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Military Ministries

Summary: The Navigators ministered among the members of the US military in the late 1930s alongside our extensive work among teenagers. At the end of 1941, as the US entered World War II, ministry on ships and bases spread rapidly. We were stretched and God abundantly blessed.

After World War II, so much changed. Thousands of military personnel were discharged. We had to rethink our approach. It was soon natural to invest in other ministries, especially among collegians.

During the 1960s, our military ministries recovered, with new priorities. More strands of ministry, such as among business and professional adults, also emerged in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the military in and beyond the US has remained a vital avenue for
the pursuit of our calling.

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:3


Foundations: World War II to the 1990s
Servicemens Centers
Influence on the Korean Military: 1950s-1960s
Expanding Work with American Servicemen: 1950s and 1960s
Strategies for Working with Servicemen
Increased Field Outreach: 1960s
The Vietnam Years: 1960s and 1970s
Worldwide Leadership Developments
Struggle for Effectiveness and Increased Secularization
Reaching a New Generation: 1990s
Developments in the 2000s
On Being a Hero

Foundations: World War II to the 1990s

Although we were used by God to impact many lives with the Gospel during World War II, especially among those in the US Navy—and to disciple thousands of new believers—this exciting story has been told elsewhere. We begin as the war ends.

The US military was small and selective until the buildup for World War II brought millions of mainstream American youths into service. Christian activity flourished. The war saw a revival in which tens of thousands of young men and women came to Christ, thousands of them becoming cross-cultural missionaries after the war.

Jim Downing, an early Navigator and Pearl Harbor veteran, recalled in 1963:

During the fifteen years following World War II, as many American missionaries were sent overseas as had been sent in the previous 150 years. This was no doubt due to the Lord’s work in lives in an unusual way while large numbers of American youth were in the Armed Forces. Many of these were Navigators.1

After the directors conference in early 1951, Dawson Trotman wrote the following to his staff:

Although we expect to give servicemen’s work high priority, it will not be exactly on the same basis as World War II, because we have an entirely different outlook. With the Lord’s help we expect to be able not to be side-tracked into a very wide but shallow ministry with masses of men. We’ll do what we can and as always for the greatest possible number, but we will direct our best efforts towards producing reproducers. We will be in a much better position also to advise these men concerning formal training at the close of another war or upon their retirement from service.2

The record of this conference in San Francisco made reference to the ministry among US servicemen. Some extracts:

Norfolk is next on the list of important bases . . . our work on the East Coast needs strengthening. . . . Honolulu may again become a major operating and forwarding base for the Orient.

Directors of various areas will more or less be expected to keep in touch with the service men who become interested, in their own areas. . . . A service man’s transfer from his area does not eliminate further responsibility on the part of the original key man.

Meanwhile, we stayed well connected with the other organizations that were following military men into colleges or, indeed, those moving in the reverse direction. For example, Charles Trautman (IVF director) told Daws that:

We expect to have about six thousand or seven thousand ex-IV men in the armed services by September [1951]. Beyond this business of enco3uraging our Christian men to do a job for themselves, we do not intend to go into any military camps or into the field of military service. Why I am writing specifically is with regard to the possibility of pushing B-rations with all the men whose names we receive. This will mean that you can carry on the follow up directly with them without the nonsense of trying to go through us. I hope by this means we can introduce them directly to your office and that you will be able not only to introduce them to further memory work but to Navigator homes scattered around the country and to the Navigator system as well.

We responded by sending one thousand B-rations, covering half the cost, to indicate how pleased we were to thus cooperate.4

The Gospel continued to spread among the US military in the 1960s and 1970s, despite the traumas of the Vietnam War. But the 1980s witnessed a strong secular trend, which made open evangelism difficult. Signs of revival during the Persian Gulf War faded once it was over.

What part have The Navigators played in ministry among the US military? In broad terms:

  • 1933: Dawson Trotman began discipling one sailor and challenging him to disciple others.
  • 1941: World War II catapulted The Navigators into a movement reaching a thousand US ships and bases. Navy gunner’s mate Jim Downing emerged as the leader.
  • Late 1940s: Thousands of ex-military Navigators took the vision, but not the label, to college campuses, local churches, and mission groups.
  • Mid-1950s: Ministry to military in the US, Europe, and Asia continued through Navigator homes and servicemen’s centers.
  • Mid-1960s: Military ministry boomed with the buildup for the Vietnam War. Skip Gray and Ron York led a harvest of recruiting and discipling in the southeast. Harv Oslund focused on Okinawa. Many others devoted themselves to discipling. York also laid the foundation for our national work in South Korea while ministering to US military personnel.
  • The 1970s: The entire ministry continued to expand, with a large number of former military officers coming on staff, strengthening leadership in all branches of the work. Nav ministries grew at all the service academies.
  • Late 1980s: Nav staff began to plan strategically to serve a broader discipling ministry in the military. Mike Johnson went to Australia and Jim Skattebo went to the Philippines to minister to those nations’ militaries.
  • Early 1990s: We commited ourselves to serving the militaries of the world. The April 1993 conference in Moscow with 550 senior Russian officers was an unprecedented event. The end of the Cold War and a smaller US military helped our staff concentrate its efforts on a more professional and stable force.5
Importance of Okinawa

At this point, it is convenient to note our deep roots in the Okinawa military ministry. It was in 1952 that Bob Boardman arrived in Okinawa to open the Navigator work in Japan. He found himself involved in the lives of servicemen as well. When the Boardmans moved to Tokyo in 1955, the staff family that replaced them (the Ryals) continued what became an unbroken string of more than sixty years of ministry to the US military on Okinawa. Why has this island been so fruitful for us? Partly because the context is so isolated and unfamiliar, radically different from what servicemen experienced in America or Europe. Consequently, it has been simpler to connect with men and women about their real needs.6 We have also been blessed by some outstanding leaders, such as Harv Oslund, Roger Fleming, Mel Duke, Pete McKay, Charlie Sparkman.7

Servicemen’s Centers

Servicemen’s centers, as mentioned above, were a significant part of our early history. Their prototype arose during the 1930s, in the welcome that servicemen always received at our Nav homes in California.

Throughout World War II, the number of such homes naturally grew. We had them in, at least, Honolulu; San Diego; Los Angeles; Oakland; San Francisco; Jacksonville; Washington, DC; Norfolk; Portsmouth; New York; Chicago; and Seattle. However, we went a step further and identified servicemen’s centers in many cities, manned or encouraged by Navigators.

In April 1944, after a conference for servicemen center directors, each of them declared that he was now better prepared to return to “what has proven to be one of the most unique and wonderful opportunities of all time.”8 Servicemen were streaming into such centers. Therefore, we joined with CBMC in calling another conference for August, this time in Chicago. Directors of some sixty centers were invited, and well over half had responded favorably.9 Our part was to give information on follow-up and to make clear what should be supplied to men who make decisions for Christ in these centers.10

After the war, in 1951, Daws held a Nav directors conference in San Francisco with Sanny, Charlie Riggs and Lee Sundstrom present. Don Rosenberger, Dave Rohrer and Roy Robertson were absent.11 Much business was transacted.12 As regards servicemen, the directors discussed occupying other key areas in the US. Norfolk was a priority. They considered whether Honolulu should again become a major operating and forwarding base for the Orient. We did not have the resources to move into New York, Philadelphia, or bases in the South.

We did not purchase or rent our own servicemen’s centers. Usually, they were sponsored by local business leaders or clergy. Some examples:

  • In 1952, the Yokosuka center was opened by local missionaries and servicemen: director Bob Boardman then Byron Ryals. By January 1957, Loren Lilly became the interim Director followed by Daryl Mason by 1963.
  • In 1952, the center in Naples, Italy, was established by missionaries and Navy officer Floyd Robertson. Navigator Dan Piatt was the first director, assisted by Pete George. Piatt’s visa soon expired, so he moved to the Netherlands, being replaced by Pete George.
  • In 1952, the San Luis Obispo center opened. Director John Crawford led that work with Stan Bostrom.

In October 1953, the Armed Forces Victory Center opened in Honolulu, after a three-day conference led by Downing and featuring Trotman as speaker. Directed by Herb Attwood, sponsored by businessmen, the center’s work discontinued in 1956. A milestone was reached with the Kao Hsiung center in May 1954, the first center ministering to non-Americans, namely the Chinese military. The director was Jake Combs.

