|Korea is fertile ground to reach young soldiers|
U.S. Army Chaplains Charles Jackson and Mitchell
Lewis are among five United Methodist clergy ministering to service
members and their families stationed in Korea. UMNS photos by Kathy L.
Third in a series
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Oct. 27, 2008 | DAEGU, Korea (UMNS)
mainline U.S. churches struggle to reach 17- to 20-year-olds, two
United Methodist clergy members from Georgia have more young adults
seeking faith conversations than there are hours in the day.
U.S. Army Chaplains Charles Jackson and Mitchell Lewis preside in
Korea over worship services that are generally standing room only.
Lt. Col. Lewis is the senior Army chaplain stationed in the southern
half of South Korea, and is lead pastor for the Protestant congregation
at Camp Walker in Daegu.
"I train, coach, and provide executive-level guidance to chaplains
and assistants within this geographical area," Lewis said. "It's a
little like being district superintendent on a small scale."
Approximately 200 people attend the primary worship service each Sunday.
The congregation also conducts a full Sunday school program and "has an
outstanding choir supported by talented musicians," he said.
Jackson preaches at a worship service at the Yongsan Army Garrison chapel in Seoul.
Lewis also coordinates youth programs for junior and senior high, a
monthly men's fellowship and two weekly women's fellowships (including
one for Korean-speaking spouses), a weekly adult Bible study, a retreat
program and an outreach program to a local orphanage with special-needs
Jackson is the deputy command chaplain for the 8th Army Command at the Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul. He provides religious support to the 23,500 soldiers serving in the headquarters for the U.S. military presence in Korea. He also preaches and leads worship for some 120 people who attend Sunday morning services at the garrison chapel.
"I’ve served at various levels, as a battalion chaplain, a brigade
chaplain and then as a lieutenant colonel," Jackson said. "I can mentor
and train and coach and teach a young person or a fellow chaplain that’s
going through that process. And I think those are the kinds of skills
that I bring to the local church.
"Once you become the equivalent to a lieutenant colonel, you’re
pretty much an administrator and you’ve developed those skills to really
be an effective leader in managing people, resources, time, a large
staff and making sure that all the missions are being accomplished on
Jackson said he has a "wonderful and warm" congregation at Memorial Chapel.
"We have lay people there who have been there for a long time. So
they provide the continuity for getting new chaplains oriented to that
type of ministry and really are doing a great job of augmenting what we
do," he said.
Many of the soldiers coming to Korea
are straight out of high school and need help to "cope with the
stresses of being in the military and staying connected to their
families and getting settled away from home and not forgetting the
values they were raised with. … It’s high tempo, a busy place, a lot is
going on all the time."
A young girl sings during Vacation Bible School at Camp Walker in Daegu, Korea.
Jackson and Lewis are among five United Methodist chaplains serving
in Korea, and both come from the church’s North Georgia Annual
(regional) Conference. They say the challenges of tending to military
personnel frequently extend beyond individual soldiers. Quite a few have
brought their spouses and children with them.
"Being stationed in a foreign country creates challenges for everyone, regardless of their family situation," Lewis said.
*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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