CONYERS, Ga., 3/16/2011 – In a dry, dusty place during a season known more for destruction than cultivation, God planted the seed for a ministry in Scott Reed’s heart.
Reed, now manager of the Conyers, Ga., LifeWay Christian Store, 20 years ago served in the U.S. Air Force as a staff sergeant in the security team detail. The Gulf War veteran became a Christian at 17 years old and keenly remembers wondering during his deployment about the spiritual state of the men and women he encountered.
One incident in particular stands out in his mind: a mission to recover the body of a pilot whose plane had gone down in the desert.
“When you’re out there for four days at a time, you have a lot to think about,” Reed said. “I can remember pondering [the downed pilot’s] state and his wife and kids he left behind. And you wonder if anyone ever shared the gospel with him or shared a Bible with him.”
Reed said he personally was never offered a Bible.
Today, Reed is part of an extensive team working to ensure that overseas military personnel these days have access to the Bibles and resources he missed while serving.
A few years ago, the Conyers, Ga., LifeWay Christian Store began inviting customers to spend a few extra dollars and purchase Bibles to donate to soldiers serving overseas. Individual LifeWay Stores throughout the country often take part in local service projects such as donating Bibles to particular ministries or plush toys to local children’s hospitals.
Customers at the Conyers store responded enthusiastically to the military ministry project and the store was able to ship Bibles to members of the military serving in Kuwait, Korea, Iraq and other locations around the world.
Always looking for ways to do more for the military, Reed began working with Keith Travis, director of the chaplaincy and evangelism program at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), to connect his store with an overseas chaplain in need of resources the store’s customers could donate.
Travis put him in contact with Capt. Bradford Phillips. Phillips serves as a chaplain in the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center at Lundstuhl Regional Medical Center in Ramstein, Germany. Servicemen and women injured in overseas service are stabilized in their area of service and then sent to Lundstuhl for full treatment and recovery.
Then, in mid-2010 Reed learned that First Baptist Church, Conyers, had a military ministry of its own through which the church shipped coffee and – when they were available – Bibles to military chaplains around the world.
Glenn Dyer, minister of new ministries at First Baptist, said the church worked through the NAMB to establish relationships with chaplains and learn their needs. Dyer said chaplains overwhelmingly indicated that the service members “rallied around stopping to chat around a cup of coffee.” So pounds of beans became the chief vehicle of the church’s ministry.
Reed offered to provide the church with some Bibles to add to their already thriving ministry efforts and suggested the church begin sending their Bibles to the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center at Lundstuhl.
“I set out to maybe get them a couple hundred Bibles,” Reed said. “What started as a couple hundred Bibles turned into thousands and thousands.”
Now, a total of eight LifeWay Christian Stores, some from as far away as Texas, are sending Bibles to the Conyers, Ga., store where employees gather them on a pallet. When that pallet is full, Reed calls First Baptist to come pick up the Bibles.
Via an e-mail interview, Phillips said that the boxes of Bibles had been slow in arriving at Lundstuhl even though the church makes a shipment once a month. But, Phillips wrote, right before Christmas 2010 he had received about 12 boxes with about 13 Bibles each.
“The ministry can begin in grand fashion,” Phillips said.
“We can’t keep enough nice Bibles here,” Phillips wrote, adding that men and women in service often leave for Lundstuhl quickly or unexpectedly and don’t have a chance to pack their Bibles if they do have one. “[Bibles] are always needed. When we get to the floors, we always ask each warrior if they need a Bible and a devotional – at least 50 percent of the time, the answer is ‘yes.’”
Reed said he wondered after leaving the military why God had allowed him to “take that detour” in his life. Now, several years into his involvement with military ministry, “I see the purpose of it.”