APLHARETTA, Ga. – Many churches will be honoring military members this weekend. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) encourages churches to consider planning now to honor returning military, chaplains and veterans this year near the Independence Day holiday, as well. NAMB has produced several resources to assist churches as they honor the military.
“This July thousands of our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace from Afghanistan,” says Doug Carver, executive director for chaplaincy services at NAMB. “Our military forces and their families have successfully engaged in a 12-year combat deployment post 9/11. The unsung heroes among all of those returning from combat environments are chaplains, including our pastors in uniform, endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Chaplain (Major General Retired) Carver says churches play a more vital role in chaplaincy than some members may realize. That role is essential, Carver believes.
“The personal connection and contact that churches provide for chaplains is so important in helping meet their own personal needs and assisting their military families, particularly in the chaplain's absence,” says Carver, who served as U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains before his retirement. “Southern Baptist Churches are a critical lifeline for our chaplains who are called and sent out by their local church to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to members of the Armed Services. Chaplains minister to our troops as an extension of the church's ministry to the military.”
Carver recommends churches use either the Sunday before or after Independence Day to honor returning members of the military, veterans and chaplains. He suggests an order of service including patriotic hymns and the inclusion of a testimony from a chaplain or veteran.
“A worship service honoring our veterans is especially meaningful this year as our Nation marks 40 years since the end of U.S. combat operations in Vietnam,” said Carver. “On March 29, 1973, the last of our combat forces departed the country and with the final release of American prisoners of war, the conflict drew to a close.”
President Barack Obama has proclaimed May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, as a 13-year commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The President is calling for all Americans to honor Vietnam veterans, the fallen, the wounded, those unaccounted for, former prisoners of war, their families and all who served during the war.
NAMB has produced a set of 50 prayer cards to assist Southern Baptists in praying for military chaplains. Each Southern Baptist church will receive a set of the free cards along with instructions for ordering more. Churches can download military ministry videos at namb.net/chaplaincy
The website also includes suggestions for conducting a service to honor members of the military.
In addition, NAMB has produced a tool for churches that want to commission members to the mission field as chaplains or missionaries. The commissioning resources include everything a church needs to conduct a commissioning service for a chaplain or missionary. Information about the commissioning guide is also available at namb.net/chaplaincy
Carver says the Independence Day emphasis is not only a way churches can honor military members, but also a way to show Southern Baptists how their efforts through chaplaincy have a significant impact every day. Marine Major Keith Warren is one who experienced that impact first hand.
When a chaplain asked to speak with him in December 2005, he assumed there was bad news for someone under his command.
“I expected him to tell me that one of my Marines' had a family emergency. To my surprise, it was me who had the family emergency,” said Warren, who was serving in Iraq at the time.
Warren had left his new wife alone at home to deliver their first son. The child was lost at delivery.
“I immediately began to blame myself for not being there to prevent the incident from happening,” said Warren, presently in Afghanistan with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. ”(The chaplain) listened patiently as I beat myself up for doing my job, deploying and leaving my newlywed wife to give birth to our child alone. He calmly talked to me about how the situation was beyond my, my wife's and family control.
“The chaplain helped me see that there was nothing that we could have done to prevent our loss. He said a prayer for my wife, our son and me. He provided a list of contacts and resources to help us heal from our loss.”
Warren's story is an example of why Carver asks churches to consider testimonies as part of a service honoring veterans.
“Ask veterans to give a testimony, both of how Christ provided for their needs when they served, and their faithfulness to Christ during their military service,” said Carver. “This may also include the service provided to them by chaplains. It would be appropriate to honor the families of, and the memories of, those who lost their lives in service to our country.”
To explore how your church can honor and support veterans and chaplains, learn about the chaplaincy prayer cards or commissioning kit, or to view videos about NAMB SBC chaplaincy, visit namb.net/chaplaincy
. To view a video honoring veterans and chaplain service, visit www.namb.net/video/war-stories/
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. Portions of this article will be published in the Summer 2013 edition of On Mission.)
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