The seeds of a future ministry to the Military were being sown in my heart as I served in the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1953.Exposure to wasted and purposeless lives of my buddies challenged me to be a witness for Jesus Christ.1stcenter
After graduating from Bob Jones University my wife, Yvonne, and I moved to Norfolk, VA in 1958 to open a Servicemen’s Christian Center (SCC) as they were originally called. The SCC was located on Main Street in downtown Norfolk. In those days the streets were flooded with uniformed Military and our storefront Center was a place of activity seven days a week! Free refreshments, table games, Bible studies, and evangelism brought great and abiding results. Almost every day someone would bow in one of our prayer rooms to invite Christ into his or her life. By 1963 we could count 70 men who had completed their active service and had enrolled in Bible colleges to prepare for service in the Lord’s work. Our first major step of faith was in 1963 when we lost our storefront lease and we were forced to move. A building was found for sale at $35,000.00, but we didn’t even have $350.00 in savings and we couldn’t even pay our salaries. We heard that someone had offered $32,000 for that building, so we prayed what would the Lord have us do? We made an offer of $30,000.00, contacted some family and friends, and they promised to loan us a total of $10,000. Then we asked a bank to loan us $20,000. When asked by the bank’s Vice President how much money we had, I had to be honest and tell him “nothing.” He was puzzled because we had made a $30,000 offer, yet only asked for a $20,000 loan.The owners of that building agreed to sell it to us (strange to the world, but not to God)! We had received $2,500 from family and friends and according to the contract we signed we would “deliver the remainder of the $30,000 when all the details of the property were finalized by the heirs…” Needless to say, our attorney was on pins and needles as we moved into that large three-story building which was located on 115 W. Tazewell Street in the heart of downtown Norfolk.
In the providence of God, the owners, who accepted our offer had another heir “out-of-state” die and the litigation took an additional 13 months which we accepted as from the Lord. During that “waiting period” we had remodeled part of the 3 story building, acquired a few more dollars, and the bank gladly loaned us $20,000; so, we had a new home. We changed our corporate name to Missions To Military (MTM) identifying us as missionaries to the military. As most missionary endeavors begin, we had stepped through stage 1 and were now at stage 2; stage 3 was coming! Stage 1 is “impossible”, Stage 2 is “difficult,” and Stage 3 is “done!”
Hardly being settled in our new facilities, the request came to launch out to new military bases. In 1967 we answered a request to go to Fayetteville, North Carolina for a full time ministry among the military stationed at Ft. Bragg Army Post and Pope Air Force Base. Jim Morrison and Willard Zimmer, both members of our team, went to Fayetteville, and began a new SCC that was a very fruitful ministry for 15 years.
Jim and Tommie Eggimann, who were now part of our team, felt led of the Lord to establish a SCC in Key West, Florida. Thus, in 1969, MTM purchased a Jewish Synagogue and converted it into a SCC. This ministry later closed due to base re-alignment and this Center moved to Mayport Naval Base in Atlantic Beach, Florida and has seen many years of very fruitful ministry. Bill and Anne Haney currently serve as the Directors of that expanded ministry.
In 1970, Chuck Greenstreet, a former serviceman of MTM – and now a college graduate, asked if we would extend the ministry of MTM to reach the thousands of French Sailors in Toulon, France. After a time of careful consideration and prayer, the Board of Directors approved the move and our French ministry was born with Chuck and his wife, Joanna, as the first Center Directors. In God’s timing came Emmanuel Baptist Bible Institute, as part of this French ministry and it was evident the Lord was doing special things in that dark country. Then tragedy struck in 1986, Chuck and Joanna, while home on deputation, were involved in a fatal car accident. Chuck was immediately ushered into his eternal Home in Heaven and Joanna, seriously injured began a long recovery, but returned to that field of ministry in a wonderful labor of love. The ministry under the Directorship of John and Joy Gribbin along with Bob and Cyndi Scott as well as Joanna continues to be fruitful to this day.
Then, in 1979, I was faced with a new challenge from the Lord, that of starting a church in Virginia Beach. Quite frankly, I ran from that call for several months because I felt my hands were full and certainly I sensed personal inadequacy to pastor a church while directing MTM. However, the Lord won that struggle, so, I donned another hat and planted Colonial Baptist Church in Virginia Beach the first Sunday of January in 1979. Many great and wonderful blessings have resulted from that beginning as today Colonial Baptist houses our MTM International Headquarters and Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Virginia Beach.
The ministry of MTM continued to expand to new locations where we could strategically reach the military community for Christ. Around 1990 seeing the increase of ladies serving in our military we chose to change our local ministry name from Servicemen’s Christian Center (SCC) to Military Christian Center (MCC). The beginning of each MCC, like those listed above, was a step of faith that was followed by God’s special blessing. Such was the case again in January 1981, when we opened a MCC in Jacksonville, NC (Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune); again, in Goldsboro, NC (Seymour Johnson AFB). In 1998 John and Betsy Sargent, one of our veteran missionary couples, launched our Ukraine ministry to Russian-Ukraine Military in Kiev and Sevastopol.
Have you considered the fact that the military of our world are part of the “mission field?” Have you ever prayed about the part you might have in reaching these men and women for Christ serving alongside us? You might very well write the next chapter in the “History of MTM.” Pray about joining the winning team.
MTM marches on consistently today as a Baptist missions agency and it is our purpose to provide churches of like precious faith with a medium through which we can expedite our God given international missionary commission to win and train the Military for Jesus Christ. We would say with the Apostle Paul, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” II Timothy 2:1-3
Keith H. Davey, DD
Founder and Director of MTM, Inc.