HOUSTON, Texas––On March 20, Dan Ramsey, a retired Houston police officer and former president of the National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men, delivered 192 copies of Strength for Service to God and Country, a historic book of daily devotions, to patients at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.
That hospital had 7,280 admissions in 2016.
The books were provided by World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based company, which provided the Nashville-based Strength for Service Corporation with 30,000 copies of the book first published in 1942 by the Methodist Publishing House.
Working with Shelita Magee, manager of volunteer services, Ramsey presented four cases of the books to the hospital.
“Hospital Chaplain Moye was out of town on this day, but he returned a couple of days later,” said Ramsey. “I spoke with him by phone and he was excited to have this resource to share with his veterans and their families here in Houston.
“Thank God for this opportunity for me, as well as Chaplain Moye, as he moves forward attending the spiritual needs of our veterans.”
History of the book
With 365 devotions from pastors and leaders of nearly all Christian churches, the book was distributed to soldiers, sailors and marines shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A total of 1 million copies were given out before the book was finally discontinued following the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War.
The pocket-size digest was nearly forgotten until 2002, when a California Boy Scout saw his dying grandfather reading a tattered copy of the book.
Eugene Hunsberger told his grandson, Evan, that he carried the book as a Navy ensign during World War II and Korea.
“It always meant a lot to me, so I continue to read from it each day,” explained Eugene, who had trouble speaking because of collapsed lungs.
Evan was looking for an Eagle Scout project and asked his grandfather if it would be a good idea to republish the historic book for U.S. troops today. “That’s not a good idea,” whispered Eugene; “that’s a great idea.”
The United Methodist Publishing House gave Evan permission to reprint the book and his troop spent hours entering copy and asking contemporary leaders to add additional devotions.
Shortly after September 11, the General Commission on United Methodist Men agreed to support the effort, and in 2015, the commission formed a non-denominational corporation to continue the ministry.
Evan’s grandfather did not live to see the printing and distribution of 500,000 copies of the book, but military men and women are grateful to him for beginning an effort to provide them with spiritual support during difficult times.
Copies given to other VA hospitals
Copies of the historic book are routinely given to wounded men and women at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D. C.
“When I place a copy of Strength for Service to God and Country in the hands of wounded soldiers, they are elated beyond measure,” said Captain Vincent Dominique, chaplain at the medical center. “They see the book as a tangible manifestation of God’s help and protection. They get so much out of the daily devotionals that it is unbelievable.
California Heights UMC in Long Beach, Calif., provided 190 copies of the book to patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach. The Rev. Douglas Dickson, pastor, presented the books to the Rev. George Vogel, chief of chaplain services at the VA center.
Ray Rover, a leader of UM Men in the South Georgia Annual Conference, presented four cases (192 books) to patients at the Carl Vison VA Hospital in Dublin, Georgia.
Books available for distribution
If you would like to distribute the books to a VA Hospital in your city, you may contact Marc Stowe (firstname.lastname@example.org) (615/620-7262). He will provide you with a form to fill out.
L.W. Smith, president of the Strength for Service organization will review and approve the request. The books are free, but the ministry would be appreciative if you could help with shipping costs.