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I would have heard about this accident and about Rebecca's passing simply
by existing at Howard Air Force Base this week; it's been the main piece
the last two days. As with you, I've known hundreds of people in my military career, and I've known many much better than I knew this family. I've also
heard of many fatal accidents over the years and managed to recognize their tragic nature, if only briefly. But this particular one -- seemingly distant
from Panama - has touched me and many others because of where we've been and what we've done while here. I feel loss -- almost as if she had been a part
of my own...family...but then, believers, SHE WAS FAMILY, wasn't she? You see Rebecca, her mother, and her younger brother, like me (the "Lone Known
RLDS" in Panama), have fellowshipped and worshiped at the Howard AFB Chapel while the military has had us "enjoying the tropics." Tina had stood in the
service only this past Sunday, saying her last farewell to those of us to be left behind. She gave thanks for the blessings and experiences she had
shared here and expressed a hope that she would find a congregation -- like this one -- in Puerto Rico, where she could continue to feel the Spirit of
God moving in her life and in the lives of her family members. I have felt that same type desire and I testify to you today that I believe
the Lord is working His purposes out, both in that respect and in many more. And, it seems evident He is doing that wherever believing hearts are seeking
Him - including here in Panama - and with yours truly. The question then follows: "What is His purpose in this time and place, for me?" since the
basis for my presence was apparently "just" a military assignment to pursue fighting the drug war.
To start with, being in Panama, away from my own wife and children,
and away from the extended family of the RLDS Church, has been one of the
experiences of my life. There is nothing that can adequately prepare a father (and husband) to be away from his family (except for "brief
intermissions") for what is going-on two years now. Failure to adapt and to grow in key areas can be devastating to a marriage and to a family in such
circumstances. Praise the Lord his Spirit that strives with us -- for He has seen us through and the marriage I enjoy with my wife Sheila is growing in
strength, even in this separation (there's an added basis for that too but it will have to wait for a different testimony)! I'd have to say that my faith
is being expanded simply as I release much of my family's care directly to the Lord's able hands. His Saints in Ogden, Utah (and they are RLDS,
Methodist, Baptist, Assemblies of God, Presbyterian, Lutheran and more) are, in fact, working His purposes out, in that respect, as they assist my family
through their part of this trial. Knowing that others serving in special ways because of the circumstances they are placed in (an example being in
close proximity to my family), are doing God's will, cause me to examine my own circumstances in a renewed light. For, while the opportunity for
"spiritual stagnation" here has been great as any, my faith has instead called me to growth -- and the Lord has called me to participate in service.
Even so, I can relate that there aren't any RLDS church planting activities going on in Panama because of my presence and I haven't exactly been an
"RLDS" Evangelist by anyone's standards either.
I have been loved and accepted by Saints in congregations across the
USA. But here in Panama where I haven't found any others of my particular
have been loved and accepted by a chapel family that is all-at-once Methodist, Baptist, Assemblies of God, Presbyterian and more -- a wide
spectrum of those who believe. Among this people I have been a worship participant, a member of a scripture study, allowed to assist as a lay
reader, a communion server, a group and solo singer, and in bringing children's ministry. I have been accepted as I occasionally stood and
offered praise to the Lord, made requests for prayer (perhaps for you), and even urged "all us parents" to take an active hand with our kids -- based
upon what I have seen on television and in our military stores. I feel like I have been "adopted" into the head Chaplain's family and typically partake
of a meal with them two time a week. And on Sunday evenings, in a chapel sponsored program for fellow single and unaccompanied members, I am allowed
to lead the worship and guide the discussion. This love, from such a broad spectrum of the Body of Christ has caused me to renew my reflection in what
it means to be a part of that Body in the World - and it has dictated renewed efforts at personal growth. The Body of Christ exists here, and I as an RLDS
member, am called to be a part of it -- but by no means can I imagine being the only part.
I have shared the joy of seeing new life brought into the chapel fellowship.
I have rejoiced when there have been baptisms and confirmations.
As the US
presence in Panama has dwindled, I have also felt a keen sense of separation as others have moved on. And now, I have indeed felt the pain that is
associated with a loss that cannot be reversed -- at least while we are still in this earthly walk.
The RLDS Church is a church of growth and we are engaging in growth
today in ways that give me encouragement. It's a special thing to
be called to be a
member of this particular faith -- but it's more special to be engaged in the spreading of the Gospel wherever we are and with whoever we find ourselves.
Incidentally, one of my favorite sayings happens to be: "It won't be a church lawyer standing next to me on Judgment Day" meaning: the concept of
"denomination" will probably lose a "drastic" amount of importance at that moment. The Body of Christ is likely as close as your neighbor -- who is
seeking the Lord and your fellowship. The outstretched hand is able to be initiated equally well from either side. Be the one who reaches out and
answers the call -- wherever you may be -- so God, through your willing participation, can work His purpose out in people's lives. And pray for me,
as I work within the Body of Christ.
Tim Kunzweiler - Major - USAF - 22 May 1999
A cloud of depression hung over Susan's once optimistic spirit. Just getting through each day was an exercise in frustration and exhaustion. And all she had to cling to was her husband Mark. Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all of his heart. When she first lost her sight, he watched her sink into despair and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence she needed to become independent again. Mark's military background had trained him well to deal with sensitive situations, and yet he knew this was the most difficult battle he would ever face.
Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Mark volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city. At first, this comforted Susan and fulfilled Mark's need to protect his sightless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task. Soon, however, Mark realized that this arrangement wasn't working. It was hectic, and costly. Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again, he admitted to himself. But just the thought of mentioning it to her made him cringe. She was still so fragile, so angry. How would she react?
