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Navy chaplains obtain Bibles, books

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Two Navy hospitals and a new ship are among the latest global points of contact for Holman Bible Outreach International, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources.

HBOI has donated Bibles and a variety of new Christian books to the libraries at two facilities serving troops in Kuwait: the Warrior Recovery Unit at Camp Arifjan and the Contingency Aero-medical Staging Facility at Camp Ali Al-Salem. The WRU is a convalescence center that gives service members a location to recuperate from mild to moderate injuries or from minor surgery. The CASF is a location where injured service members are staged as they arrive for medical care or await a medevac flight out of Kuwait.

“The population has a high turnover rate, and troops come from all services,” said Chaplain Ben Mathis, a Navy lieutenant who made the initial request for resources through the North American Mission Board. “There is a lot of down time here for them as they heal.”

The third distribution, the USS Mesa Verde, is one of the newest ships in the Navy. The Mesa Verde’s chaplain, Lt. Darren Stennet, has been with the ship from its start last December and wanted to organize a ship library for the sailors.

Holman Bible Outreach provided identical orders for the requests. Each location received 50 books that were a combination of general and academic Christian resources for men and women, as well as a case of 282 Holman Christian Standard Bibles.

“For me it is great to see LifeWay jump on a project so quickly and help us offer our men and women more to do than just lie around watching old movies or reading bad books,” Mathis said. “Most of the service members I meet are spiritual and are looking for answers. Now there are two good locations for our injured and recuperating men and women to redeem their down time by having some quality time with God.”

As for the new library on the USS Mesa Verde, “The Bibles are going like hotcakes…. Wow, what a blessing,” Stennet wrote in an e-mail to HBOI.

Mathis and Stennet both were referred to HBOI through the North American Mission Board and Scott Reed, manager of the LifeWay Christian Store in Conyers, Ga.

Reed, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, met Phill Burgess, executive director of HBOI, last year at a Memorial Day weekend event to honor troops and their families. Holman Bible Outreach gave away about 3,000 copies of the paperback Holman CSB Military Bible to veterans and their relatives over the three-day period.

Reed spoke with Burgess about ways of ministering to veterans, including the possibility of developing a military-themed devotional. A few months later, Burgess invited him to a brainstorming meeting with Keith Travis, the chaplain evangelism team leader at NAMB, and Dave Mullis, who oversees Southern Baptist military chaplains.

Travis and Reed kept in touch, passing ideas back and forth by e-mail. In June, Travis contacted Reed to see if he could help with Mathis’ request for Christian resources for the Kuwait medical facilities. Stennet’s request followed shortly thereafter. Reed turned to Burgess for help, and soon packages of books and a case of Bibles were on their way to each place.

“We are delighted to help meet the spiritual needs of our armed forces by providing biblical solutions to our American military chaplains, soldiers, sailors and airmen,” Burgess said. “What a blessing to have an opportunity to serve those who are serving us in far away parts of the world.”

Burgess noted that in addition to facilitating the translation, production and distribution of Bibles and Scripture portions for evangelism and discipleship, HBOI offers a supporting role for Southern Baptist entities and seeks innovative ways to come alongside their work so that each organization’s strengths are maximized.

“This is an excellent example of how Southern Baptist ministries can work together to meet urgent needs,” Travis said. “Not only was this a great way to support our military chaplains and minister to service men and women, but it also helps churches see tangible ways they can meet military needs around the globe.”

Reed said the daily realities that soldiers face, including the risking of their lives, often lead them to seek answers to spiritual questions.

“The majority of soldiers come from secular, unchurched backgrounds,” he said. “Faced with the possibility of suddenly being thrust into eternity, they are very open to the Gospel.”

Reed said he hears almost weekly of needs from NAMB of Southern Baptist military chaplains serving overseas who are looking for Christian resources so they can be made available to the troops. He noted that divorce, spousal abuse, suicide and drug and alcohol abuse statistics all are disproportionately higher among those in the military.

As an example of the special needs many returning soldiers have as they assimilate back into American society, Reed cited a military veteran who lost a leg in Iraq and recently was in a LifeWay store looking for a book about post traumatic stress disorder from a Christian perspective. When an employee recommended the book “Two Wars” by Army Ranger Nate Self, he said it was biographical and he didn’t want to read about somebody else’s traumatic experiences in war.

“He had seen enough and just wanted help, as do many other returning vets,” Reed said. “The NAMB office offered to send the man a complimentary copy of the book ‘The Combat Trauma Healing Manual’ and also referred him to a pastor who can give him sound biblical counsel. Our troops today are experiencing unfathomable trauma and stress. They need good biblical counsel and the Word of God.”
Don Beehler is a writer based in Franklin, Tenn.

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  • Don Beehler