Answering the call to serve those who serve
The first time Dennis Saucier encountered workers with the AMEN…
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lewis Holston serves as a loadmaster on planes that drop paratroopers and cargo into combat zones.
On a recent six-month deployment to a remote hotspot, Holston — a deacon of the WindSong Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Ark. — searched for fellow Christians with whom to worship.
Dennis Saucier, director of the American Military Evangelizing Nations ministry, known as AMEN, connected the 26-year Air Force veteran with a few other members of Churches of Christ.
Dennis Saucier, left, speaks with Air Force personnel during a barbecue at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. (PHOTO FROM AMENMINISTRY.INFO)Two stateside Christians with military backgrounds — John Phillis of the Northeast Church of Christ in Albuquerque, N.M., and Stephen Paul Wolf of the Edgemere Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas — supplied songbooks and worship materials.
“The AMEN program is only as successful as the military member allows,” Holston said. “It is very easy to deploy and forget about everything but the mission.”
As Saucier points out, the U.S. Armed Forces represent a distinct subculture of American life, presenting opportunities — and challenges — for church leaders.
“As in any missionary endeavor, it is important to understand the culture you are trying to reach, just as Paul did when reaching out to either the Jewish or Gentile communities,” said Saucier, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served as a chaplain.
To help improve outreach to service personnel, three ministries associated with Churches of Christ recently convened a meeting to discuss each group’s mission, goals and methods for ministering to the Christian military community, organizers said.
At the meeting in Denver, attendees included, from left, Mel Caraway, Ed Linebaugh, Dick Brant, John Phillis and Dennis Saucier, not to mention an unidentified first-century centurion. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY JOHN PHILLIS)The meeting at the Bear Valley Church of Christ in Denver included:
• AMEN, which is sponsored by the Manchester Church of Christ in Connecticut. The ministry connects military men and women with local congregations and organizes spiritual growth workshops.
• Military Outreach and Encouragement, known as MORE, which is sponsored by the Mayfair Church of Christ in Huntsville, Ala. Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Ed Linebaugh directs the ministry, which works to build morale among service personnel.
• Military Outreach, a teaching ministry of the Bear Valley church. Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Dick Brant leads the program, which sends teachers and teaching teams to military congregations worldwide.
“I don’t believe anything like this has happened before,” Saucier said of the meeting, “and we were looking for clarity on each ministry’s distinctiveness and possible duplication of effort. It was an opportunity to get to personally know the leaders of each ministry and to see where we might support each other’s efforts in caring for the military community.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. John Phillis at the Yokota Church of Christ, across the street from a Tokyo-area U.S. Air Force base. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY JOHN PHILLIS)
Phillis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, preached full time in New Mexico after leaving the military and later worked with the Kaiserslautern Church of Christ in Germany.
Over the last year, Military Outreach assignments have taken Phillis all over the world. He spent five months in England and three months in Japan, preaching, teaching and encouraging military congregations.
In many cases, military members work full time — and overtime — and then scramble to come up with a Sunday sermon, Phillis noted.
“So having someone there to fill that role is really, I think, a relief,” he said. “But it’s also crucial in their maturing process.”
Saucier’s advice for Christians who want to benefit military members: Make sure young people leaving home to defend the nation’s freedom know the church will be there for them.
“Send us the names of these new recruits so we can assist them, or help us go where they are to preach and teach God’s word,” Saucier said. “This is what our military ministries are all about.”
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