In May 1956, we held the first servicemen center directors conference at Glen Eyrie. This conference was led by Ron York from Spokane, Loren Lilly from Oxnard, Bob Newkirk from Long Beach, Byron Ryals from Santa Ana, Glenn Solum from Oceanside, Marlin Nelson from San Diego, and other directors. Developments in 1956 inlcuded:

  • May: Mel Leader was assistant director of the center in Naples.
  • May: Kaiserslautern, under Tommy Adkins; to the Wortleys in 1960; closed early in 1962.
  • June: Stan Bostrom directed the center in Wiesbaden (opened April 1955 and closed June 1961), soon replaced by Bob Wilbraham. Mel Leader was appointed overall director for the centers of Greater Europe (CSCGE) with Bill Hamm as field secretary. CSCGE dissolved in 1960, when The Navigators took over.13
  • August: Jack Mayhall replaced Bob Newkirk in the Long Beach home and center. Mayhall reported that two thousand men came through the Long Beach center during the previous week; more than one thousand on Saturday and Sunday alone.
  • October: Ross Baldwin continued to direct the Portsmouth, Virginia center.

In Europe, rapid rotation took place. For example, the Bitburg center was directed by Stan Bostrom, then Bill Michel, then Russ Korth, then Jack Blanch (1963) at which time it moved from the center building to a large home, but still operated like a center.

Dan and Mel Piatt landed in Naples in June 1952. A year later, he provided an excellent description of what took place at his center, which doubtless can be taken as typical. Thus:

The servicemen’s center was located near the water front, consisting of fourteen rooms for recreation, relaxation and general comforts for servicemen. It included a well-equipped hobby shop of model railroad equipment, miniature cars, boats, and planes. Also, rooms for Bible Study, prayer, ping pong, table shuffle-board, darts, reading, writing, snacks and forty lockers free for servicemen. Finances were largely furnished by local servicemen, including some who had returned to the USA. The Navy Sunday School makes a monthly contribution. Finances for the director are supplied by the Christian Business Men Inc. of Shreveport and for the assistant director by Christian businessmen and friends in Longview, Texas.

Pete George, my assistant, and I have been present to direct the work every day from the start. Spiritual work was carried on entirely at the center until September, when it began to broaden out. Pete and I were asked to teach Sunday School classes. Then, personal visitation was started both at the offices during duty hours and in the evenings at homes. I spent much time with the officers.

Pete and I visit chaplains and men on the ships as they come into port and often hold Bible classes on board ships. I also teach a weekly Bible class at our air base near Naples.

Very few missionaries could speak Italian effectively, without two years of study. Also, quite a few Italians could speak English, partly because of the presence of the military. So, we decided to trust the Lord for Italians who could speak English.

Problems at the center have been challenging. There is so much sin, temptation, pleasures, and sightseeing offered to the servicemen. Also, the Navy has a $25,000 gym-hobby shop set up; the USO has spent thousands to draw men. In a sense, this is competition, so we knew we had to do things differently to help the men. We concluded that the sincere personal interest we could show servicemen would be our greatest asset. Fellows appreciated being called by their first name, instead of being treated as a number. The chaplain and special services officer provided popular magazines and the officer’s wives club furnished not only pastries, but coffee!14

Dan and Pete had to report to the police office as often as three-to-four times in a week; they were asked for names of those sending us money. Authorities suspected political activity at the center. The ability to remain calm, pleasant, and steadfast in every action was paramount. Incidentally, Dan was a recent convert to the hobby of building accurate, working model railroads. He was enthused that “now we have a working layout of tunnels, mountains, rivers, canyons, villages, etc.” He observed that there is no such thing as “finished” in model railroading, as he worked with an artist, an electrician, a mechanic, and a carpenter. It was a great attraction.

In the late 1950s, we may note some other items of news:

  • February 1958: Rod Sargent is conferring with those who desire service centers in new locations, searching especially for a suitable site for a center in Frankfurt.
  • May 1958: Tom Stacy directs the center in Oxnard, being replaced this month by Ron Rorabaugh.
  • July 1958: Cec Davidson has completed counseling classes for business men at the center in Norfolk.
  • August 1958 Bill Fletcher will be going to Europe soon to help supervise the centers.
  • August 1958: Roger Anderson will replace Ron York in Spokane, Washington. He will direct the center and be the Nav Rep.
  • August 1958: Rod Sargent is visiting Madrid where servicemen are interested in a center.
  • October 1958: Will Hopkins leaves soon to assist with the centers in Europe.
  • January 1959: Frank Meyer will assist Roger Anderson in the center in Spokane.
  • September 1959: George and Ruth Wortley replace Stan Bostrom as director of the Bitburg center.
  • September 1959: Ben Kobayashi is among half a dozen Japan Defense Academy cadets who have accepted Christ through the Yokosuka center.

Influence on the Korean Military: 1950s to 1960s

The Korean War ended with an armistice in 1953.15 During the war, thousands of Koreans from the North fled to what would become South Korea to escape communist persecution. Many of them were Christians from churches in the North. They brought with them the Gospel, and a mighty revival began to take place in the South.

That same year, the first Navigator to settle in Korea was Doug Cozart, under the flag of Youth for Christ. In our pattern of those days, Doug launched a Bible study correspondence school, supported by World Vision. His base was the city of Taegu. He arranged for the Studies in Christian Living (SCL) to be translated into Korean, starting in 1954. World Vision also sponsored Marlin Nelson who arrived in 1956 and began discipleship training in churches, using the Topical Memory System. Both Doug and Marlin were greeted by Christians hungry for God as well as unbelievers.

Neither Doug nor Marlin was Nav staff, but God greatly used them to pioneer the way and to make our name familiar. Indeed, God was using anyone who proclaimed Christ: local churches, Campus Crusade, World Vision—all were part of a strong revival.

In October 1962, Bob Boardman conducted a survey trip to Korea at the request of Jim Downing to investigate the attitude of missions agencies in Korea toward The Navigators, thereby initiating a ministry with isolated and forward-based American servicemen. World Vision and others were enthusiastic, but they advised The Navigators to enter on a cooperative rather than a competitive basis. As a result, Ron York, who had been working among US servicemen on Okinawa from 1960,16 moved in August 1963 with his family to live in Seoul in the Presbyterian mission compound. Ron prayed for a Timothy to help and God answered Ron by providing Tim Arensmeier.17 They attended studies in each of the US bases that Koreans called KATUSAs (Korean Soldiers Attached to the US Army). Ron began to pray for a Korean whom he could train to help him. One evening, he was asked to speak at a Korean boys’ reform school. Yoo Kang Sik, who was working for Child Evangelism Fellowship, was his interpreter. Many young boys responded to The Bridge illustration.

Yoo Kang Sik asked if he might come to Ron’s home to talk. That began the relationship. He traveled with Ron to and from the military bases to teach Koreans the same study that Ron was teaching the Americans. Many came to Christ in both groups.

Daws sent our staff a thrilling report18 from Doug Cozart on ministry among the military in South Korea. Some highlights:

Korean General Paik19 greeted him as he stepped out of the plane and affirmed, ‘I want every soldier in my army to know about God.’

The general arranged for this VIP treatment to continue ‘all the way down through the ranks.’ Commanding generals’ Jeeps for taxis, MP escorts, and full-scale military recognition with band salutes put God’s messenger in the most advantageous setting for pressing home the claims of a crucified Christ. . . . Seeing the physical needs of the troops added to the intensity of my desire to do all in my power to present the message effectively. . . . Standing before the soldiers seated on the ground in groups from two hundred to 2,900, I urged them to indicate their desire to make a decision by standing to their feet. . . . In the majority of instances, from 80 to 100 percent of the men would stand. . . . Of the thirty-four thousand soldiers who heard the Gospel, about twenty-six thousand indicated their desire to turn from sin to Christ.

Doug soon returned to Korea for another two weeks in the Second ROK Corps. He told Daws on May 5 that, “The chaplains report an increased chapel attendance and more prestige with their commanding officers. . . . We offered Bible study courses to those who would write to us and we have received nearly four thousand requests to date. Considering we preached to thirty thousand, that’s not bad.”

