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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 and Country.

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 date.

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 republishing effort

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Evan Hunsberger
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

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Neil Alexander
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 outlets."

"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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Strength for Service

General Commission on United Methodist Men

United Methodist Publishing House