In 2008, the Rev. Doug Hudson had a burning question.
Who was responsible for planting PCA churches near U.S. military bases, churches like Trinity Reformed Church in Landstuhl, Germany, where Hudson ministered for 15 years?
Today, Hudson is the answer to his question. He left Trinity in 2008 to direct Ministry to the Military International, a ministry of Southeast Alabama Presbytery that plants English-speaking churches near U.S. military bases in Europe and Asia.
Hudson said service members have limited church options at most international bases, and since the military groups many disparate denominations into the general “Protestant” category, Protestant chapel services do not have consistent biblical teaching, let alone Reformed teaching.
“[Military personnel] are left to the devices of off-post churches that are generally more baptistic and charismatic,” he said. “What is absent is a Reformed presence.”
PCA Officers Asked for Help
Southeast Alabama got involved when a group of U. S. Air Force officers who attend PCA churches were stationed at the Air War College in Montgomery. When those officers were transferred to Ramstein Air Base in Landstuhl, they contacted Southeast Alabama about helping them plant a Reformed church. The presbytery sent Hudson to organize a church in 1993.
In addition to the church in Landstuhl, Southeast Alabama has sent church planters to core groups near the military bases in Okinawa, Japan and Wiesbaden, Germany. By the end of 2012, another group will form in Stuttgart, Germany.
The Rev. Philip Gelston pastors Christ Church of Wiesbaden, a core group composed predominantly of Americans but also has a healthy percentage of Germans and English speaking internationals.
“The Frankfurt area is very international and many non-Americans are finding us and visiting our core group meetings. We are delighted to be a church home for them because in many cases, their English is better than their German. We love what they have added to our group dynamic. Because of our location, we get to be a light for the nations in a unique way.”
In Okinawa, the Rev. Mark Moore appreciates the support and sense of connection he receives from Southeast Alabama and the strong leadership service members bring to Christ’s body.
“We don’t have the luxury of long training programs for church leaders. We have to identify God’s calling upon these men quicker than most congregations because they’ll be gone in just 2 or 3 years,” Moore said. “Thankfully, because of their military training, leadership has been ingrained into most of my congregation so it’s easy for them to identify areas of need and then step up to find solutions.”
Expanding to the Academies
In addition to international military church plants, Hudson has a vision for expanding the ministry stateside to service academies like West Point and large bases like Fort Bragg, N.C. Many of the service academies have no Reformed campus ministry, but bringing an organization like RUF to those campuses could prepare the way for future church plants.
“If we had someone at military academies, [academy graduates] could join and build a Reformed church wherever they go,” he said.
Despite the obvious challenges of being far from family and having high turnover due to members being transferred, Moore said the Lord has richly blessed him with the opportunity to minister in Okinawa.
“The Lord provides the people year after year, and they are the greatest group of loving Christians I could ever hope to serve. Their sense of duty and courage and love for God, church, and community make them modern day centurions of great faith.”
For more information, see Hudson’s website, ministrytothemilitaryinternational.com.