Texas chaplain introduces Bosnia peacekeepers to Prince of Peace
___By Capt. Lee Elder
___Tennessee Army National Guard
___CAMP DOBOL, Bosnia--A Texas Baptist chaplain enjoyed multi-dimensional ministry while serving with U.S. peacekeepers in the troubled Eastern European nation of Bosnia.
___Chaplain Kim Norwood, a Brownwood native, was among more than 900 peacekeepers from the Fort Hood-based 1st Cavalry Division who served at Camp Dobol, which lies near Kalesijia in central Bosnia. As the camp's only chaplain, he spent nearly
seven months ministering to the task force's soldiers helping with humanitarian efforts outside of the base camp.
|CHAPLAIN KIM NORWOOD baptizes a new believer in a makeshift baptistry constructed at Camp Dobol, Bosnia.
___Despite his efforts in the outlying communities, Norwood, 45, said the best part of his tour was ministering to soldiers and their families.
___"The highlights were seeing soldiers that had no faith come to faith in Christ," he explained shortly before he left Bosnia in late September. "It was gratifying to see soldiers who had wandered away from God return and have them see how important spiritual matters were to them. They are making a renewed commitment to continuing their walk after they return to the United States."
___As soldiers committed their lives to Christ or renewed their faith, many expressed an interest to be baptized. Norwood--whose chapel facility lacked running water, let alone a baptistery--then had to improvise.
___So the graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary made a sketch for a portable baptistery to be situated in front of the chapel. Army civilian contractors working off Norwood's design built it.
___"They weren't sure initially what I was talking about," Norwood explained. "The Serbs sprinkle their converts, while Muslims don't have a similar ritual. However, they took my ideas from the drawing and did a good job with the end result."
___The wooden structure broke apart and ruptured a plastic liner when it was first filled with 250 gallons of water.
___Undaunted, Norwood had the baptistery reinforced with steel bands and got another plastic lining. Thistime, it held, much to the delight of those who received Christianity's first ordinance. These were the first baptisms performed during the camp's three-year history.
___Local history hasn't been nearly so influenced by Christian values.
___Religion is the root of much of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. The Orthodox Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims, together with Catholic Bosnian Croats, engaged in a bloody three-year civil war earlier in this decade that resulted in the deaths of more than 400,000 people.
___The suffering still hasn't ended for many Bosnians. Norwood said he felt compassion as he moved among many of the thousands of Bosnians who remain homeless or impoverished four years after the war's end.
___"It was unforgettable going to the refugee sites and distributing humanitarian aid and seeing first-hand the terrible effects of war and the terrible disruption to lives," Norwood said. "Seeing the effects of hate on people's hearts was moving."
___In addition to helping the victims of the war, Norwood took an active role in working with local clergy from each of the area's prominent faiths. He sought to help his nearby counterparts understand the mission of the 6,200 Americans still serving in Bosnia.
___"The interaction with local priests and seeing the role of the church in people's lives here, or the lack thereof, was a lesson for me," Norwood said. "You can see where the churches have become a national institution instead of a spiritual institution. The church here seems to have lost its prophetic voice and impact on the lives of the people."
___The American church can learn many lessons from its Bosnian counterpart, according to Norwood.
___"It's important that the church stay true to what the Lord tells us to do," he explained. "We must maintain our spiritual integrity so that we can speak into the lives of people and the lives of leaders."
___The slaughter of innocents on both sides during the war reinforced Norwood's belief in
a viable chaplaincy program.
|BELIEVERS WORSHIP with newly baptized converts during a baptismal service in Bosnia administered by Texas Baptist chaplain Kim Norwood.
___"Neither the Serbs nor the Bosnians had chaplains in their armies," Norwood said. "Seeing the atrocities that were committed on both sides demonstrates it is vital for our Army to continue to support the work of chaplains. Despite the controversies that surround the chaplaincy, it is necessary to discourage atrocities and encourage men."
___During his Bosnian tour, Norwood had a chance to offer encouragement to the fledgling chaplain program being started in the Bosnian Federation by its armed forces.
___"I met with two Muslim chaplains, and they are trying to model their chaplaincy after American chaplains," he explained. "They clearly saw the need to support minority religions--in their case Catholics and Orthodox--in their armies."
___Because of the dangers that still exist in Bosnia, soldiers there often are confined to their base camps when not on regular patrols. This factor makes the Bosnian tour a unique experience for many soldiers and often gives soldiers an opportunity to seek God, Norwood said.
___"With them not being able to be distracted and being confined to the base camp ... was one of those things that helped as far as helping people refocus spiritually since they didn't have any distractions from the world," he said.
___Today's Army, with its smaller, more-often-deployed force, is taking a toll on military families.
___"Seeing marriages fall apart, divorces and reports of infidelity was the hardest thing I dealt with," Norwood said.
___Norwood's commander, Lt. Col. Richard Totleben Jr., who commands the 1st Battalion of the 5th Cavalry Regiment, said Norwood was an instrumental part of his staff.
___"Many people do not realize how critical chaplain support is to a unit's mission," Totleben said. "It goes well beyond religious services.
___"Since we received this mission and started training about a year ago, Chaplain Norwood has been an integral part of my battle staff and completely prepared the soldiers and family members for this deployment."
___Once the unit's soldiers began arriving in Bosnia in late February, Norwood's role became even more pronounced.
___"During our time in Bosnia, Kim has really kept the soldiers focused on their tasks and mission," Totleben said. "He helped them deal with personal issues that could cause their thoughts to wander from this dangerous peacekeeping business."
___Norwood is on his second tour of active duty and has served six years as an Army chaplain. He also served five years in the Army Reserve while pastor of Texas Baptist churches in Lubbock and Sunray.
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