In light of the favorable Korean experience, we loaned Doug Cozart to World Vision. Therefore, it was helpful that Lorne outlined in his 1957 communication with area leaders the conditions on which we loaned men.

  • The Navigators will maintain a separate identity when working with another organization.
  • The basis will be mutual confidence obtained and maintained personally–at all levels stateside and overseas.
  • A person loaned will remain a Navigator but will be under the sole direction of the organization to which he is loaned.
  • His personal support will be supplied through Navigator channels. Ministry finances will be supplied by the organization with whom he is working.

Expanding Work with American Servicemen: 1950s and 1960s

Continuing through the 1950s, we find that a successful servicemen’s conference at Glen Eyrie in early June 195620 included an evangelistic evening for fifty local servicemen.

In Lorne’s 1957 communication, he affirmed that the Lord may “want us to get back to working more with servicemen. The opportunities are tremendous in the States as well as overseas. Contacts with chaplains and the military in general are very favorable at this time.”21

The following year, Lorne spoke of our rapport with specific military leaders in Colorado Springs. We hosted a banquet at the Antlers Hotel for him to report on his round-the-world trip. “The response was amazing. There were 124 . . . including the presidents of various service clubs, presidents of two banks, chairman of the city commissioners, superintendents of the city and county schools . . . plus a number of military personnel.” He went on to list the six US generals whom we had recently entertained at Glen Eyrie, including General “Hap” Arnold, who served as commanding general of the Fifth Army.

Lorne then summarized:

The Lord has been miraculously increasing our openings with the military. Not only here in Colorado Springs, but men like Dan Piatt and Waldron Scott report good contacts with the military. This further confirms the inner conviction which has been deepening in the hearts of many of us in the last couple of years that we should re-double our efforts in recruiting and building men in the services. Here are some of the advantages22 associated with service personnel:

1. Choice age group
2. Greatest source of manpower for us
3. Generally teachable and open to new things
4. Environment tends to produce maturity
5. Good discipline
6. Loyalty
7. Usually available – both while in and out of service
8. More leisure time
9. Air Force gives men time off to come to our conferences
10. Twenty-five years of Navs experience in this field
11. Meeting certain types of needs not addressed elsewhere
12. Work that quickly becomes self-supporting

We are praying for and working towards completing a network of headquarters around the world where we can have personal contact wherever GIs are concentrated in great numbers. Top priorities on the list are Honolulu; San Antonio; Panama; Jacksonville, FL: Dayton, OH.23

The year 1961 began with our first Overseas Policy Conference, a strategic refocusing of our mission. Then, at the end of 1961, Lorne wrote to our staff:

In addition to his duties as treasurer and HQ office manager, Jim Downing has recently been put in charge of our overseas servicemen’s work. Now the servicemen representatives abroad are reporting directly to Jim. This was designed to relieve our representatives working with nationals from this added supervisory responsibility, as well as to enable us to better tie in our servicemen’s work at home and abroad. In the light of plans for sending additional help to Europe soon for the servicemen, Jim will arrive in Europe January 15 for a thorough survey and study of the situation in order that we might lay plans for the next five to ten years.24

At the end of 1961, our stateside Reps were evenly distributed: eight in military and eight in collegiate ministries.

Lorne followed up with a second letter on our military ministries:

After twenty-eight years, it is generally accepted that The Navigators works with people in the armed forces. And evidences abound of God’s answers to prayer for a vastly stepped-up recruiting and building program among servicemen. . . . With the US pouring fifty thousand men into the Western European theatre, this is a day of opportunity.25

Lorne continued in the same “Dear Gang” letter.

What’s our future with men of the armed forces? Here are four points for working with servicemen:

1. A courteously aggressive personal evangelism emphasis. Not necessarily a program, but a strong emphasis on daily personal evangelism, so that men are continuously being won to Christ.
2. And, of course, a follow-up program that really sticks to a man—so we don’t lose contact with him by default. To be in touch with him when he starts to drift off, not six months after it has happened. Really build in a man’s life along the lines of 1 Corinthians 3.
3. A network of contact points around the world—so wherever a man goes we can immediately put him in touch with strong Christian fellowship—homes, centers, contacts, chaplains . . .
4. Stick with him through the transition back into civilian life, into school. Assist in any way possible as he goes out into the calling for him, be it the mission field, full-time service at home, or into business.

Lorne added that, while Dan Piatt was working at the servicemen’s center26 in Naples, Italy, and more broadly, he had emphasized going to the “top echelons,” a pattern which had continued.27 Similarly, therefore, having a man with the maturity and experience of Jim Downing in charge of our overseas servicemen’s work was a great boost.

To underline his point, Lorne wrote to the Gang in his next letter that, “We are out to develop the servicemen’s work, and you will continue to hear about this. We would like to have twenty-five to fifty men of Nav representative status dedicated to reaching servicemen for Christ while in the service.”28

Strategies for Working with Servicemen

Meanwhile, Jim Downing had led the servicemen’s evaluation and planning conference in Austria, so that “we now have a clearer picture of our strategy and objectives for work among the servicemen in Europe and to some degree for our work elsewhere.”29 At that time, more than 400,000 American military personnel were stationed in Europe.

Jim’s report continued:

For the past several years, our work in Europe has been built around servicemen’s centers which for the most part used a rather large building as a base of operations. In June 1961, the servicemen’s center in Wiesbaden was closed and the work in the Frankfurt-Wiesbaden area has been carried on by Bill Greenaway assisted by Bill Michel. Their base of operations is a home. Arrangements were made in the fall of 1961 to close the Kaiserslautern center on April 30, 1962 and to use the home approach rather than the center approach for work in that area. . . . This center has been sold to a church group. . . . In Bitburg, the city has recently bought the property now occupied by the center. . . . In Naples, due to a continuing rise in the cost of rent and other factors, the center may have to move to another new location.

These things add up to the fact that the thrust among servicemen in Europe is changing from the center to the home approach.30 There seem to be several reasons for this change. One of these reasons is the formation of twenty-one US military churches in Europe. Some of these are pastored by civilian pastors from the States and others by servicemen on active duty in Europe. Generally, they have the reputation of being sound evangelical groups. Many have a very aggressive plan of evangelism, and in their services they are seeing decisions for Christ consistently. It appears that these groups are as effective, if not more effective, than the centers in doing evangelism among our forces in Europe. . . . However, this does not mean that we will be less interested in evangelism. One of the conclusions reached by the fellows in Europe was that a well-balanced ministry for an individual consists of following the principles set by Christ and observed by Paul . . . giving proper priority to large groups (masses), small groups, and individuals. There is no formula for determining just what the first priority is for these three areas, but a well-balanced ministry will consist of the proper emphasis on each.

It was further concluded that the most effective working unit for accomplishing our objectives among servicemen in Europe is a couple and two single fellows with the home as their base of operations. . . . Our permanent long-range strategy in working with servicemen is that provision must be made to contact men and maintain contact with them during their free time off the ship or base.

Jim’s overview went on to say:

Of course, there is a flexible strategy. As likeminded chaplains and military commanders are open to our ministry, we expect to capitalize on the opportunity and work on the base. However, a Nav representative is not expected to spearhead permanently the work on a base. It is better that service personnel themselves spearhead the work with the representative periodically visiting and working with them while maintaining a solid contact with them off the military installations. The principle, generally, is that men under training will come to us after a reasonable time of going to them. We must be prepared to maintain an equally effective work regardless of whether the base is open or closed to us. . . . In determining the priority target areas for servicemen’s work, our present conclusions are in this order:

1. Shipboard personnel
2. Isolated base where personnel are accessible
3. Service school with six months or longer course of instruction
4. Ordinary base
5. Recruit training center

In considering what constitutes an “isolated” base, we have concluded that it is where:

1. The traditional American way of life is unavailable
2. Men spend much time on base due to geographical or cultural isolation
3. There is no major off-base attraction even when a pass is available

In considering when and where we will begin a new work, we must give attention to the following:

1. Is the location a priority target area?
2. Has there been a Macedonian call or are there present men of God who are interested in or have the potential to become interested in our objectives? These must be the right age, right marital status, and accessible for training.
3. Will it detract from, be in competition with, or supplement an existing evangelical ministry to servicemen?
4. What is the attitude of local military officials and chaplains?
5. Is a suitable base of operations available?
6. What are the providential circumstances and is there a sustained inner conviction that confirms the Lord’s leading?
7. Are suitable Nav personnel available?

