Ministry in combat
Capt. Brad Lewis, an Assemblies of God chaplain in the U.S. Army, recently returned from his first tour in Iraq. In this interview with Associate Editor Kirk Noonan, Lewis speaks of his ministry and the spiritual climate among U.S. troops in the war-torn country.
PE: What is ministry like during wartime?
LEWIS: A lot of our ministry is one on one, sometimes right before the soldiers go on a mission. Soldiers walk on the razorÕs edge of life and death. Because of that I have many opportunities to share the gospel.
PE: Are soldiers interested in hearing the gospel?
LEWIS: When youÕre in combat it opens doors for the gospel. You certainly get the guys who just want to cover their bases. But I canÕt judge a personÕs heart. Every time I meet with a soldier, a door is open for me to pray with him before he goes out.
PE: Describe the spiritual climate among our troops.
LEWIS: ItÕs a mixed bag just like in the United States. You have guys who are going to do everything they can get away with since this day might be their last on earth, and you have guys who are somber and recognize the real danger confronting them.
PE: Have you been in imminent danger?
LEWIS: A mortar round struck a building 15 yards from me. During the explosion I thought, This could be it. But the building actually shielded me.
PE: Where do you go for spiritual comfort?
LEWIS: To my fellow chaplains. We provide comfort, prayer and counsel for one another. I covet the prayers of my wife and church too.
PE: How should readers pray for soldiers?
LEWIS: I see a serious spiritual attack on our soldiersÕ families, since soldiers are deployed for two to 18 months at a time. Pray for our success in propagating the gospel to soldiers. We provide spiritual guidance and help them worship any way they desire. As a Christian, my desire is to see them accept Jesus Christ.
PE: How are soldiers paying the price?
LEWIS: TheyÕre paying with their lives and bodies, but also with their comfort. TheyÕre away from everything comforting such as food, their beds, their kids and their spouses. ItÕs amazing what you miss — all I wanted to do while in Iraq was shoot hoops with my son.
PE: How is morale on the front lines?
LEWIS: Good, as long as soldiers are focused on what theyÕre doing. When relationship issues back home arise and the soldier isnÕt able to be there to deal with it, morale suffers.
PE: Is it important to support our soldiers?
LEWIS: The support soldiers feel from home plays an immense role in how effective they are. It means so much when we receive a note that says, ÒIÕm praying for and appreciate what youÕre doing.Ó
PE: How do you pray for soldiers you serve?
LEWIS: I pray for their safety and success and for the defeat of our enemies. I pray that this war ends so freedom will reign and our soldiers can go home.
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