Informal Bible study provides vets safe place to learn about religionPublished 11:02am Thursday, October 10, 2013
Mike Voorhees understands what many veterans, particularly those from the Vietnam War, have gone through. He knows because he is a Vietnam veteran himself.
“We know that they have struggles because we’re veterans and we all had some kind of struggle,” Voorhees said. “I go outside and if I hear a helicopter I stop dead in my tracks and become mesmerized because in Vietnam, helicopters were my lifeline.”
These shared experiences are what Voorhees hopes will make him a good leader of a new Bible study group in Fergus Falls.
The E100 Bible Challenge is a national program set up by the American Bible Society with help from military chaplains. Voorhees was approached a few months ago to lead a local group and he soon got in contact with national leaders of ABS.
Oliver Harrison, a fellow veteran of the Vietnam War, has been in a Bible study group with Voorhees the past few years.
Having looked into the program and heard from Voorhees about it, he is excited to join and for the meetings to begin.
“Personally I think it’s going to be a very good program,” Harrison said. “It makes you consider who you are and what you are and your relationship with God.”
The ABS shipped the Bibles, booklets and workbooks needed for the group meetings. He and a few close friends, with whom he has been in another Bible study group for years, are gearing up for the meetings to begin.
The first meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Veterans Home and will be purely informational. The Bible studies will begin Oct. 23 at the home and are scheduled to wrap up March 26, 2014, although Voorhees expects that date to get bumped back a few weeks.
Each of the 20 meetings will focus on a different selection. The first 10 weeks will cover the Old Testament selections and the back half will focus on the New Testament.
Every veteran is welcome to attend, but Voorhees stressed his desire for Vietnam veterans to come to the meetings.
“Those are the ones that kind of shy away from organized religion,” Voorhees said. “That’s who we are looking forward to serving.”
Voorhees spent 20 years working as a chaplain in Minnesota, which he said has given him experience in grief counseling and working with angry or depressed people. It also has helped him create a welcoming a safe group space, which should come in handy with the new Bible study.
As group leader, Voorhees plans on keeping the meetings structured and focused on the topic of the day. He has no idea how many will attend the first meeting, but he and a few others, including Harrison, have handed out fliers to church leaders in hopes of having them passed on or posted on bulletin boards.
Above all else, the group is meant to help those who are confused or curious about religion find their own answers without pushing or judgment.
“We want them to know that our God is a loving God and that there is forgiveness,” Voorhees said. “No matter what they have done or seen or experienced, there is forgiveness for what they think they might not be forgiven for.”