We are further convinced that the success of our work in a particular area is proportionate to the effectual prayer which has been mobilized in its behalf.

The Log for February 1962 featured “Servicemen in Action.” In this article, Lorne acknowledged that it wasn’t easy to live for Christ in the service. The Apostle Paul must have realized this when he warned his young companion Timothy, “to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The Log, which was quite compact in those days, goes on to tell the story of an Army, a Navy, and an Air Force Navigator.31

Lorne reported the following in early March:

Our first Europe servicemen’s worker for 1962 is on his way: Gene Powell, who trained at the Glen in 1957-58 and more recently assisted Cec Davidson with servicemen in the Norfolk area. The same week, Bill Michel sailed for Naples en route to Frankfurt to resume his work with servicemen.32

In April, Jim Downing will be going to the Orient to survey things there so as to get the complete servicemen’s picture which should enable us to make proper and balanced plans. Especially are we concerned at this point about Korea.33

Jim was soon able to declare: “For work among American servicemen, Korea is the greatest challenge I have seen. There are many isolated spots and many fine chaplains who will cooperate to the extent of their ability. Everywhere I go, I can see that all the public relations work we do with chaplains pays big dividends.”34

In September, Lorne reported from Europe. “The coming of the new servicemen’s workers was eagerly anticipated. In addition to Mirl Kimberling, Bob Wattles arrived in early October. Tom and Nancy Heeb, and Jack and Joann Blanch have also been assigned to work with servicemen in Europe and expect to arrive later in the fall.”35

By October 1963, Bill Greenaway was able to observe that, “We now have in Europe a consistent ministry on around thirty-three bases and posts, representing a manpower pool of up to 120,000. We are giving individual time to around a hundred men.”36

From April 1963, the Naples Christian Servicemen’s Center had a new location, closer to the fleet landing and much larger. Tom Heeb was in charge. However, Lorne reported little more than a year later that, “We have made the decision to discontinue supplying representatives for the Naples center as we have done for twelve years. The servicemen’s center board feels a church is needed to minister to the six thousand English-speaking personnel in the area; hence, the emphasis of the center will be directed to families, as well as visiting single servicemen. . . . Tom and Nancy Heeb will finish their three-year term by transferring to Germany. We should continue to encourage our service contacts to stop at the Naples center.”37

Increased Field Outreach: 1960s

In 1964, Glen Eyrie was sinking into deficit. One response was a forced exodus of men into the field. Ron Oertli38 had surveyed various military installations in the Southeast U.S., so he and Joe Stone moved there under the leadership of Skip Gray. Up to that point, we had only been working with enlisted men. Now, there was the added dimension of recruiting officers.

Lorne reported in December 1965 that “Skip Gray, getting under way down (in the Southeast), declared he had never been so busy. Ron Oertli at Columbus, Georgia (Ft. Benning), is already in contact with a number of officers. Carl Vargo is staked out at Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Metzgers had a half-day conference for their contacts in Charleston. The Lord is blessing Gene and Linda Powell in Jacksonville, Florida. Ron York, whom LeRoy Eims described as a man in motion, is up to his ears in Marines in Jacksonville, North Carolina.”39

At around the same time, the end of 1965, Jim Downing observed an increasing number of men taking discharge overseas to help our staff for a year in outreach to servicemen. “Over fifty were eligible for invitation to a weekend conference last month in Germany—men who were established in the basics, leading others to Christ and following them up. Joining the servicemen’s staff this month in Germany are Joe and Pam Holt, who will be ministering at Kaiserslautern.” In the Asian segment of his tour he also found thriving servicemen’s areas. One instance was a note from Harv Oslund that sixty-two men had begun Bible study in the last sixty days in Okinawa.40

A couple of months later, in laying out for our staff the Nav priorities for 1966,41 Lorne mentioned three things that stood out to him in the US work. He wrote:

• The development of our regional structure and the forming of the regional directors into a team to help Leroy (Eims) in long-range planning, policy recommendations, personnel development and placement.
• While not losing momentum in our gratifying collegiate work, we are seeing revitalization in our work with servicemen. This is particularly true in the Southeast.
• This year, we have specialized summer training programs involving well over four hundred young people . . . vital to the young men and women coming up in our areas.

The Vietnam Years: 1960s and 1970s

In 1966, pressed by questions from college students in Japan on US involvement in Vietnam, Lorne concluded that we needed to be more current on issues of international concern. Therefore, he arranged and moderated a Nav symposium at Glen Eyrie on Vietnam.42

Rod Sargent outlined the history from the beginning of French colonization. Jerry Bridges traced the story of US involvement and the reasons supporting it. LeRoy Eims then presented the case of those who opposed our involvement. Participation was lively, with many questions from the floor. A great deal of research went into the various presentations and all concurred that it was worthwhile, informative, and stimulating. Lorne wrapped up the day with reflections on how the war affects our missionary calling. He emphasized that “the important thing is that the work of God go forward (Habakkuk 3:2). In the midst of evil years, God’s work is being revived. This is not the first time in history that heavy military and political action has made opportunity for the Gospel.

Meanwhile, Roy Robertson was impressed by the tremendous openness for ministry in Vietnam. He moved there for a couple of months to help Vern Betsch, mainly in ministry among Vietnamese servicemen, and to prepare for a large-scale evangelistic crusade in Saigon with the Asian Evangelists Commission. He reported in April that average nightly attendance at the Saigon United Crusade in the Olympic stadium had been five thousand. Roy asked prayer for the nation’s leaders and continued Gospel opportunities, as a government curfew interrupted the meetings after three nights. Roy’s visit to Vietnam convinced him that our primary target groups there must be American and Vietnamese servicemen. Accordingly, we asked Vern Betsch to major on work with American military, as part of our overseas servicemen’s ministry, with a view toward working with Vietnamese servicemen when the war ended and American troops moved out.43


In August, a concentrated Singapore program included a missionary rally attended by 350 young people, with a challenge from Waldron Scott (Scotty) on world evangelization. An update on our Vietnam thrust was provided by Harv Oslund.

Good relations with chaplains. . . . Every door opened . . . all but one contact seen that we hoped to see. Several decisions were made for Christ and a number of Christians encouraged and challenged in discipleship. After a half-day conference and an Andrew dinner in Saigon, our teams traveled to bases north and south of Saigon on an itinerary set up by Captain Chuck Singletary. Vern Betsch and his helper Al Zielke are greatly encouraged by the servicemen’s ministry in Vietnam.”44

Singapore is a compact country, though it has more than seven hundred churches. Raj Mannar, an early Nav leader, points out that consequently we were functioning “seamlessly with the high schools, polytechnics and universities . . . so that there was much fluidity among the different ministries.”

Given the access to many young men who were required to serve two years in the military, we developed a strong military ministry. Patrick Tan was an influential Navigator during his service as a helicopter pilot in our early days.

Then, Yap Kim Meng45 entered Army service in 1973 and resigned as a captain after eleven years. He had become fluent in both work and ministry; after some time, he refused promotion in order to stay in a desk job and have more availability for personal ministry in the military. He turned our Navigator focus from national servicemen to career soldiers, and our ministry rose to around one hundred participants.


In Australia, our military ministry, the first in Canberra,46 began during John R’s national service47 in 1971-1972. He was called up for the Vietnam War but was instead sent to Thailand to tutor the Crown Prince who would be coming to the Royal Military College (Duntroon) in Canberra.

John R discipled Robin Dennis, who lived in the same hostel (Lawley House) at Duntroon, with Robin later concentrating on outreach at the Australian Defense Force Academy (ADFA).48 Robin soon led Mike Swan49 to the Lord. Mike is the current chairman of our board. Robin has led hundreds of people to faith over the years and still serves on our Brisbane city leadership team.50

Robin’s military ministry in Canberra proved to be very fruitful across the years. Among others, he discipled Gary Allan, who served as our board chair for almost a decade. Mike Johnson came from the US in the late 1980s to help at the ADFA, going on to serve on our board and become our country leader. Mike discipled Dan Burns who later led the work at ADFA and also served as the leader of our student stream and as Canberra city leader.

Mike Johnson also discipled Ian Watts who was an Air Force officer instructor at ADFA and served on our Board.

