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First copies of revised devotional reach troops

4/14/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: A photograph and a headshot of Evan Hunsberger are available.

By J. Richard Peck*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodists may hold different opinions about the war with Iraq, but they are united in offering prayers and expressing concern for men and women risking their lives there.

The Commission on United Methodist Men is engaged in a national effort to provide all U.S. service men and women with an updated book of daily devotions - a book first sent to U.S. troops in World War II and again during the Korean conflict.

To date, some 25,000 copies of the book Strength for Service to God and Country have been sent to troops stationed in Afghanistan and neighboring nations. The most recent shipment of the 400-page book was sent to the 101st Airborne, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

The same book was carried 60 years earlier by Eugene Hunsberger during World War II. Hunsberger was given the book while serving in the Navy, and he continued to read from it for the rest of his life.

Three years ago, Hunsberger's 16-year-old grandson, Evan, asked his grandfather about the book and why it was so meaningful to him. Listening to his grandfather tell how the book had helped him through difficult experiences, the younger Hunsberger had an inspiration.

Evan needed to complete a special project in order to earn the rank of Eagle, the highest level in Boy Scouts. He asked his grandfather if republishing the book as a spiritual aid for U.S. service personnel today would be a good Eagle Scout project. "Not good," whispered Eugene, whose stroke had made speech difficult. "Great!"

After receiving permission from the United Methodist Publishing House to republish the book, Evan and 45 volunteers spent 2,500 hours scanning and correcting copy from the book into computers.

The Commission on United Methodist Men, the agency responsible for scouting ministries in the denomination, supported the idea of sending the book to U.S. service personnel. With the Pentagon's approval, the Nashville-based agency began trying to raise $3 million in order to give a copy of the book to 1 million members of the military.

While the first edition of the book contained devotions written by hundreds of well-known religious and industrial leaders during the World War II era, the new edition includes writings by Robert Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.; Gerald Turner, president of Southern Methodist University, Dallas; Andrew Benton, president of Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif.; Joseph Bottoms, president of DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind.; Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles; Rudy Ruetiger, former Notre Dame football player portrayed in the movie "Rudy"; Hassan Hathout, executive of the Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles; and Kenneth Kanter, rabbi of Congregation Micah, Brentwood, Tenn.

People who want to support the effort can send checks to Strength for Service, P.O. Box 340006, Nashville, TN 37203-0006. To order copies of the book, contact Providence Publishing Corp., 238 Seaboard Lane, Franklin, TN 37067; phone: (800) 321-5692. Additional information is available from Larry Coppock, Commission on United Methodist Men, at (615) 340-7149 or LCoppock@gcumm.org.

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*Peck is communications director for the Commission on United Methodist Men in Nashville, Tenn.

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