The Soldiers’ and Aviators’ Scripture Readers Association

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The Soldiers' & Airmen's Scripture Readers Association

Journey Towards Recovery

Service personnel walking. © Crown copyright

Image: © Crown copyright

Our military has a mental health crisis that the gospel, through our Scripture Readers, can help overcome, but we need more Scripture Readers to do so.

By Lt Col (Retd) Dr Martin Gliniecki QGM, Executive Director

In the Spring 2024 Ready magazine, I wrote an article on ‘Building Mental Resilience through the Gospel’, listing some distressing statistics on common mental health disorders, particularly on young people and young men. I reported that the Armed Forces recruit primarily young men, and the number one killer of young men is suicide—more than one in four (27.1%). There is little respite to this devastating reality. A most recent survey of 4,910 veterans, commissioned jointly by the Royal College of GPs and the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, found that over half (55%) have experienced a mental or physical health issue since returning to civilian life. So, the data shows a growing mental health problem in our soldiers and aviators: military welfare services also recognise it, we in SASRA witness it, veteran groups see its effects, and as a parent of two serving Royal Navy sailors, I hear about it through them too.

Our mission remains unaltered: to spread the saving knowledge of Christ among the serving personnel of the Army and RAF. During our 186 years of service, we have adapted to God’s calling and witnessing, in new and innovative ways, beyond the barrack room, and where the power of the gospel has transformed lives. Previously, Scripture Readers witnessed in soldiers’ homes, temperance houses and in tented camps, as soldiers prepared to deploy to the Great War. In hospitals, injured soldiers were receptive to the spiritual nourishment necessary to complement their physical and mental recovery. Today, there are no military hospitals, tented camps or soldiers’ homes but the gospel is still rich truth, worthy of our greatest efforts to proclaim, and through new and adaptive ways.

Scripture Reader going 'behind the wire'. © SASRA

‘Our mission remains unaltered: to spread the saving knowledge of Christ among the serving personnel of the Army and RAF. During our 186 years of service, we have adapted to God’s calling and witnessing, in new and innovative ways, beyond the barrack room, and where the power of the gospel has transformed lives.’

Our endurance is a result of God’s grace, following His claim on us to proclaim the gospel and without compromise. If we wish to last another 186 years and beyond, then we need to adapt to the changing culture and character of modern soldiers and aviators, just as our predecessors did. Today’s military has the challenge of spiralling mental health concerns, anxiety, depression, trauma and bipolar, which as shown blight many of our troops and lead to severe outcomes if not addressed. Our Scripture Readers are passionate about providing pastoral care, wellbeing and welfare support, and we believe that those suffering across the range of mental and stress-related illnesses are best served by the gospel and signposting. Two Scripture Readers witnessed to a solider first in Aldershot and then in London before he left the Army. Late last year, in a suicidal state, this veteran called our London Scripture Reader, late at night, whose gospel message on the phone removed the threat of suicide. The veteran then met up with a retired Scripture Reader and earlier this year was baptised. Praise the Lord for the power of the gospel through His devoted Scripture Readers!

So, we need prayer and financial support to fund our current and new Scripture Readers in our vital evangelistic work, offering the gospel as a spiritual and pastoral guide to these young soldiers and aviators that are suffering. If we can get the gospel to them, then they are more likely to recover and that is one of the reasons for recruiting four more Scripture Readers in 2024. One of the three that we have already recruited this year arrives as a mental health counsellor from Combat Stress and will bring amazing skill and experience to share with current Scripture Readers, who also received mental health awareness training in March.

‘We need prayer and financial support to fund our current and new Scripture Readers in our vital evangelistic work.’

ASR Chika Onugha with soldiers. © SASRA

‘Our Scripture Readers are passionate about providing pastoral care, wellbeing and welfare support.’

Now is a good time to share our prayerful request for more financial support as Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 begins on 13 May. Will you prayerfully consider providing further financial support, so that we can meet our forces’ needs by bringing the gospel to more of those with mental health concerns? We wish our Scripture Readers to come alongside and pray with those struggling, cry with them in their suffering, rejoice in their journey towards recovery, and gently invite God to usher peace to into their troubled mind, body, soul and spirit.

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