Grant Dibden was an Army officer who resigned and became our country leader in November 2002. Many cadets came to the RMC from Singapore and some earned the Queen’s Medal. The first of these cadets was Alan Tan, while John R was still teaming with Robin.

As seen above, our Australian military ministry has focused on officers, although Dave West ministered to enlisted men at Wadonga for five or six years around the turn of the century.


General Wilson-Haffenden had urged us in 1961 to give more attention to working with British servicemen.51 He later served on our UK board for many years. Our records are sketchy, but Tony Rogerson, returning to the UK after his time at the Air Force Academy, did have a ministry with five RAF officers: John Piggott, Colin Weaver, Gary Brunning, Mike Stanhope, Phil Mader. Adrian Nance survived the sinking of HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War and subsequently had a strong ministry of testimony in the UK, later serving as captain of HMS Ark Royal.

Worldwide Leadership Developments

In September 1966, Rod Sargent called together the directors of the servicemen’s work in the US. Dave Johnston joined them from Europe. In this process, Dave became a US regional director, bringing the servicemen’s work in Germany as a region under the American ministry that which would facilitate planning and coordination. Meanwhile, Jim Downing would continue to supervise our US servicemen’s work in Okinawa, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.52

Later that year, Roger Fleming, who was working in San Diego among servicemen, observed that “Men are most responsive to the Gospel during their first few months in the service.” Lorne’s comment was that, if this was generally true, it is a principle that should affect our ministry.53

Taking soundings among the US military in Europe, we find an active program during 1967. Joe Lee Holt ministered in Kaiserslautern and at Ramstein. During the year, we saw:

  • Forty-one servicemen at a key men’s seminar
  • Forty-eight at a Philip dinner in Bitburg (Gene Powell)
  • Seventy-three at an Andrew dinner in Hahn (Bob Byrd)

In 1968, Cec Davidson took over our military ministry in San Diego.

In the same year, Skip Gray was actively recruiting officers as our southeast regional director. In April, he visited our US servicemen’s ministry in the Pacific including Saigon, Manila, Okinawa, South Korea, and Japan.54

The Log for December 1969 was a special military ministry issue.55 It focused on US Navigators and listed the bases where we had on-going ministries with servicemen:

  • United States (119)
  • Germany (17)
  • Okinawa (8)
  • Japan (5)
  • Korea (5)
  • Philippines (1)

However, 1970 saw a move to cut back on the scope of the overseas work among US servicemen, the reason being that this kind of ministry was not suitable for training contact staff and thus for raising up future Reps.56 In the same communication, we learn that Rod Sargent returned from the servicemen’s work in Europe with the report that morale was high and the ministry was booming. Especially significant were the fifteen to twenty men who had taken discharges in Europe to live in Nav homes for training.

During the 1970s, active duty US military declined from more than three million to a low point of around two million. However, the 1980s began with a fresh emphasis on recruiting. For us also, it was a time of expansion. When Jack Mayhall appointed a US Military Advisory Committee (MAC) in 1977, we had thirty Nav staff engaged. During the next five years, this doubled and by 1983 more than seventy staff had a primary ministry to military personnel.57

By then, we occupied 110 military bases within the US, as well as Nav activity among American forces in England58 and East Asia, where our plan was to increase from two to ten staff couples by 1990.

Harv and Maydelle Oslund led our Europe military ministries for four years in a period of much fruit. When they arrived in West Germany, around 150 were involved and, when they left in 1984, there were more than 750 closely tied in with our ministry.59 They were replaced by John and Barbara Boyd as our military director in Europe. In this period, Craig Parker led our ministry at Ramstein AFB, the largest American Air Force Base outside the US.60

In England, Ron and Sharon Magnus served at the US AFB in Upper Heyford. He led a singles Sunday School class and taught the 2:7 Series to military couples. Having graduated from the AFA in 1978, he resigned as a captain to follow Harv Oslund to New York.61

In the early 1980s, some 350,000 US troops were stationed throughout Europe.

Our stateside military work in the late 1970s and early 1980s had three principal clusters: West Coast (Paul Drake),62 Southeast (Terry Taylor), and Tidewater.

Our military entity had been launched in 1991, with Rusty Stephens as director until 1997. He worked throughout those years with the same team. When Alan Andrews took over as US director in September 1997, Rusty became his chief of staff.

US Military Directors

It will be helpful at this point to summarize our succession of US military directors, with their terms:

  • Rusty Stephens: September 1991 to September 1997
    • Submarine Officer, discharged June 1980, joined staff
  • Ron Holechek: October 1997 to May 200
    • Army Officer, discharged 1974, joined staff
  • Dave Mead June 2009 to March 2014
    • Army Officer, discharged November 1986, joined staff
  • Darren Lindblom April 2014 to present
US Organizational Milestones

Also, note a few dates that were relevant to the US military ministries:

  • January 1990: Scriptural Roots of Ministry, edition 1
  • September 1990: US strategy consultation 2
  • September 1990: US National Ministries Council
  • September 1991: Launch of constellation concept
  • April 1992: US decision to join The CoMission
  • August 1994: US military office from Virginia Beach to USHQ
  • December 1994: USNMC affirms new structure
  • September 1997: Alan Andrews appointed US director
  • April 2003 US National Leadership Council adopts The Core
  • September 2004: USNLT adds Holechek and four others
  • September 2005 US restructuring
  • February 2007: Stephens appointed US field director
  • March 2007: Naventure 7, military ministries
  • April 2008: Naventure 8, military ministries
  • October 2008: Doug Nuenke appointed US director
  • August 2013 New US structure: three field directors, military in sphere 1, launching

Struggle for Effectiveness and Increased Secularization

The first Nav training program to be held on a military base took place in 1985 at Camp Pendleton, California. It was hosted by a committee of chaplains which worked intimately with Nav staff to make the endeavor a success. LeRoy Eims, who had served with the First Marine Division in World War II as a machine gunner, spoke eighteen times during the course of the program.63

Rusty Stephens moved to Virginia Beach in 1985 to be area supervisor for all our local ministries.

In 1988, Rusty became our director for the Mid-Atlantic region.64 He had left the Navy in 1980 and was the first graduate assigned as Nav staff to the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He describes65 our posture around 1980 as robust. “The ministry was energetic and there was aggressive expansion . . . then the wheels fell off, culturally.” He recalled that, “This was due to several factors, including the fact that in the post-Vietnam military and the all-volunteer military (beginning in 1975), military personnel were becoming more connected with mainstream society. With the all-volunteer force, pay increased and gave more financial access to cars, entertainment, etc. I remember in 1986 going into a restaurant. I saw a young, well-dressed sailor park a red sports car and walk into the restaurant. I thought, “We’re going to have to go after guys like that differently.” Also, the children of the Vietnam generation were entering their adult years — more cynical, changing social mores.

During the 1980s, Rusty launched two “informal” training centers, one at the Academy and the other in Tidewater.66 The sole purpose of these two centers was to identify staff interns, bring them in close, and train them in life and ministry. By that time, training centers had evolved to become more relational and “whole-life,” less rigorous and programmatic.

Rusty comments that our oscillation between geographical and missional structures flowed out of an ongoing struggle to be more effective: both structural systems had advantages and some gaps.

In 1986, he was asked to lead a task force out of which emerged an important military conference in 1989. Time had been needed to prepare because there was insular resistance among some of our people, which Rusty sums up as dysfunctionality and competition. The conference did address vision, strategy and structure. It was followed by a “change meeting tour” in 1990. These were meetings around the U.S. led by Terry Taylor and his team in which the new direction and structure were presented. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was used with the staff for the first time. The new entity directors spent a day with their regional staff to introduce their emerging structures and directions.

From around 1990, when Rusty became our military director, as part of our move from regions to entities, the Scriptural Roots of our Ministry was being introduced (with mixed results). There was much attention to secularization.67 His personal perspective was that the SRM was not adequately championed by Terry Taylor. A little later, the “Six Critical Factors” were introduced and expounded.

As Rusty recalls, “The emotional pressure to stay authentic to our calling was excruciating.” Our grass roots energy focused on “trying to reach people on their turf and get them started, but our leadership capacity was insufficient to add decisive value.” He added that we “substantially misunderstood how committed God is to our freedom.” The presence of God, at work in His people and the world, can birth new communities.

