Clipped From Abilene Reporter-News
Chaplain: Returning POWs By GEORGE W. CORNELL AP Religion Writer . NEW YORK (API As the prisoners nf war come home from Vietnam, their comments comments are sprinkled with references references to God. A Navy chap - , lain who has interviewed ' many of them says the reason fur it is that their experience ' had a powerful religious impart. impart. Almost all of them say that faith and the power of prayer sustained I hem, says Lt. Cmdr. Alex B. Aronis, an American Baptist chaplain Stationed at the' Subic Bay Naval Naval Air Station In the Philippines Philippines through which returning prisoners are processed. "The key to their survival and to. their mental and emotional emotional health was a deep abiding abiding and growing relationship ' with God." he said in a report to Uie. American Baptist Chaplaincy Chaplaincy Services in Valley Forge, Pa. "Tfie story of the religious , experiences of these men Is inspiring beyond wards," he said. "During the most difficult, difficult, the most painful, the darkest darkest hours, God sustained them and enabled them to get through." Chaplain Aronis details this conversation with one of the returning POWs: Returnee: "Without God, I would nnl have been able to survive." Aronis: "In other words, Cod really helped you." Returnee: "No, not merely helped. 1 mean it when I say'l ious could not have made it without without God pulling me through." Chaplain Aronis said the former former POWs told of setting up worship services, organizing choirs and conducting Bible studies often from memory at most nf the POW camps. The most frequently used verses of Scripture, he said, were the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is ruy shepherd ... Even though 1 walk through the v - ley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me ..." Chaplain Aronis said the American prisoners had reconstructed reconstructed whole sections of Scripture out of their memories memories because, of the lack of Bibles in many cases. Other favorite passages, ha said, were 1st Corinthians 13 and Romans 12. The latter emphasizes the unity of differing differing believers, the need fur mutual mutual loyalty and says: "Rejoice "Rejoice in your hupe, be patient in tribulation . . . Bless Ihose who persecute you." The well - known Corinthian passage starts out: "If I speak in the tongues Df men and angels, angels, but have not iove, I am a lioisv gong or a clanging cymbal." cymbal." Chaplain Aronis said the "religious experience was so significant and so beneficial for some flint two that I knnw of said they were glad they had the prison experience because because nf what they learned in terms of lite, values and priorities." priorities." The chaplain added (hat he was amused by the way one man spoke of God's presence, saying: "The moment my feet touched down on North Vietnamese Vietnamese soil, God was standing next to me. He was three buildings tall, and the tip of his shoes came to my forehead forehead and he said to me, 'I'm going tu he with you and I'm going to take care of you.'" Chaplain Aronis added: "The stories just kept coming, not because I was pumping but because they just had to be told, lt was the kind of spontaneous spontaneous sharing of 'Good Mews' that is apparent in the New Testament." He said that, when the ex - prisoners prisoners prisoners sat. down for their first meal at the Subic Bay station, a Navy dietician observed that she had never seen so many people how Ihpir heads to say table grace. Their prison experience made the men "so thankful to God that the thankfulness expressed expressed itself in a spirit of courtesy, graciousness and thnughtfulness" that developed developed among them, the chaplain chaplain said. He said their hyword in Hie prison camps was "God bless you," and that the greeting was used freely even among those who professed to be agnostics agnostics or atheists. It was also a phrase that fell repeatedly from the lips of the former prisoners as they reached home, "God bless you , God bless you all."