Just as Mark predicted, Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again. "I'm blind" she responded bitterly. "How am I supposed to know where I'm going? I feel like you are abandoning me" Mark's heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened. For two solid weeks, Mark, military uniform and all, accompanied Susan to and from work each day. He taught her how to rely on other senses, specifically her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. He helped her befriend bus drivers who could watch out for her, and save a seat. He made her laugh, even on those not-so-good days when she would trip exiting the bus, or drop her briefcase. Each morning they made the journey together, and Mark would take a cab back to his office. Although this routine was even more costly and exhausting than the previous one, Mark knew it was only a matter of time before Susan would be able to ride the bus on her own. He believed in her, in the Susan he used to know before she'd lost her sight, who wasn't afraid of any challenge and who would never quit.
Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. Monday morning arrived, and before she left, she threw her arms around Mark, her temporary bus riding companion, her husband, and her best friend. Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude for his loyalty, his patience, his love. She said good-bye, and for the first time went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday..... Each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan never felt better. She was doing it! She was going to work all by herself! On Friday morning, Susan took the bus to work as usual. As she was paying for her fare to exit the bus, the driver said, "Boy, I sure envy you." Susan wasn't sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all, who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live for the past year?
Curious, she asked the driver, "Why do you say that you envy me?" The driver responded, "It must feel so good to be taken care of and protected like you are." Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about, and asked again, "What do you mean?" The diver answered, "You know, every morning for the past week, a fine looking gentleman in a military uniform has been standing across the corner watching you when you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss, gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady." Tears of happiness poured down Susan's cheeks. For although she couldn't physically see him she had always felt Mark's presence. She was lucky, so lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight, a gift she didn't need to see to believe -- the gift of love that can bring light where there had been darkness.
God watches over us in just the same way. We may not know he is
present. We may not be able to see His face, but he is there nonetheless!
Be blessed in
this thought: "GOD LOVES YOU - EVEN WHEN YOU ARE NOT LOOKING"
In August 1941 I attended Silver Lake Reunion (WA) where an Evangelist speaking by the direction of the Spirit told young men then present: “if you are faithful to your covenant of baptism, you will have men fall to the right and to the left of you. Your lives will be spared. You will release from such situations without so much as the loss of a hair on your head.” I did not understand what all this meant until Dec. 7, 1941 and Pearl Harbor.
When that attack took place, I was on the Willard A Holbrook Army Transport. (The Navy ran better ships) We were one week West of Pearl Harbor in a 52 ship convoy. After hearing the attack on the ship’s radio, I knew what had been said in my hearing. Tokyo Rose came on the radio immediately after the attack listing (in order and column) our convoy. Reminding us that we were without naval escort and too far for air cover. It was a little unnerving for all, including me until I recalled the Lord’s promise.
During my 32 months in SWPA I spared many times. On R&R spent in Australia I met (when possible) with our church members in worship. My first experience: We did not list in phone books, I had no addresses. I found the LDS, went there, finally got a hint of where there was a group. I hired an air-bag operated taxi to the distant location. Spent 20 Aussie pounds, walked to the church meeting hall. It was then 11:30 AM and a Sacrament Sunday. No one was there, I inquired of a home nearby. I was told that they met at 1400 hours. I was directed to a local Deacon’s home a few blocks away. On knocking at the door his wife came. I handed her my Priest card (I had been ordained at Ft. Lewis, WA on 11-17-41 under the hands of Apostle D.T. Williams and my father W.W. Belcher). The lady closed the door with me outside. Soon I heard the loudest roar from inside and the door was flung open. I was ushered into a bedroom where the Deacon was. His wife served him breakfast IN BED on Communion Sunday.
He confirmed the time of meeting. I left and went for a walk staying
well away from the gathering I could see. I needed some evidence that my
RLDS was divinely called of God. After I could hear some singing (from
a familiar hymnal I well knew). I went in and sat on the back row. I spoke
to no one and no one spoke to me. I quietly said to the Lord: "If this
is your church, and I believe it is, let me feel the Spirit I know is of
you where I had encountered it at home, Graceland and General Conference,
etc." Without any delay God's Spirit rested on me in abundance.
The testimony I asked, and needed, was fulfilled in abundance. In
the intervening times in Australia (and elsewhere on my return from SWPA),
wherever I have met with the Saints, that Spirit is evident in ABUNDANCE.
When in Australia and sitting in the congregation of the Saints I imagined
I could walk out after the service, get into my car, and drive home to
my wife. My experience was shattered as I
opened the church door only to find I was 12,000 miles away. Such experiences solidified my faith and still does.
Skipping the years in between: When I boarded the USN transport In Milney Bay, New Guinea, I had weighed 132 lbs on my 6 ft 2 in frame. While I still had my hair, as was promised, I had lost eight.All I can say: PRAISE THE GOD WHO IS AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH. He did that for me.
Dan Belcher, Evangelist
Brenda and Meredith Mitchell are going to be returning to CONUS in July.
This will be a new experience for them since they have been in Germany
the past 17 years. We wish you the very best. They will be doing an article for us in the October issue.
Those of you that have snail mail ---- how do you like the new logo?
of you that are getting e-mail I have hopes it came through for you as well.
Let me know. If you like it we may be able to do some things for conference
updated: 14 Apr 2001
Additions? Corrections? Questions? Contact the Ministry to Military Personnel at CofChristPeacekeepers@yahoo.com!