Why the Need?
Since its founding in 2007, the mission of Soldiers Bible Ministry (http://soldiersbibleministry.org) is to provide Bibles and study materials to U.S. as well as allied troops—in their native languages—when requested. Soldiers Bible Ministry (SBM) is an integral part of Heart of God International Minis-tries Inc., of Willard, OH, whose mission is to reach all with the gospel of Christ Jesus. We are deeply grateful to Koinonia House and Koinonia Institute for their most generous contribution of Bible study materials, KI Campus Access Passes and Berean Online Fellow-ship (BOF) memberships. Our efforts are enriched by the ability to provide the troops with valuable tools for learning, as well as soldier-friendly fellowship with other believers. That, combined with our supporters’ generous donations, is making it possible to put Bibles into the hands of our military men and women serving worldwide at a time when they greatly need the power of the Word of God to bring them encouragement and strength. It is our prayer that the Bibles and accompanying study materials will lead them not only to repentance and salvation, but also guide them into a strong relationship with the Living God as He draws all men to Himself (John 12:32). While several other military-oriented ministries do an out-standing job with distribution of materials, SBM strives to fill a void in that many other ministries only provide the New Testament and very rudimentary introduction materials and de-votionals. In the K-House spirit, we support those who study to show themselves approved, and encourage those who desire to dig deeper into Bible study beyond the materials that are generally available to them.
Other sociopolitical environmental factors have contributed to an increase in military ministry support. For example, NORTHCOM instructed a major Bible supply ministry to no longer participate at induction stations throughout the USA. (This order came down within weeks of the new Administration’s election in November 2008.) Bible supplies from other ministries are dwindling, and most do not address the needs of non-English speaking allied forces from Uganda and other countries. This is magnified given no public funding is allocated out of the Pentagon or any other federal budget for Bibles or Bible study materials. Is there proof that there is no money allocated in the federal budget for Bibles? Was there ever any or is this something new?
A recent lawsuit reported by AP News in The Wichita Eagle (08 April 2009) was levied against the U.S. Department of Defense, charging discrimination by Christians against other faiths in the military. This same suit demands the resignation of Major General Douglas Carver, Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Army for “promoting Christianity and discriminating against other religions, violating constitutional rights and military protocol.”
Soldiers Bible Ministry was referenced in this suit against the U.S. Army and its Chief of Chaplains because of his endorsement of the ministry’s efforts and the fact that Swahili Bibles were sent to the Ugandan Security Forces in response to their explicit and specific requests (SBM does not participate in or condone proselytizing as it is a direct violation of military code and regulation).
Soldier suicide rates and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cases are growing exponentially, with a total case load never before seen in U.S. military history. The solution to this problem is spiritual in nature and is best addressed with the entire armor of God provided to our military personnel through Bibles and Bible study materials and supporting the chaplains tending to them on a daily basis.
Ministry to Allied Troops: Partnering with Chaplains
Allied forces from non-native English speaking countries are serving alongside our troops. Because of this opportunity to sow into the lives of allied troops, we are providing Bibles in their respective languages upon request. Chaplain Chris is only one of the chaplains who remind us that the work of the LORD is very much alive and real every day!
We consider it an honor to fellowship with and work along-side our brothers and sisters with ministries overseas that have aided us with access to Bibles in the native languages of allies who desire to have a personal copy. With their assistance, we are able to reach beyond the language barrier with the message of hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Chaplain Chris Rusack of the 101st U.S. Army Airborne of Fort Campbell, KY, has been a tremendous blessing to this ministry. He came to us through Colonel Dave Young who met Chris years back in Rochester, NY, when they were both serving in the Reserves locally.
Chris was only one of the chaplains who requested Swahili Bibles for his Ugandan forces serving at his Field Operations Base (FOB). He tirelessly ministered to Ugandan, Iraqi and U.S. forces throughout his deployment. He shared stories of Iraqi translators, Imams and others dreaming dreams of a Messiah named Christ Jesus and how they would approach¬ him seeking to learn more about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. It was these requests and other like them calling for additional focused Bible study materials that led us to minis-ter to these unique audiences.