During the early 1990s, our approach to military ministry among Americans evolved in concert with our overall US emphasis. By 1993, our staff were banded into fifteen Military Area Leadership Teams (MALTs).68

The new Military Leadership Team (MLT) traveled to each MALT for a field assessment, starting with the Carolinas in September 1993: the focus was on building trust and developing expertise. Changes that were percolating69 included:

  • Numbers are less important.
  • Faithfulness to the process of reaching, equipping, and serving military men and women for a lifetime of discipling among the lost is of supreme importance.
  • Assessment: anecdotal in form rather than statistical.
  • Timeframe pressures are minimized.
  • Assess intangibles and internals, not only externals.
  • Shift to looking at progress as a process rather than completed achievement.
  • Avoid using evaluation results as a motivator.
  • Separate correction from ministry assessments.

This was to some degree a new, or at least refreshed, narrative. As an example of the need, Larry Sherbondy’s feedback to Rusty opined that “many staff don’t want anyone above them to get involved in local things. . . . We ought to correct this. Need to get over this adolescent thing. . . . MALT leadership and development is not happening, because no one is making it happen.”70

As the MLT recognized, “the process is fragile as many USMM staff are older, traditional in their outlook, and prone to go back to statistics-oriented assessment.71

During the 1990s, the urgency of the challenges needing the light of the Scriptures increased: loneliness, materialism, job pressure, immorality, family abuse, long separations, and deployments, danger, and death.72

In this context, it is remarkable to read the address to Navy chaplains in 1995 by General John J. Sheehan, commander-in-chief, US Atlantic Command.73 Some extracts include:

The needs, especially spiritual needs, of our service men and women are more complex than those of the past. . . . The institutions for support like family, church, and community are significantly weaker. . . . Many young servicemen are more alienated and confused than ever before.

Chaplains remain part of the problem . . . not the solution. When ethics questions surfaced at the Naval Academy, chaplains . . . came up with some very innovative ideas. A character development office, moral remediation programs. While all such programs address the consequences, none addressed the societal insurgency which created the problems: the spiritual void in American society.

General Sheehan went on to review the vision statement and values of the Naval Chaplains.

You are not here to ‘energize people with hope.’ . . . That’s my job. You are not here to ‘mobilize the Navy with moral leadership.’. . . That’s my job. You are not here to ‘build community.’. . . That’s my job.

Your fundamental job is to tell us about God. You are here to be our spiritual leaders and guides. You’re here to tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. . . . The Chaplain Corps has become so politically correct, so homogenized, so ‘professional’ that you’ve lost your charisma, your prophetic edge, your very raison d’etre. By trying to reach everyone without offence, are chaplains in fact reaching no one? My challenge to you is this: rediscover your roots. Your vision should emphasize your role as spiritual leaders. . . . It’s time for all of you to refocus your attention on the job God has given you . . . not the institution called the Navy.

By 1995, we were clear that, “Our strategy commits us to helping strengthen a discipling movement among the lost in the military by focusing on reaching, equipping, and serving military men and women for a lifetime of discipling among the lost.” Because the US military at that date was 85 percent enlisted, 29 percent minority, 12 percent female, our strategy placed a focus on young personnel, ethnic minorities, both men and women. By locating our staff at major concentrations called Antioch Centers, coupled with a new group of traveling74 staff, we recognized that active duty laborers, rather than our staff, will be the ones to impact the US military for Christ.

These Antioch Centers were at:

  • Camp LeJeune/Cherry Point, MCAS
  • Colorado Springs, CO, all military
  • Ft Bragg/Pope AFB, NC
  • Ft. Hood, TX
  • Frankfurt, Kaiserslautern/Heidelberg Army/Air Force
  • Norfolk, VA/Tidewater, all military
  • Northwest Florida
  • San Antonio, TX, all military
  • San Diego, CA, all military (includes Camp Pendleton and other Marine Corps bases)
  • Seattle/Tacoma, WA, all military

We should mention that, in 1993, we received a formal invitation from Moscow to put on, in cooperation with General Zolatariov, a consultation for Russian military officers in Moscow. This was a fascinating experience. Our team worked hard on preparations, with Bruce Kittelson steering the organization of the event75 and following up with various Russian officers. Jerry White spoke, in uniform, as an American Air Force general. The focus was on the development of ethics within the Russian military.76

Reaching a New Generation: 1990s

By 1997,77 the US military had stabilized at a reduced level of 1.4 million, excluding dependents and civilian employees. As an all-volunteer force, it was well-disciplined and drew recruits from a wider variety of ethnic and social backgrounds. Race relations in the armed forces were visibly better than those in the civilian world.

As regards the mission, the US military were more involved with foreign militaries and nations than ever before.78 Several factors contributed to some strains.

  • Peace-keeping missions required long and unwelcome tours overseas.
  • Promotions were harder to come by, as fewer leaders were needed.
  • Pay scales were not keeping pace with inflation.
  • Social changes, such as opening more combat jobs to women, required new solutions.

Within the Navigators, we had an acute need to raise up a new generation of staff: our primary military audience was under thirty. Our four main Antioch Centers (Colorado Springs, San Diego, Fort Bragg, Seattle) were a focus of attention for our MLT. The other places we had identified for such centers were still not fully functional due to lack of staff or leaders, although the Antioch Center in Kaiserslautern (Germany) was developing well.

All US service academies had growing ministries with at least two staff couples. Progress was good in linking our people at the academies together and in networking the fruit of the academies into active duty stations upon graduation.

Our ministry plan anticipated that, by the turn of the century, we would have five Antioch Centers, three service academies, and fifteen strategic ministry locations at optimum effectiveness.

What about our local ministries? Many were growing. However, “like much of the US Navigators, we were not fully there yet in terms of effectively ministering among the lost,” and we needed to become skillful at equipping the average “layman” to reproduce his life among the lost.

Military personnel transferred to new assignments every two to four years. Also, 60 percent of them were not careerists. Therefore, we were making good strides in networking across the military entity, but had much work to do in networking with Nav ministries outside the entity.

Although the entity was clearly growing, several of the hindrances noted in our plan had to be overcome. For example:

  • Staff tended to feel overloaded.
  • Many ministries were stuck in religious traditions and affinities.
  • A lingering trust gap among some staff.
  • A truncated or narrow view of ministry.

Against such factors we affirmed that our staff were committed to multiplying laborers, committed to military people, possessed of a long history of fruitful ministry and a good reputation.

Working with Chaplains and Chapels

Our connections with the chaplain corps continued to be strong. As Jerry White had said, “It is so easy and comfortable to go off-base to church, but I’m a strong advocate of people ministering in the base chapel in strong cooperation with the chaplains.”79

By the late 1990s, chaplains also experienced significant change and stress. Their numbers had been reduced and they were being asked to do more and more work which fell outside of “ministry.” They were under pressure to make available resources for all religious expressions…and servicemen not interested in religion were referred to them for counseling. They were still evaluated by a secular, competitive rating system.

Nevertheless, our staff knew how to keep involved with the chaplains. Some of them urged us to help run their chapel programs though many did not share our relational approach to the lost. In those years, base access remained fairly open for our staff.80

Dave Mead, looking back at our history, commented:

We’ve always viewed chaplains as the gatekeepers to the service members. . . . It really is a team effort. . . . Much ministry can come from good relationships. It’s not unusual for a chaplain to lead someone to Christ and give them to a Navigator to disciple. Or to have a Navigator lead a worship service while deployed (including the sermon). I’ve made it a personal habit to visit the installation chaplain to let them know I’m here and happy to serve within our Calling.81

In fact, we have built excellent relationships with chaplains across many years. Two examples:

  • In 1984, twenty-five chaplains stationed at Fort Sill attended a three-day Nav seminar on “Training Laymen to Do the Great Commission,” taught by Don Arvin and Dave Dawson. Don reported that “each chaplain received two thousand pages of notes in bound volumes!” According to Jim Downing, this seminar was the first of its kind in our history.
  • In 1990, Rusty Stephens made his annual round of visits to the chiefs of chaplains in the Army, Navy, and Air Force in Washington, DC. “All three were cordial . . . no concerns or problems expressed by the chiefs. . . . All three have had personal experience with The Navigators. . . . All three understood the limits to our involvement in local chapels . . .”82

The Englers returned to the US from Europe in late 1996 and began ministry at Fort Lewis-McCord.83 They became a team with Joe and Pam Holt and Wes and Johnena Drake, and with Cadence84 . . . in developing “a church plant on the military base geared to Generation X,” building on a vision God gave Chaplain Steve Peck.85 This initiative became a stimulus for many other Army bases to introduce their own “Chapel Next,” as detailed by Al’s account:

The military chapel system then was straight out of the 1950s. Steve wanted to jump from the 1950s to the late 1990s. Because he was a good writer and a passionate visionary, he secured grants from the Army to buy musical instruments and PowerPoint equipment. . . . We went in to the old freezing kitchen, started the gas oven, huddled around praying that God would birth something there. . . . We advertised for musicians, but the good ones were not yet believers so our first conversions were in the band! We tore out all the pews and set up a projection screen. As well as creative fun, we provided services (such as free car washes) to those on the base. People just came. . . . We never had to invite them. We soon had more than 150 participants.

