Worship Leader Serves Our Troops

Posted on April 1, 2013

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By David Ettinger

For Doug Pierce, it started off as a “gig” — a spiritual one, yet a gig nonetheless — but has turned into a major missionary outreach to American troops stationed in Germany. “Back in 1996, when I was 23, a friend of mine was part of an internship program in Germany for youth pastors,” Doug, a worship leader at First Orlando, explained. “He asked me if I wanted to fly over there and do a youth revival.”

Caption: Doug and his band visit with an injured soldier in Landstuhl, Germany.

Doug jumped at the opportunity. “That was back before I had a band; I just went over there for a week with my guitar.”

It may have been “just” a week, but it lit a fire under Doug that has burned for 13 years. “In 2001, another friend of mine was invited to Stuttgart, Germany to speak at a revival. I asked if he needed a worship leader, and he said yes. So, I raised my own support and took my band there.”

From then on, Doug was hooked, having ministered in Germany at least once, and often twice, a year since then. Furthermore, he no longer goes to Germany for the sole purpose of leading worship. “Now, in conjunction with the International Baptist Convention, we bring an entire team with us,” Doug said. “We do a men’s retreat, a marriage conference, a student concert, hospital visits, [military] school assemblies, a ‘Mom’s Day Out’ program, and counseling for soldiers and their families.”

Doug’s next trip to Germany will be January 14-25, 2010. The 30-member team will include Men’s Ministry Director Mickey Pittman and Terry Langford, a marriage and family therapy specialist at First Orlando’s Counseling Center.

So, how did Doug’s “gig” turn into such a comprehensive outreach to our overseas troops and their families? Following the initial 1996 venture, the fire was further stoked in 2001 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. “I love the military and wish I had done something about it back when I, like many Americans, wanted to join the military. However, I didn’t follow through.”

Caption: Doug poses with a solidier and his wife in Ramstein.

Though Doug never enlisted, he has nonetheless served our troops in a powerful way. “During that 2001 trip, we only led worship, but I met several chaplains and pastors in that part of Germany that invited me to lead worship at a men’s retreat.”

Doug accepted the invitation, and has been leading retreats ever since. “Between then and now [December 2009], I’ve been to Germany 14 times.”

Though Doug’s original assignment was exclusively to lead worship, he knew he needed to do more. “Every time I went, I would talk to more and more people and saw the needs military communities have. Not only are our soldiers protecting us, but their families are struggling because [the troops] are often deployed for nine to 18 months.”

The separation is bad enough, but there’s more. “I learned that once families are separated for so long and the solider returns home, the family has figured out how to make it without him or her. It is very difficult for the soldier to integrate back into the family. Those situations are filled with tremendous stress and tension.”

Doug realized that his Germany outreaches must address these needs, and more. The January 2010 trip will do just that. “Our men’s conference (Jan. 14-18) will meet in Switzerland. We’ll have men from England, Spain, Italy, Romania and other European nations.” Following the retreat, the team will go to Ramstein, Germany, home of Ramstein (U.S. Air Force) Air Base on Jan. 19. “We’ll be ministering at Frontline Community Church, the second-largest International Baptist church in the Convention. While there, we will be doing a marriage conference.”

Caption: Doug and a band member lead worship in Ramstein, Germany.

Also, Doug and the team will visit hospitals, particularly U.S. troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We will go room to room, just saying ‘hi’ to the troops and listening to anything they want to tell us. Hearing these young men’s stories is amazing. We give them CDs, other gifts and let them know we appreciate all they do for us.”

Another crucial aspect of the trip is the counseling ministry led by Terry Langford. “One thing we’ve found with soldiers who have been in battle is that when they get home, they’re not always sure how to cope,” Doug said. “They have access to military counseling, but if the counselor thinks a solider is unfit, he has to report it.”

This often results in soldiers bottling up their feelings, fears and emotions, which in turn prevents them from receiving proper treatment. “However, if we bring our own counselors, the soldiers can speak freely because they know we’re not going to report them to anyone. Also, because we’re only there for a few days, the troops are more likely to open up to our counselors because we’ll soon be gone.”

For Doug, the European outreaches have been an answer to prayer. “I have always felt guilty for not serving my country [as a soldier]. However, the Lord has found a new way for me to serve our country and our troops. To be able to do this is an incredible blessing.”

Posted in: World Missions