News Archives

Phone cards lift morale, spirit of soldiers

 


 

 

May 27, 2005

A UMNS Feature
By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Military men and women have had more than 6 million minutes to speak to someone they love—free of charge—because thousands of United Methodists have donated to a phone card campaign started in 2003.

"Chaplains have felt supported, and service members, many who have no church affiliation, know that the United Methodist Church cares about them," said the Rev. Greg Hill, director for the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, sponsor of the campaign. "As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day, we also celebrate what the church has done for these young men and women."

The agency, part of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, has received hundreds of thank-you notes from the soldiers, such as the one from "SRA Okorodudu."

Sir or Madam,

It gives me pleasure to know that you guys are praying and wishing the best for us. The concern and care you showed has an incredible positive effect on our morale.

Christianity is awesome though I'm not religious yet this faith holds an esteem place in my heart. Once again, thanks to you all and your care is simply remarkable.

Donations from churches, individuals and groups have poured into the agency from 46 states. Phone cards are purchased and shipped to United Methodist chaplains, who then distribute them to any military person in need. To date, more than 100 chaplains have given out 6 million minutes.

"I wanted to thank you for the phone cards. The Marines I gave them to are deploying soon and appreciated them very much," said the Rev. Tony Carr, 2d Combat Engineer Battalion chaplain. "Thank you for all you do, seen and unseen. Your ministry is blessing thousands of people."

The Rev. Kent L. Svendsen, Joint Detention Operations Group chaplain, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said he has given phone cards to soldiers in real need, such as the young man whose wife had just miscarried and needed to talk longer than the 15-minute moral call provided by the military. Or the soldier whose mother was very sick, and he was her only relative; the young soldier unable to go home to attend his grandmother's funeral; or the young man whose wife wanted a divorce.

"These are actual situations that I have faced, and the list is very long," Svendsen said. "Let people know they are doing an important ministry of caring with those cards. The service members I work with can testify to that!"

The Rev. Dale C. White at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, has passed out more than a thousand free phone cards he received from the United Methodist Endorsing Agency.

"This seems like a lot of donors, but things go fast to the 3,000-plus members of my unique congregation," he said. "I am deeply touched. We are so deeply moved by all the support, and no item is wasted. Folks, it is barren out here. Oh, they feed us well, but there's no cable TV, one radio station, sand, sand and more sand."

The phone cards feature the United Methodist Cross and Flame and include a recorded prayer: "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." The United Methodist phone cards cost $4.95 for 120 minutes.

Karen Dempsey got a phone call from her son, Kevin Lensie, on his birthday last year and sent a note about her phone call to the United Methodist Endorsing Agency.

"I knew you would want to talk to me," he said. "Mom, you are really going to like this one: The chaplain was passing out phone cards, and when I looked down at the one he gave me, I recognized the Cross and Flame. This birthday call is brought to you by the people of the United Methodist Church."

The birthday call came from near Baghdad, Dempsey said. "Thank you, people of the United Methodist Church, for touching the lives of a son and his mother on his birthday. Thank you, too, for your prayers."

The message from the church is coming in loud and clear. For many, the offer of prayer is the best gift of all. Soldier John Hurley sent a note from Iraq expressing the appreciation of all the soldiers in his unit.

"While the gifts are extremely nice and we all appreciate them, what we really need is prayer," he wrote. "A lot of soldiers are beginning to get down and feel depressed. I'm sure that you pray for us, and I'm sure that you ask God to keep his hand over us and give us a safe return home. But will you also pray that God gives us peace of mind and the strength to deal with all the other situations we face every day?"

The phone card campaign is ongoing. Because of limited personnel, the agency does not have the ability to sell phone cards to congregations or individuals. For more information on how to participate, contact the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, Board of Higher Education and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007. The agency also can be reached at umea@gbhem.orgor (615) 340-7411. The Web site for the agency is www.gbhem.org/chaplains.

*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 newsdesk@umcom.org.

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

First Name:*
Last Name:*
Email:*
ZIP/Postal Code:*
Question:*

*InfoServ ( about ) is a service of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW


Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add InfoServ@umcom.org to your list of approved senders.