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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

Editor’s note: This column was adapted from an e-mail sent by a Southern Baptist chaplain in Iraq to the North American Mission Board.

IRAQ (BP)–I wanted to share with you some of the testimonies of our soldiers who have given their lives to Christ since serving in Baghdad, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The work that God is doing in this area with our soldiers is a constant reminder that He is with us wherever we go.

I serve a military police unit in Iraq. I have over 1,300 soldiers under my care as the TF chaplain. Not all of the soldiers live on the FOB (Forward Operating Base) with us, so traveling is a huge part of my ministry. One of the highlights of the ministry here is the Wednesday night contemporary worship service I lead on my primary FOB. The service began eight months ago with eight soldiers. Currently, we are averaging over 70 soldiers a week. I preach through books of the Bible, something most soldiers say they have never seen before. The service is very evangelistic and an invitation is always given, allowing soldiers to make a personal decision for Christ.

A couple of months ago, as I was traveling through the streets of Baghdad visiting my soldiers from one place to another, our vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). After an initial assessment, we realized that by the grace of God the primary impact went in front, behind and over the vehicle, leaving us with very little vehicle damage. Once we had cleared the area we rolled into our next stop for everyone to “catch their breath” and do a more intensive assessment. As we checked each other out, one soldier (my gunner, Billy) asked me why we were spared when so many others of our unit had been severely injured or even killed. I told Billy that God had, by His own mercy, protected us and kept us safe from harm. Billy then began to ask me what would have happened had he been killed in the blast. I explained to Billy that only those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ would enter heaven for eternity, no matter how heroic, valiant and courageous they were. That following Wednesday night, Billy began attending the mid-week service. After three weeks of attending, Billy asked the Lord Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. We baptized him, at his request, on Easter Sunday morning.

Another soldier gave his life to Christ also as a result of the Wednesday night worship service. He wanted to be baptized on Easter Sunday as well, so I was more than happy to accommodate him.

Some of the other soldiers I have led to faith in Christ have done so after I have visited them “outside the wire,” at their places of duty. When I first arrived to Iraq in October 2005 I assumed the TF MP Chaplain mission and made it a priority to visit as many soldiers as possible where they served. One soldier was providing security at an Iraqi police station, in a troubled, dangerous area. As I was out on “visitation” the soldier was extremely surprised to see me walking up the ladder to climb into his guard tower.

Once I got there, the soldier said, “Oh no, did I get a Red Cross message?” I had to take that in a moment and figure out what he was saying. I reassured the soldier that nothing was wrong; I was just out to visit him. He said he had never seen a chaplain “outside the wire” and was thinking it had to be a huge incident to get one out to the location. We spent the next 45 minutes discussing faith and Jesus. The next week, that same soldier, Zack, came to me and said, “You have to have huge faith to go to [the area] without any weapons just to see soldiers. I want that kind of faith.” Right then, Zack gave his life to Jesus. Zack has since redeployed back to the states and has reclassified as a chaplain assistant and is actively attending a Southern Baptist church near his home.

The ministry here is filled with all of the emotions God has given us. I have rejoiced in soldiers coming to faith in Jesus Christ. I have wept with a soldier dying in my arms. Yet, in everything I have experienced, I know I am here “for such a time as this.”
Keough is a chaplain (captain) in Iraq.

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  • Pete Keough