OFTEN CHUCK CHALLENGES THE AUDIENCE, “WHAT IS GOD CALLING YOU TO DO? ASK HIM, AND RESPOND...NOW!” WE ARE BEGINNING A SERIES OF ARTICLES ON PEOPLE WHO HAVE TAKEN THAT CHALLENGE.
After heeding my wife’s suggestion to listen to Chuck Missler’s 66/40 radio show early last decade (and having the wonderful opportunity to actually meet him), I have been blessed in more ways than one. Only God could have conceived the opportunities for ministry that would result from all of this, opportunities that continue to open to this day. It was in February 2006 that I joined K-House’s Berean Online Fellowship (BOF). BOF was later incorporated into today’s Koinonia Institute’s general discussion forums. At some point that year, K-House’s Mark Gustafson recruited me to moderate the BOF forums. Several other dynamics were also at play, all to God’s glory, that year.
A dear friend of mine returned from a U.S. Army SOUTHCOM deployment to prevent the Haitian government from taking Al-Qaeda money to set up training camps within a few hundred miles of Florida’s coast. (He will neither confirm nor deny that assignment, but simply explains he was there to “get the bad guys” causing domestic problems, from kidnapping to other gang activity.) Soon afterward, Gordon McDonald asked me to be one of the first “research associates,” part of a group that has now grown into a bustling KI research group.
Knowing the history of Chuck Missler’s military service, I felt there was a strong connection through God and His Kingdom. This was further validated when Gordon introduced me to John Reynolds, co-founder of Soldiers Bible Ministry (SBM), a fellow KI research associate, and former U.S. Navy sailor. When prayerfully considering what our calling should be in “full-time ministry” (I always love it when Chuck asks that related question of his live audiences), I asked Mark Gustafson about focusing on getting Bibles and Bible study materials to military personnel and their families. Mark said it was a great idea, and some 6,000+ discussion forum posts later, the rest is history. (Please see the July 2009 issue of Personal Update for additional background on SBM.)
First Mission: Muslim Ugandan Forces Protecting U.S. Troops in Iraq
When my buddy in the Army returned from Haiti, I told him about our idea to do a military focus with complete Bibles and Bible study materials (compliments of K-House). He thought that would be an excellent idea and put me in touch with one of his former colleagues, a man who had answered the call to become a U.S. Army chaplain.
Our chaplain friend was deployed with the 101st Airborne at a forward operating base (FOB) in Iraq, which happened to be guarded by Ugandan security forces (while U.S. and other allied forces were preparing for and coming back from missions). This chaplain indicated many of these Ugandan security forces (nearly all were raised Muslim), were “dreaming dreams of a Messiah named Jesus,” where our Lord was visiting them personally in their dreams! They were coming to the chaplain asking, “Please tell us of this Messiah named Jesus!”
These questions led to a special request. Although many of these men spoke articulate English, this chaplain thought having the entire Bible in Swahili (their native language) would be an added blessing and encourage them to seek to know the Messiah of their dreams. John Reynolds got to work on this special request and found Jan Ross, President of Heart of God Inter-national Ministries in Willard, Ohio (a beautiful semi-rural town in between Columbus and Cleveland). Jan said she could get the Bibles through the Kenyan Bible Society, have them shipped to Ohio, and then ship them via military APO (USPS) much cheaper than we were getting them shipped directly from the UK to Iraq. And so started SBM’s first military outreach with Swahili Bibles and Learn the Bible in 24 Hours (LTB24H) CDROMs and workbooks!
Current Missions: U.S., Pakistan and Israel
After five years and several thousand Bibles and LTB24H copies distributed (mostly to U.S. Army and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan), the Lord has called us in some very interesting areas. Our specialty has become sourcing content of a unique variety based on requests we receive from chaplains and other military laypersons. In October 2011, we secured several thousand copies of the Worship for Warriors musical CD (see http://worshipforwarriors.com for details) based on a special request from Eric, a U.S. Army Special Operations chaplain.
