As of late January, United Methodists have sent 1,326 phone cards with 133,375 minutes for U.S. troops to call home.
of late January, United Methodists have sent 1,326 phone cards with
133,375 minutes for U.S. troops to use in calling home. The cards have
been sent to the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, Board of Higher
Education and Ministry, and distributed through 42 chaplains to soldiers
around the world. The agency sent out an appeal for phone cards on
Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2003. UMNS photo by Mike Dubose. Photo number
04-024, Accompanies UMNS #024, 1/26/04.
Mikita and James Green are newlyweds who have spent most of their married life thousands of miles apart.
has become a familiar story. A young couple planning a big wedding is
suddenly forced to go to a courthouse for a quick civil ceremony before
one of them is deployed to Iraq.
James Green, a National Guard reservist, was called into active duty, so instead of a May wedding he went to war.
For them, and countless others, phone calls home have become a lifeline.
United Methodists have opened their hearts and pocketbooks and given
many U.S. soldiers one of most precious gifts of all - time to talk to
their loved ones.
Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, Board of
Higher Education and Ministry - the agency that oversees military
chaplains endorsed by the church - sent out a message asking church
members to consider sending long-distance phone cards to soldiers.
date, the agency has received letters containing 1,326 cards with
133,375 minutes from 24 states. Those have been distributed through 42
United Methodist chaplains to soldiers around the world.
got cookies and Gatorade. We've got e-mail and Armed Forces Network
television. What we don't have, and can't get back, is time lost with
our loved ones," says Maj. Matt Woodbery, an Army chaplain serving in
cards are a wonderful gift of time with our loved ones, even if it is
brief and on the phone. We are very thankful for the love of our fellow
citizens and brothers and sisters in Christ."
The Rev. Greg Hill,
a director with the agency and a retired Army colonel, says this
project is reaching countless young men and women and sending them a
message of love from the church.
UMNS photo courtesy of Jack Lea
Cmdr. Jack Lea, a chaplain in the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, is surrounded by children from a Djibouti, Africa.
Jack Lea, a chaplain in the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa,
is surrounded by children from a Djibouti, Africa, school called Ecole
du Stade -- or Stadium School. "Your prayers and support are making a
difference for some very needy young people," he says. UMNS photo
courtesy of Jack Lea and the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, Board of
Higher Education and Ministry, Photo number 04-023, Accompanies UMNS
The idea for collecting phone cards for soldiers came from a phone conversation with Woodbery, Hill says.
the cards are given to United Methodist chaplains, they are also
distributed to any soldier who expresses a need to call home, he says.
thing we have discovered too is it is not just people who are overseas
who have needs for phone cards," Hill says. "Reservists (within the
United States) can incur pretty steep phone bills as well."
my particular area, I can say we are allotted two 15-minute phone calls
a week on Uncle Sam," says Capt. Jack Stanley, an Air Force chaplain
stationed in Italy and currently deployed to the desert. Stanley says
the phone cards came in handy recently when a soldier was having marital
problems and trying to work things out via phone calls.
his 15 minutes are up, the fact that he has to hang up makes it almost
worse than not having called at all," he says. "Thanks to these phone
cards, I can help him out."
Rev. Love Loftis, pastor of Brightwater Memorial and Bland Chapel
(Rogers, Ark.) United Methodist churches, sent 23 cards with more than
4,500 minutes. Her contribution to date is the largest of any church.
The membership at Brightwater is around 100, and at Bland Chapel it is
UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
Lorene Able (left) and the Rev. Love Loftis (right) helped collect 23 phone cards with more than 4,500 minutes for U.S. troops.
Rev. Love Loftis (right), pastor of Brightwater Memorial and Bland
Chapel (Rogers, Ark.) United Methodist churches, sent 23 phone cards
with more than 4,500 minutes for U.S. troops to use. Her churches'
contribution is the largest of any church as of Jan. 26. Her two
churches have a total of 150 members. "The families are so worried about
(the soldiers)," says Bland Chapel member Lorene Abel (left). "I think
it is good they can contact the families." UMNS photo by Kathy L.
Gilbert. Photo number 04-026, Accompanies UMNS #024, 1/26/04
of these congregations are very generous and very mission-minded," she
says. "We really felt like this was a way we could show our support for
the troops in Iraq."
Abel, a member of Bland Chapel, says the war in Iraq is a different
kind of conflict from the one in Vietnam, where two of her sons served.
seems like a different kind of war," she says. "It seems they don't
know who their friends are or who is the enemy, and the families are so
worried about them. I think it is good they can contact the families."
The chaplain endorsing agency has received many e-mail messages expressing how much the cards mean to the soldiers.
quickly wanted to take a moment to say again 'thank you' for the
calling cards," writes Cmdr. Rendell Rozier, a Navy chaplain serving in
Okinawa, Japan. "I wish it was possible for those involved to see the
faces of our young sailors and Marines as they were given a calling card
on behalf of God's love and a grateful nation. Nearly all became
speechless with senses of real surprise and immediate relief."
a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, I cannot begin to express how grateful my
soldiers are to have the phone cards, especially during the holidays,"
says 1st Lt. Robert Crawford, a chaplain with the 357th Corps Support
Battalion out of Athens, Ga.
makes all the difference in the world to have two minutes on the phone
with your little boy or girl, especially at Christmas. This ministry of
the church to young people and their families is most appreciated and
effective. Thank you for making the difference when we need you the
Rev. Roger R. Dodds, with the Air Force Reserve out of Shaw Air Force
Base in South Carolina, visited soldiers and handed out the phone cards
and wooden crosses in early January.
UMNS photo courtesy of Mikita Green
For Mikita and James Green, and countless others, phone calls home have become a lifeline.
and James Green are newlyweds who have spent most of their married life
thousands of miles apart. When James Green, a National Guard reservist,
was called into active duty, he went to war instead of a May wedding.
For them, and countless others, phone calls home have become a lifeline.
UMNS photo courtesy of Mikita Green. Photo number 04-025, Accompanies
UMNS #024, 1/26/04
women and men were very thankful to the United Methodist troops for the
phone cards. One had a tear in his eye and was visibly shaken just to
know that we (United Methodist chaplains) cared."
Jack Lea, a chaplain with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa,
Djibouti, Africa, says he uses the cards "as morale boosters for the
junior people and to provide connectivity in the event of a pastoral
emergency - a death or need to call home immediately."
church is meeting a need here, just a very practical need. People don't
need to think just because Christmas season is over this isn't
important anymore. This needs to be an ongoing process," Hill says.
Mikita Green says she spent two weeks in agony when James was first shipped to Iraq because phone lines had not been set up yet.
"I was wishing I could hear his voice and make sure he was all right," she says.
James says being able to talk to his wife "lifts his spirits and is a blessing."
cards can be sent to: United Methodist Endorsing Agency, General Board
Higher Education and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. News media can contact her at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.