Afghanistan’s One-of-a-Kind Easter Sunrise Service

Post a Comment » Written on April 23rd, 2007     
Filed under: News
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (April 23, 2007) – A chaplain ordained by the Evangelical Covenant Church helped lead the only Easter sunrise service for military personnel in Afghanistan.

U.S. Navy Capt. James Fisher, who serves with the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A) in Kabul – put together the service with the help of another chaplain. The service took place at the military strategic headquarters in Kabul.

“The service was standing-room only and clearly presented the power and significance of the resurrection,” Fisher says. See Easter Sunrise for additional photos from in and around the area of the service.

CoverFisher says a Stars and Stripes reporter told a colleague that the sunrise service was the only one of its kind in the country. Logistics often prevent special services from being held.

“Because military chaplains are few in number in this field of ministry, we end up doing circuit riding ministry at a variety of Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and compounds,” Fisher says. “Circuit riding precludes a lot of the taken-for-granted special services that churches in the States enjoy.”

Fisher says he and Shaw were able to plan the service because they are located in Kabul, where several bases are close together and transportation is somewhat easier.

The chaplains said they were certain people would want to attend the special service. In addition to American military personnel, other attendees included members of the U.S. Embassy, international armed security forces, and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“In fact, all our commanding generals in the Kabul area are men of faith,” Fisher says. “The fact that they wanted a service and wanted to attend a sunrise service certainly helped. When leaders properly lead, the people are willing to follow.”

Fisher says the chaplains extend their ministry with the hope of encouraging displaced people, many of whom must now live in a compound providing very poor living conditions.

“Most of the people come from families who were either run out of their tribal areas by the scorched earth policy of the Taliban, who felt threatened by the Taliban returning to the rural areas, or who fled during the fighting of the war and had nothing to return to,” Fisher says. “Sadly, the people who populate the camps are the poorest of this nation.”

“The Command Religious Ministry team at CSTC-A sponsor a Volunteer
Community Relations program,” Fisher says. Part of their work is to distribute donations sent by individuals, churches and community organizations.

“We have a team of volunteers that sorts things out in a dry swimming pool that is now a basement under the armory,” Fisher says. “A liaison with a local representative of an organization called Sozo International arranges our visit with the tribal elders of the camp.”

The team distributes items based on needs or the seasons. Each visit requires three teams: a force protection team to protect against threats; a child diversion team that performs music, plays soccer, and even blows bubbles to engage the children; and a distribution team that provides the provisions to the families.

“The government of Afghanistan is ultimately responsible for the eventual relocation of families, either back to their villages – and many do return — or helping them establish new skills and find employment in the cities and towns,” Fisher says.

“The bottom line is that this is a country with a lot of hope for forging a new future, but it will take time,” Fisher says. “It also is a land ravaged by war over the last 30 years in combination with a lengthy drought. These factors have been significant hindrances.”

Fisher adds, “Now that the Taliban are gone, most of the citizens are working hard to
re-establish their country. We were asked to attend a wedding at one of the camps, babies are being born, and people are seeking a future. These are all signs of a belief in a better tomorrow.”

The Afghanis will need assistance, however, and Fishers hopes more organizations will contribute donations through Sozo International. Money will be funneled to schools, health organizations and other NGOs, and donors can pick where they would like donations directed.

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