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Baptisms on ship encourages A/G chaplain

Early one morning en route to the Persian Gulf, Staff Sgt. James Reese stopped by the office of A/G Chaplain Denis Cox who is embarked with Marines aboard the USS Carter Hall as the vessel made its way across the Atlantic Ocean. Reese told Cox that he wanted to get right with God. The men went for a walk on deck and stopped to lean over a rail and watch the sunrise over the Atlantic. After hearing Cox explain the plan of salvation, the normally stoic 36-year-old Reese committed his life to Christ, shedding tears of joy and relief.

Cox explained to Reese that baptism would be a natural follow-up step in making a public profession of his faith. The Marine agreed, and Cox began inquiring with the ship’s leadership personnel about the logistics of such a service. The captain had never been asked to authorize a baptism at sea. The command master chief, the senior enlisted person on the ship, had never seen a baptism in eight deployments covering 20 years on ships.

With a lot of suggestions and help from Religious Program Specialist Petty Officer Third Class Christopher Oxendine, Cox secured a makeshift baptismal tank: one half of a casing used for landing craft air cushion engines. He arranged for 100 gallons of fresh water to be dumped into the container on deck. With around 50 onlookers, Cox baptized Reese.

A few weeks later, Cox baptized Lance Cpl. Nick Ames, who gave his life to the Lord after attending a Bible study on ship. Both Reese and Ames attend every chapel service, are discipled regularly and have shown a tremendous change in their lives. Reese’s wife had been praying for his salvation for years. Two sailors also have been baptized on the ship, and Chaplain Cox reports a spiritual awakening in the lives of many others.

   John W. Kennedy

Troops encourage chaplain to share gospel

Newly appointed Assemblies of God Chaplain Tim Maracle didn’t expect such a response to his preaching on his first official assignment in the Army. From everything he had learned in Christian college, seminary and the pastorate, people — especially hardened military men — didn’t jump at the chance at hearing the gospel.

He heard wrong.

In June, Maracle, chaplain for the 2nd Battalion, 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, embarked on his first day of field services. During the day he visited various platoons engaged in training exercises. As a government-paid chaplain, Maracle is there to provide religious support to whatever needs the soldiers express.

Religious support often involves individual counseling, providing guidance to soldiers for everything from getting out of debt to overcoming substance abuse. In addition to 500 men in his battalion, Maracle is responsible for the spiritual welfare of 700 military intelligence and military police whose units currently are without a chaplain.

Making the rounds that June day, Maracle spent about an hour with various companies of his battalion, including a 10-minute devotional on the importance of maintaining a relationship with God. As he returned to his Humvee after one service with a tank company, a medic approached him.

“Sir, can you be a little bit more long-winded?” the medic asked. He and 10 other soldiers stood there, wanting to learn more. They began peppering the chaplain with deep questions about faith, free will and accountability for sins.

For 30 minutes, Maracle shared from his heart the lessons he had been learning for the past decade in his own theological training.

Often soldiers on training exercises are eager to return to their quarters, but these men wanted to stay longer and learn more. They asked Maracle pointed questions about his faith. Maracle talked about the role of God’s grace and the Holy Spirit in his life.

That day the soldiers, many of whom had never been to church, learned about the Lord. Maracle had the opportunity to plant seeds that one day he hopes will yield spiritual fruit.

   John W. Kennedy

Proclaiming Christ in the DMZ

The following is a firsthand report from an Assemblies of God chaplain serving in the Demilitarized Zone.

I arrived in Korea in mid-July and was assigned to the United Nations Command Security Battalion, Joint Security Area at Panmunjom. Several A/G chaplains have ministered here, and it is very exciting ministry. We are about 400 meters south of the DMZ, and regularly go up to the border for various ceremonies, tours and services.

I work pretty closely with the pastor of the only Christian church inside the DMZ at Tae Song Dong (Freedom Village). About twice a month he and I go into one of the buildings on Conference Row (with armed guards of course) and cross over into North Korea and pray. Then we go to the Bridge of No Return and pray.

Inside the DMZ we have an observation post on high ground that sits about 25 meters from the Military Demarcation Line. On a clear day you can see about 17 kilometers into North Korea, including a splendid view of Ki Jong Dong (Propaganda Village) and the largest flagpole in the world. It is the only village allowed inside the DMZ in the north. It is something to do an outdoor service in Freedom Village on a sunny Sunday with communist North Korea right behind you. I do a late-morning service in our chapel, which runs about 25 to 30 in attendance each week, and then head up to Observation Post Oulette when it is manned by American soldiers. About 60 percent of our battalion is Republic of Korea soldiers, which makes ministry very interesting.

— Chaplain (Capt.) Brad P. Lewis
UNCSB-JSA Battalion Chaplain

Life in the face of death

The following is a firsthand report from an Assemblies of God U.S. Army chaplain serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, my chaplain assistant and I were positioned at a Casualty Collection Point (CCP) in support of simultaneous and coordinated ground combat operations with our task force. We flew out from the assembly area with an assault force to the forward CCP where we immediately took small arms fire. Several individuals were wounded and had to be evacuated. My assistant and I loaded casualties from our helicopter onto a fixed wing medivac bird. Once in flight, two enemy RPG (rocket propelled grenade) rounds were fired at our aircraft, forcing us to take evasive maneuvers.

Praying without ceasing took on new meaning. Once we were in safe airspace and the casualties were identified, the flight surgeon asked me to pray for our helicopter door gunner who was shot in the head and near death. While they worked on him, I leaned down, spoke into his ear and told him who I was. I stated he was not doing well and that I was going to pray for his spiritual and physical needs. We laid hands on his head, which was covered in blood, and asked God to work on his behalf, open his heart to Christ’s redemptive love and walk through this valley with him.

The man’s vital signs were failing but he was cognizant of what I was saying to him. He acknowledged hearing me with finger movement in his right hand. Within 10 minutes his health improved and the medical team went to work to sustain life support systems and incubate him.

He miraculously survived the flight to Kuwait and has recovered with only slight memory loss. He accepted Christ as Savior, and attends chapel with his family now at the installation where he is stationed. Jesus has given him another opportunity for life and he openly shares with others that he is a living testimony to the healing power and love Christ has for us.

— Chaplain (Maj.) Thomas Solhjem,
U.S. Army 75th Ranger Regiment

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