This Sunday marked the third week of the relaunched Camp Johnson Chapel services. I was named the regular speaker at the Chapel last month. The Chaplain and I decided to change the time of service from 9:00 to 10:00 am. I had 7 plastic signs made with directions and time of service printed up that we put out every Sunday morning. Paint, a curtain to cover the bar area (the temporary Chapel is in the old officers bar on base) a pulpit and new seating pattern, Panera Bread pastries donated every Sunday morning by Centerview Baptist Church, Bibles from a local Gideon, and we were ready.
We get up at 5:30 on Sunday mornings, drive to the Chapel and put out the signs. Then Patty and I take our morning 3 mile walk through downtown Jacksonville. Then its back home to shower and get to Centerview for the 8:30 service, pick up the pastries, and leave just before Pastor gives the invitation so we can make it to the Chapel 20 minutes before the service starts. Patty sets up the coffee table and puts out the pastries. I arrange my pulpit and create an order of service. And then we wait for Marines and Naval Corpsmen to arrive. Patty and I have said to each other often that this feels like we are planting a church again, exactly 20 years after we entered full time ministry as church planters.
Sunday May 2 was the first service at the new time. in the month before, only Easter Sunday had attendees. Every other Sunday was an 0-fer. That first Sunday we were thrilled to have three in service. Last week we were excited to see five. This Sunday we had been praying for God to double our attendance at Chapel. With more signs, the Chaplain handing out flyers through the week for us, and many praying we had faith God could grow this new ministry.
FOURTEEN ATTENDED CHAPEL THIS WEEK.
Fourteen. Two had been at both previous services. Two more had been there last week. Some of those had brought friends. Others said they saw the signs and that brought them in. We know God brought them all. I preached on Philippians 1:12-14 about how though sometimes circumstances seem limiting (Paul wrote this epistle from prison) God is able to move His program for His people forward. There were a lot of smiles. A few concerned looks as the preacher stepped on toes Biblically, and even a few “amen’s” as I preached.
The stories from the Marines and Corpsmen touched our hearts. A young lady told us that a surprise formation was called that morning, and it lasted long enough that Chow hall was closed once they were dismissed. She was very thankful for the croissant and coffee. Another Marine showed up out of breath as he was initially told he could not go to Chapel this morning. But a compassionate Gunnery Sargent nixed that and said he could attend. He had to run a fair distance to get to us in time for the service. A young Marine came to my pulpit afterwards and asked for some counsel on getting back on track with God. I gave him a short lesson on Spiritual Disciplines and gave him an “assignment” for the week and instructions to come back next Sunday with a good report. Others spent time talking with Patty, glad to have a mother figure to talk to after so long away from home.
I gave all the Marines a challenge for this week- to start today, on the 17th, at Proverbs 17 and read one chapter a day Proverbs until next Sunday. Proverbs 17:22 says: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” We’ve sure had some dry bones lately. It’s good to get some Balm from Gilead after such a tough year and know that God is not only on His Throne, He is still in the business of changing lives, using His servants, and bringing many sons unto glory.