Course leads troops in Kosovo down path of apostle Paul
September 30, 2003
To walk the path of righteousness isn’t as hard as it sounds. All a servicemember needs is some command approval and a deployment to Kosovo.
Troops who complete eight classes can take a spiritual retreat to follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul through three different archeological sites in Greece.
Religious historians believe Paul preached the word of Christ throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe some 2,000 years ago.
Chaplain (Maj.) Bruce David Farrell, of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division, said he knew it was exciting for some people just to be in the area, and he wanted to bring it home for them, as well as teach others more about history.
“I was born in the Dominican Republic as a traditional Catholic,” said Lt. Col. Diego Gonzalez, 2nd Battalion, 104th Aviation Regiment, out of Pennsylvania, who is taking the course to do the retreat. “Paul always impressed me as a young Catholic. It’s extraordinary that we can come here and walk the path Paul walked. It really reinforces my beliefs.”
Other say the “meat and potatoes” of the event is the history taught during the one-hour sessions.
“Going on the retreat is just the cherry on top,” said 1st Lt. Clinton Montoro, of the of the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, out of Pennsylvania.
Farrell said he thought interest in the program would dwindle after the first few classes.
“But to my surprise, the study sessions have been full every night. People are really into this,” Farrell said just before giving the fifth class Wednesday night in a chapel on Camp Bondsteel.
Petty Officer 1st Class Andrea Morris said she didn’t even know the retreat was being offered when she first came to the class, and now that she knows she might not be able to go because of other duties. Yet she does not stop.
“Well, I have to admit that I’m a lazy Christian. I haven’t read the Bible all the way through,” she said. “I heard bits and pieces of Paul’s trials and tribulations, but never like this. I’m learning so much.”
Though the classes follow the odyssey of Paul, religion is not the main focal point, since the retreat is a Morale, Welfare and Recreation event. Instead, videos of the ruins are shown and history is discussed.
Farrell said he likes to keep the class fresh with a little song and dance.
“The level of attention is wonderful,” Farrell said, who keeps that attention by singing “New York, New York,” to remind people that times were not so different 2,000 years ago in the big cities.
At least one retreat participant said he prayed for an event like this to take place in their lives.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chester Davis, of the 1007th Engineer Detachment terrain team, said he was in Fort Polk, La., when he prayed for something like this.
“It is assurance. I knew something like this was going to happen, and I’m thrilled to be part of it,” said the Slocomb, Ala., native. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could get the opportunity to do this. I didn’t even know something like this could take place.”
Upcoming retreats are scheduled for the first weeks in October, November, December and January for four days.