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United Methodist phone cards going to soldiers in Iraq

 


United Methodist phone cards going to soldiers in Iraq

 

Aug. 19, 2004                                        

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) –– United Methodist Chaplain Frank A. Yerkes and a few of his friends have a message for the people of the United Methodist Church who have been sending phone cards: Thanks.

“The cards have been an awesome blessing,” he said in an e-mail to the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, a component of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. “It makes such a difference when soldiers can call home and talk to their loved ones. What a wonderful gift! It makes me proud to represent our United Methodist family here on the frontlines in Baghdad.”

Messages like that come in almost daily, said Laura Flippen, communications coordinator for the agency that oversees chaplains and pastoral counselors.

Packages of phone cards going out by mail today will include a new card designed to let soldiers know where the cards are coming from.

United Methodist Communications teamed with the Endorsing Agency and the Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference to print cards featuring the United Methodist Cross and Flame and the message “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors. The people of the United Methodist Church.”

“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.”

 

“It is important that the troops know that there are people who care about them, even people who they may not know personally but who care about the human side of being away from home, of being under stressful conditions,” said Chaplain Bob Phillips, a Navy chaplain on active duty in Norfolk, Va., and a member of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.

 

“I think having the cards with the United Methodist brand on them is totally appropriate, it is not proselytizing, there is nothing at all negative about it,” he said.

Chaplain (Capt.) Howard S. Bell, Air Force reserve chaplain with the 375th Air Wing at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois agrees. “It is a recognizable trademark (the Cross and Flame) and when they (soldiers) come back home they can say ‘That is the church that thought of us and cared.’”

The Rev. Patricia Barrett, an executive with the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, hopes the United Methodist phone cards will be seen as an invitation to visit a United Methodist church.

“I hope there are lots of young men and women who come back and may have not had a church home before but will remember there is such a thing as the United Methodist Church and maybe finding themselves going into one of the churches and becoming part of the community,” she said.

The endorsing agency has been sponsoring a campaign to send phone cards to the military since Veterans Day 2003. To date, more than 1 million minutes have gone out from the Nashville, Tenn., office. A major push by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference this summer will swell that number to 2 million minutes.

Members of the Illinois conference came to Nashville Aug. 18 to present their collection of cards and money representing more than 800,000 minutes to the endorsing agency and to help stuff the envelopes that will be sent to chaplains in overseas locations.

“We figure at this point we have contributed enough (phone card minutes) to provide an hour-long phone call home to every member of an entire light infantry division (about 14,000 people),” said the Rev. Bob Morwell, pastor of Union United Methodist Church, Quincy, Ill. The conference is still working toward their goal of raising 1 million minutes.”

Morwell added that in a time when there are so many nondenominational churches it is good to know the connectional system of the United Methodist Church makes projects like this possible.

“This is something a connectional church could do with tremendous speed and power,” he said. “The cards arrived today, they will be in the hands of chaplains in 10 days or less and they will be distributing these cards throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I certainly hope other conferences will join in the effort and that our troops and their families will know that the United Methodist Church has great concern and compassion and respect for them and if they have other pastoral needs, maybe they will think of us.”

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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