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The chapel at Camp Zama is currently undergoing renovations.
The chapel at Camp Zama is currently undergoing renovations. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

CAMP ZAMA, Japan — The mildew gave off an awful smell and the sanctuary wasn’t the most pleasant place to worship.

So U.S. Army Japan and the Army chief of chaplains office pitched in to give Camp Zama’s chapel a much-needed $600,000 face lift.

“Like any old building you come into, there’s just a smell and a feel to it,” said Maj. Keith Croom, Zama Chapel Protestant chaplain and the resource manager. “This will enhance our worship experience.”

The building is one of the oldest at Zama and by all accounts probably should be replaced, Croom said. Parts of walls are rotted and the electrical system is antiquated.

It was built more than 50 years ago and underwent a $2.7 million renovation in 1998, according to base news records.

Under Japanese facilities-improvement project agreements, the government of Japan — which funds new buildings on U.S. bases — can’t build a replacement chapel since it’s not mission-related. The command and chief of chaplains office came to the rescue, pitching in $300,000 each.

“We didn’t have any choice but to renovate as much as we could,” Croom said.

Croom’s predecessor, Maj. Craig Burch, and Lt. Col. John Powers, U.S. Army Garrison-Japan chaplain began renovation planning about three years ago. Details were finalized a year ago.

The building will have a fresh coat of paint and other minor improvements such as new carpeting, but most of the renovation work is under the surface, including new window frames and the removal of mildew.

The renovations are designed to make the building more comfortable and more inviting to worshippers and the community. More than 400 people attend various services there each weekend, Croom said.

The renovation also shows the commitment to serving soldiers by the chief of chaplains office and local Army leaders, officials said.

“It was really encouraging to me to see that,” Croom said.

The renovations will have a major effect on the structure but it’s still very old, he added. The sanctuary also could use a few modern details, such as large, mechanical wall screens where music and lyrics can be projected during services. The screens also could be used for briefings to make the building more multipurpose, Croom said.

Services have been held in another building since the renovations began in April. The project is expected to be done by early September. Before the chapel reopens, Croom said the chaplains will hold a cookout and open house to let everyone peek into the improved building.

It will look fresher but probably not too different, Croom said.

“It’s just a really needed, serious face lift.”

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