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Serving Together to Reach the Military By Tom Lancaster In April 2014 my wife, Dottie, and I had served the Lord together for over half a century. It has truly been the calling of our lives. We have found that even with the challenges and hurdles, there is great joy in serving our Savior as a team. From the beginning of our marriage and ministry, and even before we were married, the military has been a big part of our lives and ministry. Dottie's father and my stepfather were highly decorated for their roles in combat in Germany during World War II. Five days before we were married in 1964, I joined the United States Marine Corps. I was saved and called to preach shortly after we arrived at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. We spent the next four years growing in the Lord and learning to deal with deployments and separations. Despite the hardships, we loved military life. We did not know it at the time but God was teaching us things that would greatly benefit us in ministry down the road. Had not God called me to service, I no doubt would have made a career of the Marine Corps. I received a phone call in 1992 from Brother Jeff Alverson, making me aware of the urgent need of a missionary pastor for a small military church in Mannheim, Germany. Would I be interested? At first I said no. I felt I was where God wanted me to be. But praise the Lord for the Holy Spirit who immediately arrested my attention, and Dottie and I prayed and subsequently we were soon assured that God was indeed calling us to Germany to serve our troops stationed in Mannheim, Germany. We arrived at Rhein River Baptist Church (RRBC) the last week of August 1992, and we were greeted by less than 20 members. At the end of our first year, the church was averaging over 300. A year and a half after we arrived, the transient nature of military missions became a reality and we lost over 150 soldiers and their families as an entire brigade relocated to Ft. Lewis, Washington. But God continued to bless the church. In the 20 years we pastored Rhein River, the church received over 3,000 members and over half of that number were won to Christ through personal soul winning or the ministry of the church. Forty men who surrendered their lives at RRBC are in full-time Christian service. When my enlistment was over in 1967, we headed to Bible college, preparing for service. During Bible college God led us to plant a church in the town of Hartsville, South Carolina, and we pastored there for over ten years. God blessed the church, which is now called Forest Hills Baptist Church, with a Christian school, large bus ministry, and a radio and television ministry. We saw hundreds of souls come to Christ in those ten years. The current pastor was a teenager who was saved during our ministry. We have a very close relationship to the church to this day. In spite of a constant turn over in membership because of rotations, our church never ran over a consistent attendance of 175. For 18 years the church hosted the Euro-wide Christmas Retreat, the largest gathering of independent Baptist missionaries in Europe, and co-hosted the Euro-wide Ladies' Retreat for military and missionary wives. In 1978 God led us to plant a church in our hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. We packed up our two children and all our belongings and moved to Memphis. Six days a week we knocked on doors, inviting people to come and join an exciting new church. The church really took off and soon became one of the fastest growing independent Baptist churches in Memphis. The church saw a high day of over 900 people. One of the highlights of our 12-year ministry at Calvary Baptist Church was our outreach to Millington Naval Air Station. We saw hundreds of sailors and Marines ride our buses to hear the Gospel and then to enjoy a home cooked dinner, supervised by Dottie's mother. Scores of men and women came to know the Lord during those years. On a special military appreciation Sunday, we had over 200 sailors and Marines in attendance. Once again, God was molding our hearts for an even greater ministry with the military. In August 2012 the base at Mannheim closed. This was very difficult and emotional for us but we rejoice in two things: (1) It opened up the opportunity to do something that has been a burden on my heart for several years, getting into churches and Bible colleges to raise the awareness of the need for military missions and to try and recruit more missionaries to the military. In the past year and a half we have traveled over 60,000 miles doing just that. (2) We were able to turn over a stronger international church to a missionary who came through Rhein River Baptist as a soldier in early 1990. A special blessing for Dottie and me was having our son, Mark, and his wife, Julie, and our granddaughter, Emily, serve with us for about seven years. We also were blessed to have three other BIMI missionaries to labor together with us at some time during those years: the Larry Simensens, the John Hornbecks, and the Chuck Truitts. We also praise the Lord for our BIMI family who have been such a support through the years. Serving our military is our great joy and we praise the Lord for allowing us this opportunity.