N.C. Baptists pray as war begins
March 20 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

N.C. Baptists pray as war begins | Friday, March 21, 2003

Friday, March 21, 2003

N.C. Baptists pray as war begins

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Baptist churches and associations near the state's military bases prayed with and cared for the families of deployed troops as the United States went to war with Iraq on March 19.

E.J. Hines is director of missions for New River Baptist Association in Jacksonville. More than 21,000 troops from nearby Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station reportedly have left.

"A number of our churches are ... seriously impacted by the trauma of this war," he said. "It is just that - trauma."

Most churches in the association have members in the military, he said.

Churches are making sure members know about deployed Marines by putting their names in bulletins, newsletters and Powerpoint presentations, he said.

"They're just keeping the names of those deployed and their families before the congregations and requesting prayer," Hines said.

A number of churches have held special prayer services, he said.

Hines said he has noticed a concern for the country during recent worship services in area churches.

"It's not just a nationalistic approach and being thankful for America," he said.

The association has worked with the American Red Cross to collect personal items that will be taken to the troops, he said.

Churches are also being sure to support the families of deployed Marines, he said.

"Our folks are really feeling this thing," he said.

The association is also speeding plans to start a church intended to reach military troops and their families. The church will hold services and activities on Fridays and Saturdays, Hines said.

The church will meet in the association's building, which includes a gym and a kitchen. It will feature food and music and will focus on discipleship and evangelism, Hines said.

"We're accelerating our efforts to start that church," he said.

Jim Kelly, pastor of Enon Chapel Baptist Church in Midway Park, said about 85 percent of the church's membership are connected to the military.

The church held a "We Care" day for the families of deployed Marines on March 1. The event at a pavilion on base allowed the families to select items to go in a box that the base sent to the Marines.

Local businesses donated items to go in the boxes. Church members made other things.

About 2,000 people came to the event. About 800 boxes were sent.

The families wrote notes to go with the boxes.

"It was just really an awesome sight to see," Kelly said.

The church plans to hold a similar event in April or May, he said.

The church held a prayer and praise service on March 19 as President Bush's deadline for Saddam Hussein to give up power neared.

The church's praise band led those present to think about God's care and mercy, Kelly said. Church members spent about 25 minutes in prayer around the altar.

"A lot of the wives that were there said it was very meaningful," Kelly said.

The most emotional moment came when Dale Haley, a church member who is a Vietnam veteran, prayed for the deployed troops, Kelly said.

"He was just interceding for them," Kelly said. "I don't think there were any dry eyes after he prayed."

After the service, many of the church members hugged the families of those deployed.

Jeff Isenhour is pastor of Arran Lake Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Many of the homes in neighborhoods around the church are occupied by soldiers from nearby Fort Bragg or airmen from Pope Air Force Base.

About 15,000 troops from Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base are deployed for the war in Iraq or are supporting U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

Isenhour said between 50 and 100 of the church's members are gone.

After church officials heard that President Bush was going to talk to the nation at 10:15 p.m. March 19, they decided to open the church for prayer from 10 p.m. to midnight. About a dozen members came and prayed, Isenhour said.

Sunday School classes are ministering to military families, he said.

"We're honoring our military by assuring the men and women that we'll take care of the families," he said.

Isenhour and other church leaders are staying in contact with some deployed members by e-mail. They've also let the troops know that they can access Isenhour's sermons online.

Ray Smeltzer, minister of education at Adamsville Baptist Church in Goldsboro, said the church collected toiletries, cakes and candy to send to the troops deployed from nearby Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. More than 1,000 men and women from the base reportedly have left.

Youth and children from the church organized the donations and took it to a local credit union that was sending packages to the deployed airmen.

About 12 members of the church, including several pilots, are overseas, Smeltzer said.

On March 19, about 200 church members gathered to pray for President Bush and his administration, the troops, the Iraqi people and the families of those deployed, he said.

"We're trying to reach out to the families, the wives and the children, to care for them," he said.

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3/20/2003 11:00:00 PM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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