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November 26, 2000: Charles W. Marvin: Chaplains needed

November 19, 2000: Randy Hurst: Hunger and evangelism

October 29, 2000: Randy Stonehill: Adopting God's agenda

October 22, 2000: Bettina Richardson: Setting priorities

October 15, 2000: Fulfilling the Great Commission

September 17, 2000: John Castellani: Giving hope to addicts

September 10, 2000: Kermit Bridges: Spiritual renewal on campus

August 27, 2000: Phil Vischer: The Big Idea behind VeggieTales

August 20, 2000: Chonda Pierce: A time to laugh

August 13, 2000: Thomas E. Trask, John Bueno: The launching of Global University

July 30, 2000: G.L. Johnson: Keeping passion for Christ alive

July 23, 2000: Hal Donaldson: More than fame and money

July 16, 2000: David Moore: America in a sea of change

July 9, 2000: Jim Seymour: Real reconciliation

June 18, 2000: Randy Phillips: Plugging into the local church

June 11, 2000: H. Maurice Lednicky: Pentecost Sunday

May 28, 2000: Tim LaHaye: Prophecy-based fiction

May 14, 2000: Natalie Grant: The best testimony

April 30, 2000: Alvin Worthley: Ministry to the 'fourth world'

April 23, 2000: Robert Spence: The meaning of Easter

April 16, 2000: Stephen Pfann: The Dead Sea Scrolls

April 9, 2000: Eddie Rentz: Teens, TV, music and parenting

March 26, 2000: Lillie Knauls: Single and satisfied

March 19, 2000: Terry Lindvall: Christ and culture

March 12, 2000: David Yonggi Cho and Thomas E. Trask: World Assemblies of God Congress and 2000 Celebration

Aboard the USS Cole with an Assemblies of God chaplain

(December 10, 2000)

In October, terrorists bombed the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, killing 17 U.S. Navy sailors and injuring more than 39. Lt. Cartus Thornton, an Assemblies of God Navy chaplain, had been aboard the Cole for several weeks en route to the Persian Gulf. One week before the attack Thornton was assigned to another ship in the Destroyer Squadron 22 as part of his regular rotation. After the bombing, the Navy sent Thornton back to the USS Cole to minister to the demoralized crew. Thornton spoke with Kirk Noonan, news editor of the Evangel, from the deck of the Cole as the crew prepared the vessel for transport back to the United States.

Evangel: Describe the mood of the crew when you returned to the USS Cole.

Thornton: I boarded the ship five days after the blast. It was very hard to get back to the Cole because of the intense security. On board, the crew was very somber and morale was low. They were still in shock because some of their shipmates were still entombed in the wreckage. When bodies were recovered, we would have a ceremony where the crew would line up on the starboard side of the ship. Body bags were draped with an American flag, then the captain and I would lead the escorts to the bow of the ship where the bodies were then taken to the airplane. The crew is dealing with a lot of things. But there was a visible sigh of relief when the last body was recovered. The sailors were glad their shipmates had begun their trip home.

Evangel: What are some of the issues the crew is grappling with?

Also in this issue:

Faith in red and black by John W. Kennedy

Believing for things

A/G chaplain ministers to wounded

Thornton: With this close brush with death many of these sailors’ eyes were open to the things that are beyond the here and now. They are looking seriously at issues — especially life’s brevity. That has given me many opportunities to share the gospel. Because we are still in dangerous waters there is also a certain amount of trepidation. But the majority of questions I have been asked pertain to life after death.

Evangel: How have you ministered to the crew?

Thornton: Ministry here is more or less giving the sailors an opportunity to express their feelings and deal with their anger, helplessness and frustration. We are having Bible studies as well as Sunday services. I also conducted a memorial service for the fallen sailors. The sailors have a lot of questions so I direct them to the Scriptures and the comfort and care that only God can give at a time like this. Many want to recommit their lives to Christ. Within counseling sessions I direct them to make things right with God.

Evangel: Did anything good come from this tragedy?

Thornton: This crew has really bonded, which makes a much stronger crew. Many personal relationships have also been restored. Some sailors have come to me who were contemplating a certain course in life and are now reconsidering their decision. Many of these sailors are figuring out what is really important and what their priorities are and should be. Of course, that not only directs them to God, but also helps them deal with the situation day in and day out.

Evangel: You’ve been at sea for four months. Are the sacrifices a military chaplain has to make worth it?

Thornton: The last time I talked to my wife I told her, "For such a time as this." Being here now, when I am needed the most, makes it all worthwhile. It is its own reward to minister to this crew. God has blessed me with the opportunity to serve Him here and now.

Evangel: How can our readers help you and the crew of the USS Cole?

Thornton: Through hundreds of letters, calls and e-mails, people have told us they are praying for us. That heightens the consciousness of the crew about who God is. Those prayers have also afforded me the opportunity to reach out and talk about God, salvation and Jesus Christ. Just to know so many people are praying means the world to us.

 

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