwin-Stremler, which qualifies her as an Army/minister spouse, and is also an ordained minister in the Reformed Church of America.

And in her spare time, this “Superwoman” finds time to teach cooking classes to fellow Army spouses and serve on the Fort Polk Thrift Shop’s advisory board. Godwin-Stremler does all of this with a disability that has made it difficult to get around her entire life.

So what drives a person to be as involved in so many arenas as Godwin-Stremler? For her it’s simple.

“I’m just blessed,” she said. “I believe that God blesses us to bless others. That’s the whole purpose — to keep spreading joy.”

Even as a child, Godwin-Stremler knew she wanted to a church leader.

“When I was a little girl, instead of playing house, I played church,” she said. “I would serve communion to my dog and my dolls. Of course back in those days, nobody told girls that they could grow up to be pastors.”

But Godwin-Stremler was not to be denied.

“When I was ordained in California at the age of 27, I was the second woman ever ordained in our church in California,” she said. “It stayed controversial for a long time. I’ll be celebrating 30 years being ordained in May.”

Godwin-Stremler is still active in the Reformed Church in America. She has served on the national board of trustees, and is currently on the board of trustees for the church’s seminary.

“I’ve worked overseeing students preparing to be pastors, examining them and overseeing that whole process,” she said.

As for her role as an Army spouse, Godwin-Stremler said the key is to remain flexible.

“Being an Army spouse often means reinventing yourself with every new assignment, with what’s available where you are, and what your opportunities are at this assignment,” she said. “While we were in Europe, I worked a lot with Protestant Women of the Chapel at the European level, and was eventually president of the European PWOC.”

At Fort Hood, Texas, Godwin-Stremler said her role changed.

“I worked at the chaplain’s Family Life Training Center and trained chaplains who were preparing to be Family Life chaplains,” she said. “I also counseled Soldiers and Family members.”

When the couple was assigned to Hawaii, Godwin-Stremler found herself in a familiar role: pastor.

“A Filipino congregation called me to pastor their church,” she said. “That was fun. Their church was on military property and they wanted me to help teach them what the military was all about and how to work with military people.”

As for advice for Army spouses, Godwin-Stremler said it’s simple — get involved.

“Open your mind to something new and different than what you’ve done before,” she said. “It’s OK to make mistakes; it’s OK to learn and try out new things. That’s probably the most fun about being a military spouse: You can try out new things everywhere you go. And if you make really embarrassing mistakes, you’ll eventually get reassigned and people at the new assignment don’t know about your old mistakes.”

As a minister’s spouse, Godwin-Stremler said she’s cognizant of the issues facing young soldiers and their families.

“I think that sometimes the needs are greater than the resources in the military, with the cuts the Chaplain Corps has faced and is facing,” she said. “Seeing the needs families have, especially at remote posts, the population is young and their parents are often hundreds or thousands of miles away, so help can sometimes seem far away.”

But Godwin-Stremler said sometimes the limited resources can turn into a blessing.

“Often the women rise up and meet each other’s needs and learn how to work together,” she said. “They get involved in groups like Mothers of Preschoolers to support one another.”

While Godwin-Stremler said she enjoys working with and mentoring other pastors and spouses, she misses her role as preacher.

“I like preaching and I like the relationship that a pastor has with his or her people,” she said. “It is a very sacred and special relationship, and I miss it.”

Godwin-Stremler’s husband, Ted, has one word to describe his spouse.

“She is awesome,” he said.

The couple met at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and have been married for 33 years, although they both agreed it was not love at first sight.

“We both thought the other one was weird,” he said. “But we eventually came together.”

Now, the installation chaplain said he can’t imagine life without his partner.

“Besides keeping me on track, she is a great preacher and counselor,” he said. “I can always run ideas by her, and everything gets better when you have two people looking at it, especially one as astute as Andrea.”

Ted Godwin-Stremler said the couple makes the perfect team.

“Besides Andrea being the prettiest girl in town, we have complimentary gifts,” he said. “I’m an administrator and she’s a pastor/counselor. While I’ve been trained in all those things, my skills are not as good as hers. Working as a team, we really balance each other out.”

What makes Godwin-Stremler’s accomplishments even more Superwoman-like is the fact she’s done it all with a disability that would have caused most people to toss in the proverbial towel a long time ago. But not Godwin-Stremler.

“I couldn’t walk without braces or crutches until I was 12,” she said. “I continue to have physical challenges, and too many surgeries to count, but it’s OK. It’s all right, because I think that regardless of our circumstances, it’s not what we’re given, it’s what we do with what we’re given that makes a difference. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not merely endured.”