U.S. military chaplain and Kyrgyz Baptist pastor and family tour the Manas air base
Christian chaplains at the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan are starting a "religious exchange program" with a Christian church in Bishkek, the base's press service reports:
One of the four mission pillars of the Transit Center is to build relationships, and after contemplating how he could do this, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Steven Thompson decided to reach out to his Kyrgyz Republic brethren.
He asked a few of the translators at the Transit Center if there was a Baptist church in town. They did some research and found one. So one Sunday, Thompson, Master Sgt. James Iaun, the superintendent of chapel operations, and a translator showed up for a service.
Thompson later went back and preached a sermon at the church in Bishkek, and now the relationship will continue:
The exchange will continue when the Transit Center Gospel Choir performs at the Bishkek church. Tech. Sgt. Shuana Flowers, the choir director and an 376th Expeditionary Medical Group emergency medical technician, is coordinating the upcoming performance.
"I'm excited about this experience; it is different than anything I have done here," Flowers said. "I'm looking forward to meeting people at the service and seeing how they worship."
By the standards of past war-on-terror-proselytizing controversies (like this and this), this exchange program is pretty mild, as it's targeting Kyrgyz who are already Christians. But for public relations purposes, when there is a widespread (if erroneous) belief that the U.S. is engaged in a Crusade against Islam, it seems like poor judgment for U.S. military officers to be preaching outside the wire. As Manas is already in a precarious position politically, It'll be interesting to see if there's any blowback from this.