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Volume 17, Issue 3 Winter 2017 Thankful for BIMI Military Churches By Colonel Tray Ardese (Ret.) Director of Government and International Affairs and MAGPUL CORE When asked to write about my experience with Baptist International Missions, Inc. (BIMI), missionaries overseas, I jumped at the chance. I often wonder where I would be and what condition my family would be in if we had not found Maranatha Baptist Church in Okinawa, Japan. More than finding Maranatha Baptist, it really found us. To be perfectly honest, my family and I went overseas kicking and screaming. I am a little embarrassed to say it, but I did not take the orders well. I had given my life to Jesus in 2004, but I had been moving forward at a snail’s pace in my Christian walk, winning only slightly more than losing. There was definitely a change when I gave my life to Jesus as Lord, but it was going very slowly by anyone’s standards. God was working, but we had no idea what HE was about to do. My wife, who was raised in church but did not come to know the Lord until she was 24 years old, had been praying for our family. As a new Christian, I prayed a little but mainly at meals. In 2005, I was deployed to Iraq as part of an F/A-18 squadron, flying combat missions. The following year I deployed as a ground forward air controller in support of Special Operations Forces (SOF), and was wounded in June 2006. After returning to full duty in early 2007, I deployed a second time with SOF. With this third deployment in three years under my belt, I thought that I would have a good choice of orders since I was sure there was someone at that point who “needed to go overseas” more than I did. To my surprise, I was not given any other options but III Marine Expeditionary Force Okinawa, Japan. Dr. Jeff Alverson, Director/Editor Rev. Steve Nutt, Assistant Editor Dr. James Kennard, Military International Representative The story could have had a very different ending since I got a call from my monitor on the way to Japan, and he said, “You have been selected for command.” At that point, I could have by all rights requested orders to my next duty station in California. He asked very nicely this time if I could please continue to Japan for a year, I agreed with the request, and we arrived in Okinawa several days later. Japan is a culture shock for anyone from America. You cannot read the signs in many places, you usually don’t have a driver’s license, and you are jet lagged to the max because of the thirteen-hour time difference—ahead. Another shocking thing about Japan was driving on the opposite side of the road! After I got my license and figured out how to get around, we went church shopping. Once again, being a baby Christian, I was looking for a feel good church, but I did not have a lot of options. There were Charismatic churches, Catholic churches, base churches, the usual cults, and two Baptist churches. I figured we could visit the Baptist churches to look for a church home for my wife and four boys. We visited Kosa Baptist and Maranatha Baptist and both had merit in my opinion. Kosa was a Southern Baptist church with a band and a great preacher who was preaching the Bible accurately. Maranatha was an independent, fundamental Baptist church with a pastor who was an exciting by-the-book pastor. As we