|Publishing House to republish book for U.S. troops|
Nov. 14, 2006
By J. Richard Peck*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) —
The United Methodist Publishing House will resume its role as the publisher
of a 64-year-old book of daily devotions for U.S. military troops.
In the days after the 1941
attack on Pearl Harbor, staff members of the Methodist Publishing House
discussed ways in which they could serve the thousands of men and women
enlisting in the armed services.
The Publishing House staff
decided to ask church and academic leaders from many denominations to write
one-page devotions for each day of the year. Each message would be written
for combat troops. The staff titled the book Strength for Service to God
The massive publishing
project was completed in 1942; by 1944 the book had been given to 800,000
troops, the largest publishing effort by the Nashville-based agency to that
The original book was a
hard-back pocket book purchased by local churches and individuals to give to
troops as they were deployed for Europe and Asia.
The book was republished
during the Korean conflict, and it was then forgotten by nearly everyone
except World War II or Korean War veterans who kept copies of the book as a
reminder of their days in the service.
Boy Scout leads
One of the veterans who
kept a copy of the pocketbook was Eugene Hunsberger, a former Navy officer
living in Orange County, Calif. His grandson, Evan, noted how important the
book was to his grandfather and Evan asked him if it would be a good idea to
republish the book for his Eagle Scout project. "That's not a good idea,"
said Eugene, "that's a great idea."
Eugene Hunsberger did not
live to see his grandson's Eagle project completed, but five years later,
with help from the churchwide Commission on United Methodist Men, the
addition of devotions by contemporary religious leaders and contributions
from across the nation, more than 250,000 copies of an updated version of
the historic book have been sent to members of the armed forces.
Unlike the first effort in
which local churches purchased the book and gave it to service men and
women, the men's agency has solicited funds to send the books to chaplains
who distribute the books to their troops. The goal of the agency is to give
copies of the book to 1 million troops.
Shift in publishers
In November, after
publishing 250,000 copies with the Franklin, Tenn.-based Providence House
Publishing Company, the Commission on United Methodist Men returned the
publishing role to the original developer and copyright holder, the United
Methodist Publishing House.
"We were pleased with our
five-year relationship with Providence House," said the Rev. David Adams,
top staff executive of the agency for men's ministry, "but we think there
may be people who want to purchase the book for local police, fire fighters
or emergency workers, and we felt we could reach new markets through the
United Methodist Publishing House with more than 70 Cokesbury stores and
"We all stand in the need
of prayer," said Neil Alexander, president and publisher of the United
Methodist Publishing House. "We all hunger for an encounter with God's word
and God's grace. Surely this is even more so in times of great crisis and
moral challenge, and in places where we are far from loved ones and
surrounded by threats of conflict and violence." He said the Nashville-based
Publishing House "is privileged to join with United Methodist Men from all
corners of the world to offer holy words of guidance, solace, forgiveness
and challenge through this new version of a historic publication."
Appreciation from Iraq
Captain Pete Keough, an
Army chaplain stationed in Iraq, recently wrote the commission to thank it
for sending Strength for Service to
God and Country books. "I have been carrying copies with me
as I go 'outside the wire' to visit soldiers at the places of duty within
the Baghdad region. I have worked it out to where at least one book goes
with every squad. The feedback from the soldiers is unanimous: 'It is the
perfect devotional for the warrior/soldier on the go.' I keep mine in my
left leg pocket, a perfect fit. Your ministry is a huge blessing. May God
richly bless you all!"
The 400-page books are also
given to men following their basic training before they are deployed. "Strength
for Service speaks right to the heart of a warrior and hits on
the topics that are at the forefront of our thoughts," said Marine Lt. Jason
Rochester, a chaplain at the Paris Island, S.C., training center. "The size
is ideal for carrying in a cargo pocket or in the pouch of a pack."
"I read a passage every night at lights out and
it always strengthens me and gives me motivation," said Pvt. Schmidtberger,
a recruit at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Copies were also sent to staff members of the
Pentagon, who also suffered an attack on 9/11. Pentagon Chaplain Jim
Driscoll said the books have "been much appreciated and used by civilian and
military personnel throughout the Pentagon."
The men's commission hopes
to provide all U.S. service men and women with a copy of this historic book.
The commission is accepting donations by mail to GCUMM, P.O. Box 340006,
Nashville, TN 37203-0006. For additional information, contact Larry Coppock
at (615) 620-7262 or by e-mail at
Additional information is available at the commission's Web site,
*Peck is a retired clergy
member of New York Annual Conference and communications coordinator for the
General Commission on United Methodist Men.
News media contact: Linda
Green, (615) 742-5470 or
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