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Winter 2006 Rapport: Letters from the Front: AGTS military chaplains write about life in Iraq and Afganistan

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AGTS military chaplains
write home about life
in Iraq and Afghanistan

Operation Transformation

Chaplain John Smith has been assigned three assistants, instead of the usual one, because of the large number of programs he has initiated in support of the troops. His ministry team developed Iraq’s first spiritual fitness center where soldiers can call home, access email, browse a lending library, try their hand at arts and crafts, or enjoy a surround sound movie. All of this is designed around a prayer room. Several high-ranking officials have expressed interest in patterning a facility after it. John would eventually like to bring in helping professionals to teach classes which target soldiers’ finances, marriages, addictions, etc.

Saturday, October 10, 2005

Dear Veronica,

It is 2 a.m. I just finished counseling a soldier and I have to do two services tomorrow. I wish this were an unusual night, but I pull a considerable amount of late nights counseling.

Just to give you an idea of where I am stationed, imagine the land where Jonah lived. I am literally right around the corner from the Tigris River. I am also not far from where Noah lived and built the ark. I am also minutes from where the dining facility bombing happened last year. Although there has been rebuilding, you can tell troops never forget. I have talked with countless soldiers and civilians who lost close friends and colleagues that day.

A few times a week, we go on convoys to visit soldiers on different bases. A soldier’s life is at risk every time he or she leaves the base, which they do daily. They are shocked to see a chaplain who is willing to risk his life when he doesn’t have to. As a result, a number of soldiers have come to accept Christ.

In the past two months the Protestant service has grown from 18 to over 50 people per Sunday, and the gospel service has grown from 50 to a multi-cultural group of 165. We were packed into the 200-seat chapel last Sunday and it was hot. People are even starting to travel from other camps. The folks at the movie theater have offered their facility that can seat 400. I anticipate outgrowing it within the next few months.

I really can’t begin to explain what is happening here. People are running to the altars at the end of the service. Some are being filled with the Holy Spirit. We call it “Operation Transformation.” Every week, soldiers and civilians are coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus in both services.

Over the last three gospel services we have seen Mormons, Catholics and professing pagans attend regularly. Many of them come to our weekly Bible study. After one of our recent Bible studies, one of the Catholic brothers asked me about a personal relationship with Christ. He wanted to know “how to feel the way you feel in service.” He said he was “tired of going to church week after week, but never experiencing a touch from God.” He said, “After three weeks of attending the service” he was “ready for all God has to offer.”

Another brother and I began praying with him that he would receive a powerful touch from God. After 10 minutes, you could literally see the hair standing on his arms. He began to shake uncontrollably as tears of joy rolled down his face. He tried to speak, but only sounds were coming from his mouth. Eventually he said, “I haven’t cried in over five years and I’m not sure I’m supposed to feel this way.” He said he was feeling “electricity” going through his body. He asked me what it was and I showed him Acts 2. Immediately, he began uttering words that no one else in the room could understand. He now attends every service, Bible study and choir rehearsal.

There are testimonies of healing also. One brother came to my office after service and said he had been suffering with a shoulder pain for two days. We talked for about an hour, and then I asked him if he was tired of the pain. After I prayed, he said that his pain was gone. He testified to God’s healing power during the next service.

Well my love, it’s very late and I have a battalion run in a few hours. Words can’t express how much I miss you and Brianna. I look forward to holding you two in my arms very soon. Tell Brianna how proud her daddy is about her starting piano lessons and I can’t wait to hear her play. Give her a big hug and kiss for me tonight when you tuck her into bed. Please send everyone back home my love and tell them I said “whoa” and thank you for all the encouraging cards, emails and prayers.

With all my love,
John

 

Updated: Friday, December 2, 2005 5:06 PM

 

 
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