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Chaplain witnesses God’s power to calm the storming winds and seas of life

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The battlefields of Iraq have become more of a mission field than Capt. Eddie Cook ever imagined.

Opportunities to share God’s grace have uplifted even this firm believer — who serves as chaplain and a master-rated parachutist in the 3rd Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment — and helped him bring many fellow soldiers to Christ.

When 80 mph winds threatened to topple his battalion one day, his fellow soldiers shouted out to him to pray. Standing in the middle of the besieged tent, Cook prayed silently for the sandstorm to stop. When the howling winds died abruptly, he was not surprised at God’s grace.

He suddenly realized that though his previous silent prayers had been answered, God was waiting for him to speak up.

“I praised God for it, but I felt Him ask me why I did not profess my prayer aloud so that others could see Him work,” said Cook, a 2002 graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I remembered Christ and His rebuking of the storm and felt that was of ‘biblical proportion’ and I was skeptical to do that before all.

“But we must not question our faith. When we are distressed in the desert, God answers [both physically and spiritually]. God instilled in me that we are in exceptional times and He will work in exceptional ways.”

God subsequently gave Cook another chance.

“We had left the desert and were back at our base camp in tents,” he recounted. “Another big windstorm hit us and our 50-man tents (100 by 40 feet) were about to blow away. We had been awakened in the night by metal poles snapping into and thrashing about around our heads. Lights were crashing around us and the nine 15-foot poles were wobbling in the middle of the centerline of our tent. A man got on each pole to hold down the tent and someone yelled, ‘Chaplain, pray for us!’

“I had a flashback to the desert and what God had told me then. I placed my faith in Him and left my pole, stood in the middle of the tent and called upon the name of Jesus to calm the winds. There was a brief cessation of the wind and my spirit leapt for joy.

“Then I wondered if the storm had completely ceased. The men looked at me in amazement…. That was the last of the tremendous gusts that were knocking even huge soldiers to the floor. He made His name real to all those who witnessed this.”

As the bombs and missiles light up the skies in Iraq, Cook has dealt with breaking down barriers to the spread of the Gospel. Cook, who was an infantry officer before God called him into the chaplaincy, said the channels to spread the Gospel are wide open, but there were times when they were threatened. Still, before his battalion headed into Iraq from Kuwait, he baptized troops in the icy waters of the Persian Gulf.

“God used this as a time to grow me when I thought our opportunity for ministry was going to be thwarted” in light of military policy against aggressive evangelism, Cook said. “I have been given the approval to pray in Jesus’ name in all forums without qualification, whether in a Christian service or in a pluralistic group. I am afforded unfettered freedom to spread the Gospel, and it is even encouraged.

“These are trying times and the men need Jesus. Even the ones that are not ready to accept Him know that they need Him. I have been personally thanked by the majority of the colonels here for my evangelical fervor and commitment to spread the Gospel. God took care of the antagonists. God has promised that, ‘His Word will not return to Him void, it will accomplish that which it was sent.'”

Spc. Nick Valaitis, a member of Cook’s battalion, told The Fayetteville Observer newspaper, “In the time we’re in, it’s definitely the reassurance I need. It takes a lot off you to know that God’s on your side.”

Cook and his wife, Jennifer, are based at Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, N.C. They’re active in the First Assembly of God church in Raleigh, which has provided support for Jennifer as she awaits the birth of the couple’s first child any day.

That support, along with prayers from people on the home front, has lifted Cook’s spirits as he deals with the rigors of war and being away for the birth of his first child. Prayer not only has lifted him, but he’s seen what prayer can do firsthand as nearly 100 soldiers have been saved and baptized.

“I have noticed that my prayers are more effectual, due to this prayer base and obedience to God in evangelism,” Cook said. “God has taught me a lesson in obedience,” which is: “For God’s favor to be upon us, I must stay faithful and true to my call.

“Army policy does not desire a chaplain to proselytize,” Cook acknowledged. “However, our call and commission cannot be denied. We just have to be smart on how we do it. There are antagonists who seek to thwart the spread of the Gospel, but God honors his ambassadors as we are faithful.”

Cook doesn’t see much of a difference between soldiers who want to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior and people back home at First Assembly of God church. He sees every person, regardless of their job, having the same spiritual need for Jesus to be the Lord of their life. Soldiers and the everyday man sometimes feel like “dead men” and need to be lifted by the Holy Spirit, Cook said.

However, soldiers have the added burden of day-to-day pressures of the military life both at home and abroad. It includes the cold, hard fact that they may not return home.

“Combat makes everyone here realize their mortality and the need to get spiritually right with God,” Cook said. “I reach out to my men and meet them where they are and share the love of Christ with them. I present the Gospel to them up front as the only answer to man’s problems. They appreciate this honesty as God’s Spirit testifies to their heart.

“The soldiers want to hear the truth and it is my responsibility to present it to them. I care for each of my men and pray for God’s protection and grace to be upon them. I will be there for them every step along the way, from the front lines in our battle positions, to jumping into combat, to returning back home. I live where they live and suffer as they suffer.

“It is an incarnational ministry.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photot titles: OBEDIENCE IN THE GULF and ATTENTIVE REGIMENT.

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  • Jerry Higgins