Soon, they had a better building and organizers gradually took over, although attendance rose to around five hundred. Al and Iris were flown by the head chaplain at Fort Campbell to Kentucky to brief his team of chaplains on the history of Chapel Next. He wanted us to restore a heart for the lost. In time, the concept, unsurprisingly, became chaplain-dominated.

Developments in the 2000s

By 2003, Al was rising in his rank in the reserves and was struggling with those responsibilities, military ministries, neighborhood, family, and the metro requirements. So, he let go of the military in July 2007. The Englers moved to Seattle and took that metro leadership role for four years.

Ron Holechek had joined the US military as the Vietnam War was coming to a close. He served as a military intelligence officer for three years and had the privilege of debriefing Army POWs in Denver.

Discharged in 1973, he served as staff in Arizona and California, moving from Sacramento to San Diego in 1976 to work with Paul Drake. He married Patti in 1979 and, almost immediately, moved to Michigan to help Larry Whitehouse and learn how to be a staff trainer. Then, he returned to San Diego and trained staff until 1987. Next, he spent six years in Hawaii as our state supervisor, overseeing military, collegiate, and community. He recalls the late 1980s and early 1990s as a time of much instability in the US Navs, as we organized in entities (1991) and went through a change process.

The Holecheks moved to Colorado Springs in 1994, as Terry Taylor in his last three years as US director was investing more in shared leadership and consolidating the work.

Alan Andrews became US director in September 1997 and Ron served as our military director from October 1997 until May 2009. He took over at a time when there had been quite a lull in recruiting, and some conflict among field staff. Sadly, trust in our leaders was at a low ebb. Issues lingered, without clear resolution.

Ron served on the NLT for his first two years, during which Andrews was energetically promoting the “high-trust culture,” bringing to bear both grace and truth. In our military ministries, healthy patterns began to take hold and recruiting resumed. He moved off the NLT when Andrews reduced the unwieldly membership by freeing Legg, Beidler, Sanders, and Ron from participating in the team.

After Dave Mead structured our military work in branches, Al Engler was chosen to lead the Army branch, having most recently served as our metro leader in Seattle. He recalls that, after 9/11, the military world was very different. From his account:

Everyone was being deployed to a combat zone. . . . We had robust ministries that were led by staff, but men were deploying to assignments where there were no staff. Two typical stories:

• ‘I deployed and was the laborer, leader, discipler . . . and I fell flat on my face. Nothing happened. I could barely walk with Jesus and realized that I had just been playing around. Now, I am serious.’
• ‘I went over there and God used me incredibly. I couldn’t believe it.’

Guys who came back and had seen God greatly use their lives without a staff leader were not the same.

At the same time, our strategy was changing from being target-centered to being laborer-centered. So, to follow our key laborers, we encouraged our staff to travel more as part of their mission. To sustain primary relationships, to visit key laborers, to be with and to coach them. This was a large cultural change. We saw a new energy and focus, much more laborer-led.

As Al points out, this approach to ministry required living with some ambiguity, often without the security of an established ministry. For example: “Fort Bragg is our most robust military ministry. It has been humbling to see generational fruitfulness. However, what happens when there’s no Fort Bragg? Are guys able to labor when you haven’t provided a wonderful structure for them in which to labor?”

Second Gulf War Deployments

What was the effect of the massive deployments to the second Gulf War on our ministry? Ron put it this way in 2004:

We’re experiencing different challenges and changing opportunities. There is a spiritual openness, which is very good. There are more requests for Nav staff members. It’s harder to establish discipling relationships, however, due to deployments and schedules. People were constantly coming to faith. There was more fear, anxiety, and uncertainty because of all the rapid deployments. . . . It allowed us (because staff couldn’t go to Iraq) to see whether what we were doing with our laborers was actually effective. They were sent over there without any staff being able to come alongside. I wrote, ‘This has allowed us to see how our Nav-trained laborers do on their own in a very challenging spiritual environment without Nav staff close by. Our feedback is that, in the heat of battle, their character and training stood the test. We’re proud of how they’ve been responding . . .’86

On Being a Hero

Our military work continues to be primarily with the enlisted, although work among those who were or had been military officers increased significantly after we established ministries at the service academies. Much depends, of course, on the background of our staff leaders. Our strongest momentum has usually been among those in the Army.

In general, our excellent relationships with chaplains have been a great asset, and we have learned much about supportive and cooperative service.

Enlisted men are easier to reach in group settings, officers one-by-one. Mixing among the ranks is feasible only when there is spiritual maturity, when our fruit have at least reached the level of disciple-makers.

Back in the early 1960s, Lorne Sanny had described what he saw as three marks of a hero:

1. He (or she) had penetrated into the meaning of ultimate reality. He knows where he came from, why he is here and where he is going. The one ultimate reality: God himself. David, one of God’s heroes, had penetrated into the meaning of ultimate reality. He saw things from God’s point of view. The army of Israel was afraid as the Philistine giant challenged them forty days. But David saw him as one who defied the armies of the living God. David was concerned with that which concerned God.
2. A hero holds this truth and lives by it in humility, honesty, and sincerity. David was willing to go from the king’s court back to tending sheep in the country, and was as faithful in obscurity as he had been in prominence. He was faithful in that which was least, that which was another man’s. Then when his angry brother accused him of pride, his answer was quiet. Perhaps this victory was greater than that of the giant, for ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city’ (Proverbs 16:32). . . . In approaching the giant, David had one thought: the honor of God.
3. A hero gives himself without reservation or qualification. What he believes . . . he is willing to lay down his life for. David cast himself on God without reservation. ‘Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ How many of the army were willing to fight? It’s difficult to get people into battle. But a Christian hero will commit himself. ‘Thy servant will go and fight.’ David said moreover, ‘The Lord . . . will deliver me . . . and all this assembly shall know that . . . the battle is the Lord’s.”87

Within our military ministries, we have been privileged to invest spiritually in the lives of many heroes.

By Donald McGilchrist
13,118 words

Attachments (click on link)
Dates for the American Military
Numbers of US Nav Military, including Spouses
US Active Military as of 2011
US Active Military: chart
Schedule of Publications on File

See also articles on:
Overseas Policy Conference: 1961
Clarifying Our Calling: 1960s
US Field Ministries: 1960s
Fundamentals of Navigator Missions
The CoMission
The Approach to The Core