Eric indicated that the special operations forces he was ministering to in Afghanistan were mostly well-churched. However, most of these young men were only familiar with contemporary worship and not many of the old hymns. Eric wanted to have the classical hymns available in a special recording of, and by, current and re-tired military personnel. Worship for Warriors™ became the mechanism for fulfilling this re-quest.
While the majority of our Bibles and Bible study materials distribution continues to be to all branches of the U.S. military, we’ve been called into other nations via their respective military forces. Some of these nations are not necessarily U.S. allies. We’re taking an eternal Kingdom viewpoint with this calling and proceeding with prayerful consideration into these interesting nations, not the least of which is Pakistan via the Pakistani army.
Our contact with a humanitarian non-government organization (NGO) in Pakistan has been led by the Lord to minister to Pakistan soldiers and their families throughout the provinces of Pakistan. We’ve also partnered with a leading audio Bible ministry to provide God’s Word for those who cannot read. Testimonies of these individuals can be found on SBM’s parent organization site, Heart of God International Ministries (HGIM). See http://hgimnetwork.org/category/mil/ for some exciting testimonies from Pakistan’s mission fields. We covet your prayers for this Gospel-hostile nation!
Israel’s outreach is extremely interesting as well. A fellow KI student became our point of contact through his relationship with former IDF Special Forces and artillery personnel. We’re working on two special publications right now, one of which is in the early stages of development—an SBM pocket Tanakh for Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, which we hope to release sometime after the U.S. Military Heritage Pocket Bible next year (our other special publication that’s in the works).
We have scheduled the Military Heritage Pocket Bible (MHPB) to be available Spring 2012 through Steve Spillman of True Potential Publishing (see http://militaryheritagebible.org/ for details). We have chosen to use The One New Man Bible translation which brings a greater under-standing of, and appreciation for, the power given to believers for their daily walk while the Jewish roots of Christianity come to life. Hebrew is a very expressive language, so this translation brings out much of the power that has commonly been omitted from traditional English translations. ONM’s translation team was led by Rev. William J. Morford, who from 1993 through 1999 studied Hebrew under Rabbi Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, grandson of the Eliezer Ben-Yehuda whose lifetime work made modern Hebrew the national language of Israel (see http://www.tppress.com/One-New-Man-Bible.html for details).
Eternal Investments, Kingdom Focus, Future Nations: China, Egypt, India, and Others
Ministry through military channels has a unique set of challenges, especially in the U.S., where the holy and secular intersect. We prayerfully consider the spiritual needs of U.S. soldiers who have been deployed into places such as literal Babylon some 68 kilometers outside Baghdad. Ephesians 6 is a strong reminder of the principalities and powers at work against U.S. and other allied soldiers, on earth as it is in heaven. In this spiritual battle amidst physical battles, our mission continues to focus on the two things that our Lord Christ Jesus, Messiah Yeshua, came back to in sharing the Gospel with every creature: loving God Almighty with all our heart, mind, soul and strength; and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
The calling to share the Gospel with military personnel worldwide, starting with U.S. troops and now with other nations, has been an awesome one. We are currently working through due diligence with prospective veterans and military contacts in other nations including, but not limited to, China, Egypt, and India. Again, we covet your prayers and support as we use this unique opportunity to glorify God by ministering to the world’s military, both within the U.S. and in other nations.
Christ Jesus gives us a living example on how to pray for our enemies in Matthew 5 and many other places. SBM is following that call to share the Gospel through God’s Word for the soldiers of the armies in Revelation 19:14. We’re excited for what the Lord is doing through this ministry and the continued, unwavering support of Koinonia Institute and K-House by providing Bible study materials and free scholarships to any military personnel worldwide who seek the Lord and asks us to help equip them through knowledge of God’s Word, for His glory alone!
Update as we go to press: The Pakistani government told our NGO partner on the ground to temporarily shut down the evangelism with Pakistani military personnel section on the Heart of God International Ministries (HGIM) website. Please email us directly if you’d like to learn more, since they are not publicly accessible at the time of this writing.
John Hoben is volunteer Executive Director, Soldiers Bible Ministry (www.soldiersbibleministry.org); he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-91-PSALM (888-917-7256), ext. 3.