When asked if there was any other way we could boost the morale of the troops, Chaplain Chris requested some harmonicas and perhaps an electric guitar to support the ministry. Our first “Tunes for Troops” drive was born from that conversation. John Reynolds, cofounder of SBM, coordinated the acquisition and shipment of several musical ministry tools, including guitars, amps, picks, harmonicas, jaw harps and many other re-sources to help Chaplain Chris.
This program will continue as resources are available to benefit other chaplains who have contacted us requesting we do the same for them. Some recent requests have simply been for guitar strings and picks, since there is no way to purchase them abroad and without them, the instruments they already have are useless.
While most outreach requests come directly through the chaplains, SBM is honored to support individual soldiers who contact us via email or phone. In response, we make sure they receive the following at no cost:
• One full Old Testament/New Testament (OT/NT) camouflage Bible (design fits easily in troops’ pocket to take with them on patrol);
• One Learn the Bible in 24 Hours (LTB24H) Windows-based CD-ROM;
• A one-year Koinonia House Berean Online Fellowship (BOF) membership;
• One free Old Testament/New Testament Class Campus Access Pass for Koinonia Institute’s Study Center;
Additionally, we provide LTB24H workbooks to soldiers and sailors who do not have computer access. This allows them to study the material in conjunction with their Bible reading, providing a framework when they return stateside to pursue online fellowship and studies if so desired.
Koinonia Institute Participation
We’ve been blessed to support several Ugandan Security Force members serving in Iraq to protect the U.S. soldiers at Fort Summerall while the soldiers are on base. (Someone has to watch over them while they refuel and recharge!) For in-stance, if you’ll note the testimony of Deo Mushambo on the SBM website, he is now one of the lay leaders for the Ugandan Security Force’s services and Bible study since Chaplain Chris has returned stateside. What’s most amazing is how Verda Reeves (Deo’s “adopted mom”) found us while searching for Swahili Bibles. We worked out the technical kinks in getting Deo enrolled in Koinonia Institute so he can engage in formal Bible study. This was quite challenging due to security and technical constraints, more than anyone could have initially imagined!
Proselytizing Not Allowed
In response to questions and false allegations that have arisen about the supply of Bibles (English and non-English) in Iraq and Afghanistan, Soldiers Bible Ministry recently made the following statement addressing five core facts:
First, it is the purpose and mission of Soldiers Bible Minis-try to supply Bibles (the Word of God) to military men and women, whether or not deployed, in response to the over-whelming requests by individuals and/or chaplains. This ministry does NOT in any way, shape or form support, encourage or promote anyone’s violation of military code regarding proselytizing.
Second, Soldiers Bible Ministry does not ship Bibles randomly but exists to support the weighty task of the chaplaincy to minister to all those under their spiritual care. This often includes providing complete Bibles and Bible study materials to those who request such material. This ministry has no knowledge of any recipient of Bibles and/or Bible study mate-rial ever breaking the military code regarding proselytizing, nor has this ministry ever suggested anyone do so.
Third, although Soldiers Bible Ministry is evangelical by nature, it does not force the Bible or evangelical Christian beliefs on anyone, nor does it compel any military or non-military individual to violate anyone’s right to religious freedom.
Fourth, Soldiers Bible Ministry holds the Chaplaincy of the United States military in the highest of regard with the utmost of respect. Although a Christian ministry, providing the com-plete Bible (both English and non-English) to military bases and individuals wherever located, Soldiers Bible Ministry acknowledges and respects the work of the United States Chap-laincy to fulfill their duty to men and women of all faiths.
Fifth, Soldiers Bible Ministry is privately funded. No government or military funds have ever been or ever will be used to supply Bibles or Bible study materials to military personnel
Despite these unfounded attacks against SBM, our website traffic increased over 500% while the accusing organizations’ website traffic decreased nearly 20%.
