Major Herman Cheatham wears the green camouflage of the U.S. Army, a black cross stitched above his name near the collar. He’s carrying two heavy boxes packed with In Touch Messengers—a resource he keeps in stock at Fort Gordon, his military installation near Augusta, Georgia.
As a chaplain, Cheatham is responsible for a religiously diverse population of soldiers. And while that requires sensitivity, it doesn’t prevent him from operating according to his faith. Cheatham considers the Messenger one of his greatest discoveries for ministering to soldiers—and it’s always meant something personal to him.
In 2005, while stationed in Mosul, Iraq, Cheatham uncovered a box of Messengers tucked away in a supply closet. “I picked one up and listened,” he says, “and thought, Hey, this is pretty good stuff.” He didn’t know where they’d come from but right away recognized the messages were biblical and could provide talking points for his chapel services.
He put them on display in a literature rack, and the supply quickly dwindled. Not only did his soldiers claim them, but so did Iraqi interpreters who assisted the army in their patrols outside the base. Distributing the remaining devices seemed like a great way to cap off his year in the field. Then his deployment was extended by four months. He was moved, rather unhappily, to Baghdad.
“Just hearing the sermons and having someone speak the Word to me challenged me to put into practice what I’d been preaching.”
“I felt forsaken,” recalls Cheatham, who was tempted to stay in his hut and grumble those final months in Iraq. Instead, he listened to the Messenger. “Just hearing the sermons and having someone speak the Word to me as I’d been speaking it to my soldiers challenged me to put into practice what I’d been preaching.” It helped in his own distress, so he knew it could provide vital aid to a soldier on an unfamiliar assignment.
Recently, Cheatham organized a Spiritual Fitness event at Fort Gordon. The goal was to show that “growing spiritually is a necessity and not a sign of weakness.” The event gave him an opportunity to introduce the Messenger, among other resources, to still more people, and about 60 attendees received one for the first time. It was yet another moment to rely on God to do the work of salvation. And though some people might be tempted to give Major Cheatham the credit for what happens on base, he’s quick to remind them: “It’s not anything I say or do—it’s the Word.”
Photograph by Audra Melton