'Spiritual growth' for women is goal of Protestant group's Yokota conference
January 30, 2005
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Over the past half-century, the Protestant Women of the Chapel program on U.S. military installations in Japan has lagged behind others around the world in terms of visibility.
Officials hope to bring more attention to the group and its activities during the first-ever Protestant Women of the Chapel Rising Son Training and Leadership Conference, scheduled for March 3-5 at Yokota’s Taiyo Recreation Center. The session culminates with a jubilee banquet at the Officers’ Club to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary.
The conference, which organizers plan to hold every year, is open to women ages 18 and older and will feature collective meetings and breakout workshops, all designed to promote leadership skills and teach attendees about women’s ministry, said Dr. Lynn McCallister, the Protestant Women of the Chapel’s adviser for Japan and Guam.
“It’s also aimed at developing women in their personal spiritual growth, if they’re not interested in ministry,” McCallister said. “This will be for women from all bases in Japan. Even though it’s sponsored by PWOC, women of other faiths, regardless of their religious background, are welcome to attend as well.”
Founded in 1955, Protestant Women of the Chapel features about 9,000 members, with chapters spread across more than 170 military bases worldwide, according to McCallister. It receives funding from the Defense Department, which primarily is used to offset travel expenses for those who serve on national and regional boards within the military chapel community.
Local groups rely heavily on donations and resources from each base’s chapel budget, she added.
“Our primary mission is to support the chapel programs, develop women in their personal spiritual growth and minister to others,” McCallister said. “When installations have a strong PWOC, the positive atmosphere just pervades the whole community, and they’ve got 50 years of history to verify that.”
The organization’s regular activities include weekly Bible studies, rallies, retreats, conferences, annual training and various monthly programs based on community needs.
Its presence is stronger overseas, particularly in Europe, McCallister said. An all-Korea conference called “Faithlift” has been staged the last few years. Japan’s program, however, is generally considered the weakest of all the international regions.
“That’s partly because installations are so isolated here,” she said. “Historically, PWOC is strongest with an Army presence. In Japan, we just have more representation of other branches.
“This conference will help fix that. It’ll help educate and hopefully invigorate some people. When you have strong, contented or happy women, then families become stronger. That’s particularly important during times of deployment.”
Two guest speakers are covering that issue in detail at the upcoming inaugural Japan conference, she said.
Brenda Pace, author of the new book “Medals Above My Heart,” will discuss the rewards of being a military wife. She’ll be followed by PWOC-USA president Kim Worrell, whose active-duty husband has been deployed for the last 18 months.
“They have years and years of experience of being married to deployed servicemembers,” McCallister said, adding that her husband, Larry, has spent nearly half of their 25-year marriage away from home. “We have this deployment thing down real, real well. They’ll offer words of encouragement for women who have deployed loved ones.”
McCallister said other steps are being taken to raise the organization’s profile in Japan. In addition to annual training at different installations, officials are preparing a resource booklet for all of the Pacific rim, with contact information and ministries to encourage networking and expansion.
The Japan wing consists of active chapters at Misawa Air Base, Camp Zama and Yokota. A large group on Okinawa, which includes members from several of the island’s military installations — meets at Kadena Air Base. The group’s newest addition formed last year on Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station.
No chapters exist at Sasebo Naval Base, Atsugi Naval Air Facility or Yokosuka Naval Base.
“We just want to get it more active at every individual installation, because it benefits not only the community as a whole but each individual as well,” McCallister said.
The deadline to register for the March conference at Yokota is Feb. 24. Electronic registration packets may be obtained from local religious education coordinators.
For more information, contact McCallister by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.