  1. Source: Paper on the Nav servicemen’s work of April 1963, Downing to Sanny. Downing went on to raise questions and offer recommendations that would strengthen our military ministries.
  2. “Dear Gang,” Dawson to staff, March 29, 1951.
  3. Letter from Trautman to Dawson in February 1951…referring to what he expected by September of that year.
  4. “Dear Gang,” Dawson to staff, March 29, 1951.
  5. Source: “Dear Navigator Family” letter of August 23, 1993, US military ministry.
  6. There were deep needs, for servicemen on a relatively small island and a very different culture, far from home. Temptations abounded.
  7. Source: Wargula to Mike Schmid of February 26, 1997.
  8. V-Mail 13.
  9. V-Mail 14.
  10. V-Mail 16.
  11. February 22-24. Key people also in attendance were: Louie Bock, Larry Nielsen, George Bostrom, Doug Sparks, Rod Sargent, Ed Van Dellen, Hank Noffsinger, Ken Swan, Lila Trotman, Irene Johnson, Leila Elliott, Addie Rosenbaum, Jean Keith, Ouida Arnold and Mildred Hopkins.
  12. In contrast to a common assumption that Daws made personnel decisions by himself, the conference discussed by name the suitability for overseas assignments of twenty-one candidates.
  13. This brief sentence masks an extensive discussion on our relationship with the Board of Christian Servicemen’s Centers of Greater Europe (CSCGE).: there was overlap…Nav staff on their Board…cordial though confusing relationships.
  14. “Dear Gang,” August 10, 1953. Condensation of Dan Piatt’s annual report.
  15. As well as this war between North and South (1950-1953), the entire country had been occupied by the Japanese during World War II (and indeed annexed since 1910), a severe blow to national pride and the cause of much oppression. From 1945 to 1948, Korea was, in practice, under the trusteeship of the US Army. Then, in 1950, the North invaded the South and a harsh war ensued. Hard work, with the determination to recover, moved the South rapidly towards a strong economy after the armistice of 1953.
  16. Replacing Bob Newkirk.
  17. Tim was with the intelligence branch of the US Army. He was allowed to bring his wife to Korea if he had a place for her, so they moved into Ron’s extra bedroom.
  18. “Dear Gang” of June 4, 1956 including Cozart to Daws of April 20, 1956.
  19. Commanding general of the First ROK Army.
  20. At the start of 1955, Lorne told his staff that “for the first time since the two post-war conferences which were held in 1946, we are having conferences exclusively for servicemen…early in May and late in September.” “Dear Gang,” January 20, 1955.
  21. Sanny to area leaders and overseas representatives, March 23, 1957.
  22. To balance this impressive list, we noted that it was hard to keep track of servicemen after discharge.
  23. “Dear Gang” letter of January 28, 1958.
  24. “Dear Gang,” December 18, 1961.
  25. “Dear Gang,” January 17, 1962.
  26. Servicemen’s Centers were usually run by a board of local pastors and Christian leaders. Our role was to provide staff for the actual outreach in such centers.
  27. When I met Dan in London in 1964, he shared his passion to reach “up and outers.”
  28. “Dear Gang,” January 31, 1962.
  29. This and the following paragraphs are taken from Jim’s summary results of the above conference, held during January 15-19, 1962.
  30. In August 1960, Bill Greenaway had been sent to Europe as the first Nav Rep who did not work out of a center. Source: July 23, 1963 overview.
  31. Christianity Today, May 24, 1963, was a special issue on ministering to the military. It offered an in-depth analysis of the spiritual and moral temperature of the American serviceman.
  32. “Dear Gang,” March 2, 1962.
  33. “Dear Gang,” March 14, 1962.
  34. “Dear Gang,” May 14, 1962.
  35. “Dear Gang,” September 27, 1962.
  36. “Dear Gang,” October 15, 1963, postscript.
  37. “Dear Gang,” May 1, 1964.
  38. Ron recalls that “one hundred men a year came to Christ at Fort Benning. . . . Out of this came Paul and Phyllis Stanley, Steve Covell, Bob and Betty Lovvorn, Tom and Caroline Eynon.” Source: Interview on February 27, 2013.
  39. “Dear Gang,” December 3, 1965.
  40. “Dear Gang,” December 17, 1965.
  41. In Lorne’s Nav priorities for 1966 (February 16, 1966).
  42. “Dear Gang,” 1966-3. Held at Glen Eyrie on January 20, 1966. This symposium at the Glen came twelve days after Operation Crimp, the largest American operation of the war deploying nearly eight thousand troops. The goal was to capture the Vietcong’s HQ for the Saigon area. However, American forces failed to locate any significant Vietcong base. Source:
  43. “Dear Gang,” April 15, 1966. “Meanwhile, the Pocket Testament League is working with Vietnamese troops, and we have been asked to help. Mr. Quang, who has been with us since we began in Vietnam, will take responsibility to continue our present work among Vietnamese nationals.”
  44. “Dear Gang,” August 26, 1966.
  45. Interview with Kim Meng on January 16, 2012. In those years, it was still customary to distinguish “work” from “ministry.” He eventually joined our staff in the 1990s.
  46. See also the history of the Australian Navigators prepared by Robin Dennis for their fiftieth anniversary, accessed on May 4, 2011.
  47. National service was selective by lottery, ending at the conclusion of the Vietnam War. John R had completed his PhD, in solid state physics at the University of New South Wales. Jack Griffin had invested in John, after John heard Leroy Eims in May 1967 at an early Nav conference, preaching on the Lordship of Christ.
  48. ADFA is also in Canberra and provided a three-year program that prepared recruits for the RMC. The ADFA offered a relatively general liberal arts degree, while the RMC was more focused on equipping cadets with military leadership skills. In November 1972, John moved to Glen Eyrie to be Waldron Scott’s assistant.
  49. Mike Swan had a distinguished experience at the RMC. He was a Blamey Scholar and won the Peter Mitchell Travelling Award and other distinctions.
  50. Dibden to McGilchrist of May 22, 2015.
  51. Source: Robertson paper on May 1, 1961 to overseas co-laborers.
  52. “Dear Gang,” September 30, 1966.
  53. “Dear Gang,” November 11, 1966.
  54. “Dear Gang,” 1968-8.
  55. The Nav Log, December 1969. Another military ministry issue listing all the US bases where we were working was published in July 1970.
  56. “Dear Staff” letter, 1970-2.
  57. In 1983, the MAC comprised Bob Byrd (Texas), Ken Graham (West), Jeff Jernigan (Southeast), Cal Johannes (Midwest), Don Lanier (Pacific), Harv Oslund (Northeast), chaired by Paul Drake with Roger Fleming representing the USLT.
  58. We held our first military conference in England in the Spring, with Doug Moore reporting that 110 men and women attended. In the same year, Harv Oslund visited bases in Italy and Spain to assess whether we should send staff to those countries.
  59. The Oslunds moved to New York where Harv became the regional director for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
  60. Military Ministry, issue 4.
  61. Military News, issue 6.
  62. Paul, who chaired our Military Advisory Committee, guided our military staff development center in San Diego.
  63. Source: The Nav Military News, issue 7, 1985.
  64. He changed the name from Delmarva: Delaware, Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington, DC.
  65. Interview on March 27, 2013.
  66. This (collegiate and military) included two African-Americans, Raymond Eaddy and Cedrick Brown. These centers were called Antioch Centers.
  67. First military consultation on this topic was in 1991 with Terry Cook as speaker.
  68. Eleven in the US plus one each in Asia and Europe. See December 1993 NMC assessment process, development summary.
  69. Source: December 1992 USMM assessment process.
  70. Taken from fax from Rusty to the NLT on January 13, 1994. Larry adds that, if our strategy is too stuck on geography, we’ll miss it. Let’s “target the key people, not just concentrations.”
  71. Taken from December 1993, loc cit.
  72. Source: USMM Explanation, April 1994.
  73. General Sheehan was also US Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT). He spoke at Newport on October 30, 1995. Extracted from his deeply challenging address to the chaplains.
  74. Our September 1995 strategy identified six potential traveling circuits.
  75. At the conference, 550 Russian officers attended. This conference ran from March 29 to April 3.
  76. In 1997, the Russian Military Christian Fellowship (RMCF) was formally registered in Moscow, after the building of relationships and the encouragement of AMCF president Sir Laurence New. See email of March 26, 1997 from Dave Uhles.
  77. The following paragraphs extracted from the USMM 1997-1998 ministry plan dated May 22, 1997.
  78. US forces were present in 1997 in fifty-seven countries.
  79. Military News, issue 2.1, 1984.
  80. Source: USMM ministry plan, May 22, 1997, as above.
  81. Mead to Kochanasz of April 12, 2018. Dave adds that Army and Marine Corp chaplains tend to be more evangelical and committed to teaming.
  82. Source: Stephens to USLT of July 3, 1990.
  83. Like Heidelberg, Fort Lewis had been unstaffed for several years, so that it was a pioneering assignment.
  84. The Officers Christian Fellowship was renamed as Cadence International. As of 2012, it had close to two hundred missionaries in more than fifty locations. See
  85. At that time, a captain with roots in Campus Crusade and Dallas Seminary. Together, they launched Chapel Next in a condemned World War II military chapel building.
  86. Interview with McGilchrist on June 10, 2015. Ron passed away on December 24, 2016.
  87. “Dear Gang,” November 27, 1963.
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