By Joe Conway
Chaplain Major James Collins
ALPHARETTA, Ga. – As he developed his May 25 children’s sermon Mark Standridge planned to hold back one card from his young audience. The pastor of Placer Heights Baptist Church in Placerville, Calif., opened his brief message with a question for the children.
“Have any of you ever collected baseball cards?” Standridge asked. “When I was a boy I had a lot of baseball cards. Those players were my heroes. But today I want to share some cards with you that have real heroes on them.”
Standridge then handed North American Mission Board Military Chaplaincy Prayer Cards to the small assembly. He gave one chaplain prayer card to every child except one–7-year-old Timothy Collins. The young boy was a bit disappointed to be overlooked. Then Standridge played his last card.
“Does anybody recognize this chaplain?” Standridge asked as he held up the card. Timothy screamed, “That’s my dad!” Standridge said, “Timothy, this card is for you.”
The card, of course, was that of Chaplain Major James Collins, serving with the Army National Guard in Kuwait. Timothy was able to recount the children’s sermon story to his dad via Skype that evening.
“Timothy was in tears at church, and so was I when he told me this story,” said Collins. “Our church has ordered more cards. Everyone is praying for their chaplain, especially the children.”
The chaplain prayer cards are one of the resources produced by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to help churches support their chaplains. NAMB sent a 50-card set to every Southern Baptist church in May. Additional free cards may be obtained by calling 866-407-6262 or visiting nambstore.com. Digital versions of the cards are available for download.
“There has been an absolutely positive response from both chaplains who have received support and from Southern Baptists who have expressed gratitude for gaining a greater appreciation for their chaplains and the roles they fulfill, especially their evangelistic ministries,” said Doug Carver, NAMB’s executive director for chaplaincy and a retired U.S. Army Major General. “The prayer cards certainly met the intent of our goal to create a vehicle for communication between chaplains and churches and to keep chaplains connected with churches.”
Carver and his team receive continual confirmation of that communication and support from chaplains. Lt. Col. Oliver J. Bergeron’s experience is typical.
“I am humbled by the tremendous and overwhelming response I have received via emails from people all over the country in response to the chaplain cards,” Bergeron reported to Carver. “It has truly been a treasure to know that I have people who don’t know me praying for me!”
Bergeron serves as a chaplain with the Kansas Air National Guard at McConnell Air Force Base. The prayer support has encouraged him.
“I am grateful and blessed because of Southern Baptists’ prayers and I feel their prayers,” said Bergeron. “Through those prayers God is using me in wonderful ways to reach people and to minister to their needs. Two Sundays ago (my pastor) approached me and said, ‘Guess what I got from NAMB and guess whose picture was on top?’ He was about as excited as I was embarrassed. But the response and personalized emails from all over have meant a lot and have made me stronger through the Spirit in ministering to the troops.”
Collins shares the excitement. But he has a prayer team he knows well.
“When I talk to my kids on Skype they tell me about praying for their chaplain,” said Collins, who is scheduled to return home in December. “My children are trading the cards with other kids from the church to pray for more chaplains.
“The most difficult thing about being deployed is being away from my wife (Amanda) and my children (Timothy, Abby, 10 and John, 4). But it is such a blessing to know that they are praying for me and other chaplains because of the prayer cards.”
Click here for other resources churches and individuals can use to honor returning members of the military and chaplains.
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.