Heat, danger, dust, and death formed the context for the job I was sent to do. Operating from the philosophy that “ministry follows friendship,” I built relationships among the men and women at Camp Echo: military, civilian, American, and Coalition. This allowed me to be there when they were at their best and when they were at their worst, in their strongest moments and in their weakest.
In the heat of the battle and the heat of the desert, hours turn into days, which transition to nights, and add up to weeks and then months. The conditions wear you down, leaving an imprint on your mind and your soul: images that will be seen in dreams for months or years, sounds that reverberate long after you’re home, people you befriended and cared about and stared at death with, but will probably never hear from again. For many of us, it’s only memory now. But for others, the war continues … on the inside. (From chapter one of the new book, Safest Place in Iraq).
Even on good days, living for Christ is a challenging, risk-laden endeavor.One way to make the task a bit easier is to see how other Christianshave successfully navigated their temptations and struggles.
Safest Place in Iraq aims to do just that, by peering behind the curtain and showing how one military chaplain handled the various dangers, people, and circumstances he encountered during his war-time deployment in South Central Iraq. The result is a story that ranges from death and destruction to friendship and faith, and from temptation and torment to redemption and revival. Colonel Paul Linzey identifies the broad themes that everyone—both Christian and non-Christian—has to deal with when the going gets tough. He also shows by example what it takes to overcome life’s obstacles, whether dodging mortars in the desert, or fighting fear, loneliness, and temptation at home or at work. And in the process, Safest Place in Iraq shows that it is possible to remain true to one’s values and calling as a person of faith in a hostile world.
Safest Place in Iraqwould be perfect for individual reading, but it’s also ideally suited for a small group discussion such as a home group, bible study, a men’s group.
In addition to telling the stories of answered prayer, divine intervention, and people coming to faith in Christ, it answers questions that people are asking about Christians in the military, overcoming temptation, and other issues.
In February, I published WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage, and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about it. The Lord is using it to help couples improve their marriage. Last month, I spoke at a ministry training conference, and in attendance were quite a few pastors and volunteer ministers who work with couples in their churches. The session went really well, and there’s even more interest in using WisdomBuilt in church classes, small groups, and couples retreats.
Since then, I completed a book about my ministry experience as an Army chaplain in Iraq. I’m really excited to announce that Dr. Richard Blackaby agreed to write the foreword for the book. Plus, I have endorsements from chaplains, pastors, Christian authors, and several denominational representatives. It’s titled Safest Place in Iraq, and is at the publisher now. They tell me it’ll be available as an ebook by early 2020, and in print by next summer.
It’s a collection of stories or testimonies about how the Lord moved in people’s lives at Camp Echo, where I served in 2007. Tell you what . . . the Lord did some fantastic things among us, and it’s exciting to be able to share these stories: answered prayer, healing, and people coming to faith in Christ.
Interestingly, in August I submitted the manuscript to the North Georgia Christian Writers Conference writing contest, and won a First Place Peach Award in the Bible Study & Nonfiction Book category. I also entered it in the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Award writing competition, where it won a First Place Gold Award. Several Christian colleges and seminaries have already expressed interest in using it in their classrooms.
In the meantime, I’m teaching one class on campus at Southeastern University as an adjunct professor this fall. I volunteered to lead a 6-week Creative Writing course for a community-based senior citizen program here in Lakeland. I’ve been asked to mentor a missionary who is completing a Doctor of Ministry degree here. And, I continue to write devotional articles for CBN online, and freelance for a few other magazines from time to time.
So I manage to stay busy — maybe too busy! 🙂 But I’m having fun, and am thrilled to be able to speak into people’s lives, whether in person or through my writing.
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