Photo:Chaplain Ken Walden, right, hands out a copy of Strength for Service to God and Country.
BALTIMORE, Md. –– Some 400 U.S. Army chaplains attending an Aug. 22-24 national training event were invited to provide free copies of a revised and updated World War II book of daily devotions to their troops.
Larry Coppock, a staff executive with the United Methodist Commission on United Methodist Men, provided sample copies of Strength for Service to God and Country to chaplains who have not already ordered them for their troops.
“Many chaplains came up to me and said they had copies so they did not want to take more,” said Coppock.
Published in 1942
The book was first published in 1942 by the Methodist Publishing House for members of the Armed Forces. The book included meditations written by 52 leaders of nearly every Christian community. Over one million copies were distributed from 1942 to 1945. The book was reissued during the Korean War.
“One chaplain said he carried his father-in-law’s original copy from WW II with him in theatre of operations along with the new copy that we provided,” said Coppock. “He read from it each day and ordered copies for troops he was ministering to.
“Another said that he read daily from the book and the devotions ‘hit home’ with the troops because of the connection and tradition of World War II and Korea.”
The historic book was republished by Evan Hunsberger, a California Boy Scout who was looking for an Eagle project. Evan noticed Eugene Hunsberger, his bed-ridden grandfather, reading from a small tattered book. Eugene told Evan he used to read from the Strength from Service book while he was a corpsman in World War II. Since the book meant so much to his grandfather, the Roman Catholic Boy Scout asked if it would be a good Eagle Scout project to republish the book for sailors in a nearby port.
“That’s not a good idea,” responded Eugene. “It’s a great idea.”
Evan sought permission to reprint the book from the United Methodist Publishing House, and following the September 11 attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the General Commission on United Methodist Men provided financial support and aided an effort to add 50 devotions by current leaders of all faith groups.
To date, some 452,000 copies of the book have been distributed.
One chaplain told Coppock he especially liked the book because the cover is tough and resistant to weather. Another liked the size. “It can fit in soldiers’ pockets and they sometimes carry 75 pounds of supplies, weapons, body armor. Optional items like devotionals have to be light,” ‘he said.
The magnitude 5.8 earthquake that affected many along the East coast also disrupted the August 23 meeting at the 20-floor Baltimore hotel.
“Within a few seconds the chaplains came running out of their room in what I would call an organized-chaos fashion,” said Coppock. “I heard a loud boom and thought it was a bomb. I followed them out the door and felt quite safe. Who better to be with in a potential crisis situation than a chaplain? And, I had 400 to pray with.”
Many of the chaplains told Coppock they will be deploying in the near future.
“I know from their comments that Strength for Service will be on their list of items to take with them when they venture into harm’s way.”
For additional information, visit the website (strengthforservice