From the Worldwide Faith News archives

UMNS# 553-Sept. 11 attack energizes effort to republish devotional

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Fri, 15 Sep 2006 16:21:01 -0500

Sept. 11 attack energizes effort to republish devotional

Sep. 15, 2006 News media contact: Linda Green * (615) 7425470* Nashville {553}

NOTE: Photographs are available at

A UMNS Report By J. Richard Peck*

Boy Scout Evan Hunsberger had just completed his Eagle project - an effort to republish a book of daily devotions - when terrorists hijacked four U.S. passenger planes on Sept. 11, 2001.

The book became available at the right time to provide spiritual support to a military that was being mobilized to fight a war on terror.

Evan, a 15-year-old Roman Catholic from Orange County, Calif., had adopted as his Eagle project the updating and republishing of a book of daily devotions that his grandfather had carried as a corpsman in World War II and the Korean conflict.

Since the book, titled Strength for Service to God and Country, had been published originally in 1942 by the Methodist Publishing House, Evan had asked the Nashville, Tenn., agency - now the United Methodist Publishing House - for permission to reprint the volume. The churchwide Commission on United Methodist Men, the agency responsible for scouting, was also encouraged to support the project.

After the 9/11 attacks, staff executives of United Methodist Men read the Sept. 11 devotion titled "Chosen to Suffer." It became obvious that the volume written in 1942 for men leaving for Italy, France, Germany and the Philippines was just as relevant for troops leaving their homes in 2001 for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The commission immediately set about helping Evan raise money, and by April 2002, the Nashville-based agency had shipped 20,000 copies of Strength for Service to troops being deployed to the Middle East.

With donations from people across the United States, some 250,000 copies of the book have now been printed. The new version contains an additional 40 devotions by contemporary religious and civic leaders.

Captain Pete Keough, an Army chaplain stationed in Iraq, recently wrote a note of thanks to the commission for sending Strength for Service to God and Country books.

"I have been carrying copies with me as I go 'outside the wire' to visit soldiers at the places of duty within the Baghdad region," he wrote. "I have worked it out to where at least one book goes with every squad. The feedback from the soldiers is unanimous: 'It is the perfect devotional for the warrior/soldier on the go.' I keep mine in my left leg pocket, a perfect fit. Your ministry is a huge blessing. May God richly bless you all!"

The 400-page books are also given to men following their basic training before they are deployed. "Strength for Service speaks right to the heart of a warrior and hits on the topics that are at the forefront of our thoughts," said Marine Lt. Jason Rochester, a chaplain at Parris Island, S.C., training center. "The size is ideal for carrying in a cargo pocket or in the pouch of a pack."

"I read a passage every night at lights out, and it always strengthens me and gives me motivation," said Pvt. Schmidtberger, a recruit at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The historic book was also sent to staff members of the Pentagon, which was hit by a hijacked plane on Sept. 11. Pentagon Chaplain Jim Driscoll said the books have "been much appreciated and used by civilian and military personnel throughout the Pentagon."

Ongoing support

One of the men who helped launch the project was Air Force Col. James E. Townsend who served as a chaplain in Vietnam. Now deceased, one of the last efforts of his life was to get this book distributed to the troops.

"In 1968, when I was part of our armed forces in Vietnam, we worked hard to provide spiritual support both to our local troops and to the flow of casualties moving through our hospital," Townsend once said. "Two things we desperately needed in our ministry were pocket-sized scriptures and pocket-sized devotional materials. We had neither during my tour. Because of the sheer number of casualties, we chaplains rarely had more than a few minutes to spend with each patient.

"A printed source of ongoing spiritual support would have significantly expanded the reach of our ministry. The timeless writings in Strength for Service to God and Country may provide inspiration and answers for many people in many walks of life."

As the United States marks the fifth anniversary of the terrorists' attacks, U.S. service men and women are again reading a Strength for Service entry for Sept. 11 that ends with a prayer: "Dedicate us anew to the high cause of world unity and give us the victory of an enduring peace. And so shall our suffering be not in vain. In the spirit of Christ we pray. Amen."

For information about Strength for Service, contact Larry Coppock, director, Strength For Service Devotional Project, at or (615) 620-7262, or visit

*Peck is a retired clergy member of New York Annual Conference and communications coordinator for the General Commission on United Methodist Men.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or


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