The pastor who has a military installation in his district has a highly potential field for a large harvest in souls. Experience has shown that efforts put forth in such a field yield as rich a harvest as similar efforts spent in other areas of evangelism. Moreover, the product yielded is youth—young men with years of service before them.
One of these young men, George Pickel, who was baptized while in Japan a little more than a year ago, has written us the following letter:
It is hard to realize that I have been a Seventh-day Adventist for nearly a year and a half!
I was baptized by Chaplain Bowen while I was attending an Adventist retreat in Japan. What a thrilling experience it was! The Lord has blessed me overwhelmingly ever since.
I am now a student here at Southern Missionary College, preparing for a place in the Lord's work.
Last week I had the privilege of visiting the Patuxent River NAS, Maryland, in the company of J. A. Brown, pastor of our church near this installation. I found two young men being prepared for baptism, and a third, who had gone astray, reclaimed. Our church there is only a mile from the gate of this large naval base. The pastor is well acquainted with the chaplain, and has an understanding with him that whenever a man comes aboard with a Seventh-day Adventist preference or background, the pastor will be notified.
It is important to remember, in working for military personnel, that the base Protestant chaplain, whatever his denomination, is the person responsible for all religious affairs on the base concerning Protestants.
AR 660-10 says:
Each chaplain will endeavor to provide, for all members of the command, the opportunities to receive the ministrations of their own denominations, in such ways, and on such occasions, as the denominations of which they are members require. The chaplain will accomplish this through his own personal services, and through cooperative efforts of others.
No pastor should hesitate, in calling upon the base Protestant chaplain, to ask for his assistance in giving denominational coverage to Seventh-day Adventists. Chaplains are generally happy to put the local pastor in contact with Seventh-day Adventist personnel. Many chaplains, especially in the Air Force and Navy, where men are situated by enlistment only, keep a card-index file of all men and their religious preferences. They will either have their assistants run through these cards, or will let the pastors do this themselves. It is better to arrange with the chaplains to lay aside the cards of men who indicate Seventh-day Adventist preferences as they come aboard. These cards can be picked up by the pastors at regular intervals.
At one large base I found, for example, a Christian Science minister calling regularly each week to check upon all new arrivals from his church. I was at one base where the chaplain agreed to send the pastor a self-addressed post card concerning Seventh-day Adventist arrivals.
All such arrangements will have to be worked out locally between the chaplain and the pastor concerned, and the extent of the services the chaplain will render will depend, of course, upon local conditions. If the pastor will call the chaplain first by telephone, notifying him of his proposed visit, the chaplain may have the desired information all ready when the pastor arrives.
I know of no way of getting an accurate listing of our men in military installations except to obtain it through the chaplains. Many times I have approached chaplains with lists of names taken from our mailing files at the War Service Commission headquarters, only to discover that these lists may contain names the chaplain does not have. I generally find that a good proportion of the men whose names I carry with me are no longer aboard, for transfers and rotations are frequent in the armed forces. (Should one of our pastors have a similar experience, it would help us to keep accurate files at the "War Service Commission headquarters if he would send us a copy of the corrected list he receives from the chaplain.)
There are more young men in our military installations than in all the colleges and universities of America combined. Here is a tremendous mission field!
Every, chaplain's literature depositary should contain Seventh-day Adventist literature. The pastor who finds that the chaplain he contacts has no Steps to Christ, or no tracts known as The Bible Says, or no copies of Alert, should give this information to his conference war service secretary. We have literature provided free for these purposes; no base or camp throughout the land need be left unsupplied.