Currently, SBM has a backlog demand of nearly 100,000 Bibles and Bible study materials requested by chaplains around the world. Some of these requests are from:
• Two chaplains ministering to troops as they travel through major civilian airports (nearly 85,000 personnel passed through one airport the last six weeks of 2008);
• Three chaplains attached to the state National Guard and US Army Reserve units preparing for training operations this summer and fall with a total of 5,000+ personnel;
• Several chaplains at forts, air fields and other domestic military installations preparing for major training out-reach initiatives,
• A U.S. Army medic in Iraq ministering to injured soldiers who do not have computer access while coming through the field hospitals. K-House is providing Bible study workbook copies of LTB24H for this need;
• A physician at a Veteran’s medical facility in the Midwest who recognizes the need for both psychological and spiritual intervention.
It is SBM’s desire to publish a customized Soldiers Pocket Bible in order to:
• Reduce the unit cost per Bible by approximately 50%, greatly increasing ministry effectiveness and allowing a much wider dissemination of Bibles, and
• Provide flexibility in supplemental information to make a more tailored and personal appeal to the soldiers that keeps current with the scope of military operations and global economic, religious and political climates.
Various traditional and contemporary Bible versions will be used to effectively reach different chaplains’ audiences. KJV, Geneva 1599, ISV, and other various are all under consideration.
Supplemental information will focus on two core goals:
1) Instruction and spiritual guidance on true faith and true repentance. We’ve received permission to include Ray Comfort’s “Why Christianity?” and other materials from his ministry (www.wayofthemaster.com).
2) Scriptural highlights tailored for soldiers in the introduction and “Soldier Helps.” We plan to insert ex-cerpts from one of the original Soldiers Pocket Bibles, whose history predates America’s birth. This was a summary of soldier-oriented Scriptures drawn from the Geneva Bible (aka the Breeches Bible) and distributed to the troops.
The Soldiers Pocket Bible was issued at the very beginning of the American Civil War. It was an exact reproduction of one issued in 1643 during the English Civil War. The quote on the title page, “Trust in the Lord and keep your powder dry,” was Oliver Cromwell’s famous battle cry to his troops. The metal-covered Bible was also used by soldiers during World War II. This highlights the historical signifi-cance of the Scripture in the generations of soldiers before them and would serve to remind our troops of their pre-cious and, much to the dismay of many contemporary agnostics, rich Christian heritage.
We also plan to insert Biblically charged quotes from U.S. Founding Fathers to further show their piety toward God. Additionally, we are considering inserting the preambles to each of the fifty States’ constitutions, an additional re-minder of this country’s unified Christian heritage as a precious gift of God, which they now defend and protect.
Partnering with the right publishing firm will allow us flexibility for the U.S. English versions of Pocket Bibles as well as tailoring to the needs of other non-US English Bibles for allied staff outreach.
Lastly and probably the most important aspect of SBM’s on-going and growing mission is to provide veterans the emotional and spiritual resources to build and maintain a lifelong eternal relationship with Christ Jesus. Over 300,000 U.S. veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone suffer from PTSD, many of whom have not been diagnosed and/or sought treat-ment. Suicides among veterans are also at an all-time high in the U.S. It is our vision to partner with other ministries and resources that will help foster this eternal objective. There are hundreds of Christian ministries focused on the unique needs of these soldiers and veterans. It is our goal to identify those organizations that best fit with SBM, K-House and Koinonia Institute from a Biblical perspective to work synergistically with them to serve veterans and their families.
With wars and rumors of wars continuing to grow in our world, providing eternal treasures through sharing God’s Word is an honor we don’t take lightly. Our military, along with al-lied forces, are ambassadors to those nations they serve. Soldiers Bible Ministry will, with God’s help, continue to provide Bibles and Bible study materials to our military and allied forces so they may also be the best servants and ambassadors they can be to the King of kings until each one is called home to the Lord!
We greatly appreciate your support!
John Hoben can be reached by phone at (585) 370-0847 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Ed. Note: These are your donations at work. We appreciate your generosity, which allows us to support worthy ministries such as Soldiers Bible Ministry.]