|United Methodist phone cards bringing light to soldiers|
Troops in Baghdad show their appreciation for
phone cards sent to them from the United Methodist Church. A UMNS file
photo courtesy of Chaplain Frank A. Yerkes.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Nov. 10, 2006
only phone card Sgt. 1st Class John Brian Gregory can use that is not
blocked by the Afghanistan government is the one featuring the United
Methodist Church's Cross and Flame.
Gregory is "way out in the boonies" at Camp Salerno in Khost,
Afghanistan, and he tells his wife Nina that the only way he can afford
to call home is with a little plastic card sent to him by United
Methodists in the United States.
"Just to hear his voice every few weeks makes all the difference in
the world," says Nina. The Gregory's two children, Tia, 15, and Nick,
12, get to hear straight from their dad that he is okay and that's
"pretty cool," according to Nina.
Since Veteran's Day 2003, United Methodists have donated more than 9
million minutes of free phone calls to service men and women working in
harm's way in war zones around the world.
The United Methodist Endorsing Agency, Board of Higher Education and
Ministry, started the phone card campaign to help military families stay
in touch with each other. United Methodist Communications teamed with
the endorsing agency in 2004 to design cards featuring the United
Methodist Cross and Flame and the message 'Open hearts. Open minds. Open
doors. The people of the United Methodist Church.'
When soldiers use the cards they hear a recorded prayer: "The people
of the United Methodist Church are praying for your safety and sense of
peace. Our hearts, our minds and our doors are always open to you." The
United Methodist phone cards cost $4.95 for 120 minutes.
The endorsing agency gives the cards to United Methodist chaplains who then distribute them to any military person in need.
Beaver Falls United Methodist Church has been sending packages to
Gregory since he deployed Feb. 10. Nina says somehow one of the United
Methodist calling cards got in a package to her husband.
United Methodists prepare phone cards for distribution to deployed U.S troops.
A UMNS photo by the Mike DuBose.
"What a light, that the United Methodist cards would work and are the
only cards the Afghanistan government doesn't block," Nina says. "It is
an amazing program."
Gregory is part of the D-Co/1-32 from Fort Drum. His company is based
in the mountains of Afghanistan. The camp is so remote that he is not
able to send email and phone calls are hard to make. "Unfortunately
there have been a lot of deaths in his company and when that happens
they shut down communication," Nina explains.
Gregory is scheduled to be back home by the end of January.
"You can't know how grateful the families are when they get to hear
them (loved ones)," Nina says. "You can know they are okay but to
actually hear their voices is just so precious."
The phone card campaign is ongoing. Because of limited personnel, the
agency does not have the ability to sell phone cards to congregations
For more information on how to participate, contact the United
Methodist Endorsing Agency, Board of Higher Education and Ministry, P.O.
Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007. The agency also can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 340-7411. The Web site for the agency is www.gbhem.org/chaplains .
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com .
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