Thursday, September 27, 2007

No Longer Strangers and Foreigners

Last week a group of contractors who work at our mess hall or DFAC (Dining Facility) came to the chapel an hour before services were scheduled to begin hoping to worship with us. On Sundays we have non-denominational Christian worship services at 1000 and 2000. Their work schedule prevents them from being able to attend either of these services. I learned that all of them were from Bangladesh, and they were all Catholic--our weekly Mass schedule was also outside their brief window of freedom. It was clear they were desperate. As a chaplain, I provide for the religious needs of U.S. military and Department of Defense (DOD) contractors. These men, and many others working here at Camp Blue Diamond are not DOD contractors. (They are categorized as Third Country Nationals or TCNs--"third country" meaning neither U.S. nor Iraqi. Technically, I suppose an argument could be made that caring for these brothers takes away from my care for Soldiers. I confess I was not being very technical when I invited these men to return the following Sunday at 0900 for a service of their own. They were delighted.

The following Sunday morning about 20 Bengalis and a few Nepalis showed up for worship. All of them understand some English, but none of them very well. I cut my sermon in half and asked their manager to translate some of the more key points. The liturgical structure was familiar to them, but the contemporary praise and gospel music was new--they liked it though. These men are much smaller than the typical American Soldier or Marine, and more timid. That being said, almost all of them are husbands and fathers and share with us the hardship of being separated from family and loved ones. They were clearly pleased to be in the chapel and smiled broadly when I made reference to their culture and customs. I invited a few of the lay leaders who assist with the other services to attend. The language barrier is a real challenge, but these men don't seem to mind. Afterwards, a few of the Soldiers commented that the service was a highlight of their week and definitely something to write home about.


Judith Kline said...

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. I am so very proud of you!
Much love,
Aunt Judy

Judith Kline said...

> One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed
> little Alex standing in the foyer of the church
> staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with
> names with small American flags mounted on either
> side
> of it. The seven year old had been staring at the
> plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up,
> stood
> beside the little boy, and said quietly, "Good
> morning
> Alex."
> "Good morning Pastor," he replied,
> still focused on the plaque. "Pastor, what is
> this?"
> he asked.
> The pastor said, "Well, son, it's a
> memorial to all the young men and women who died in
> the service."
> Soberly, they just stood together,
> staring at the large plaque.
> Finally, little Alex's
> voice, barely audible and trembling with fear,
> asked,
> "Which service, the 8:00 or the 9.30?

Anonymous said...


It looks like the Body of Christ or Church of Christ continues to grow under your ministry. SSgt. Schwartz and myself are back here in Germany and enjoying our 14 days of R and R. I hope everyone is well at CBD. I'm sorry that I did not get to say good bye, but I hope you got my email that was left in the computer used for the slides for services. If not it's: I have a lot of pictures that I would like to get down to you guys that were taken before we left. Please let me know who I can email them to. In God We Trust. Your brother in Christ. Cody Wedl

Anonymous said...

I'm really proud of you too. I pulled up your page to show an aspiring military chaplain who is also one of my advisees at Florida Southern. You made quite an impression on him. And now, I'm spending my morning with thoughts and prayers for you, your family, the men and women that you serve, and for peace.
All Good Wishes,
Sara Fletcher Harding

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