An Amazing Day at the Pentagon

post date: September 24, 2008

I'm just beginning my message. Bobby Little, executive director of the Christian Embassy, was seated near the front.
At 7 AM today I spoke to group of 100 people gathered in a conference room at the Pentagon. I would rank the experience as one of the best moments of my ministry, not because of anything I said but because of the privilege of speaking to the men and women serve in the Pentagon. When Marlene and I arrived at the Pentagon, we were met by Col. William “Whiz” Broome, the chaplain who serves as pastor to the 23,000 people who work in the Pentagon. Later we were joined by Bobby Little, Executive Director of the Christian Embassy. Together they helped us navigate the vast maze of hallways (the Pentagon contains over 17 miles of hallways) and the five “rings” that make up this vast building. We started on one end, made our way to the other end, exited the building and walked a bit until we came to the Pentagon conference center. This is the site for the weekly prayer breakfast. Open to anyone working at the Pentagon, the breakfast usually draws 50 people for a Bible study led by “Whiz” Broome or one of his associates. Today’s attendance was considerably larger because of the publicity they had sent out.

Because everyone was seated at tables, I was able to speak from the middle of the room.
You cannot help but be struck by the sheer immensity of the building. It is like a self-contained city, with its own shopping center, restaurants, a drug store, a florist, a dental clinic, and so on. If I had to choose one word to describe what I felt, it would be intensity. You can see it, sense it, feel it, almost reach out and touch it. Everyone who works here is in a hurry, all of them have a mission to fulfill. There is intense, relentless pressure. Everyone works 10-12 hour days, and sometimes much longer. When we arrived at the entrance a few minutes after 5:30 AM, hundreds of people were getting off the train and streaming into the building. 

Since 9/11, security has become very tight. We were X-rayed, checked, inspected, given badges, turned them back in, given new badges, and once a guard shouted, “Hold up!” when we started to go through a checkpoint too fast. 

I felt enormous freedom in speaking at the prayer breakfast.
Because he is the “Pentagon pastor,” Col. Broome oversees religious affairs for all faiths—Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim. Everyone seems to get along well, he said. Most people are so extremely busy that they don’t have time to come to extra meetings or services. 

Today’s prayer breakfast included many soldiers from the Army, civilian personnel, and even a three-star general. I met a woman who works in the JAG office. Is it anything like the TV show, I asked. Sort of, but not really, she replied with a smile. 

This is a good shot of the prayer breakfast from the rear.
The Pentagon food service staff provides a light breakfast buffet, with people sitting at tables scattered around the room. Volunteers put Bibles on each table, and we put copies of Stealth Attack and An Anchor for the Soul on a table in the rear. Before and after the meeting, people came up asking me to sign their books.

We began promptly at 7 AM with announcements by a volunteer followed by a prayer. Then Col. Broome gave me an enthusiastic introduction. I had planned to use a podium for my notes but the one they had wasn’t adequate so I just picked up my Bible and started talking. I gave a message called “Why We Need Our Enemies and Our Enemies Need Us.” The moment I announced the topic, I could hear people nodding and going “Hmmm.” So I smiled and said, “And all God’s people said, ’Hmmm,’” which drew a laugh. 

We gave away copies of Stealth Attack and An Anchor for the Soul to everyone who came to the breakfast.
I probably spoke for 40 minutes. Here’s what I noticed. All of them—every single person—listened intently. No one nodded off. I walked among the tables, making my points, explaining the background of Jeremiah 29, and offering seven ways they could love their enemies. Without a doubt the message hit home in every heart. There were nods of agreement all during my talk. 

When I finished, the three-star general came up and thanked me, saying, “The Lord was proud of you today.” I think it must take great courage to be a bold Christian in the Pentagon. I could sense spiritual eagerness from everyone. Many—most, I think—took notes as I spoke. A number of people said, “I really needed to hear that message today." 

And of course, after all is said and done, the people who work in the Pentagon are no different than the people who live in Rock Springs, Wyoming or in Singapore or Johannesburg because the needs of the human heart are the same everywhere. And the Word of God has the message we all need to hear. 

Col. Broome presents me with a flag flown over the Pentagon.
I felt enormous liberty as I spoke. The Lord answered many prayers, and I felt as at home today as when I used to teach the Wednesday night Bible class in Oak Park. In fact I roamed around today the same as I used to do in that class. Bobby Little thanked me effusively and said, “You ministered to our hearts today. What you said was so practical. We don’t always hear messages like that.” In the end I said the same sorts of things I say everywhere I go, and the Lord seemed to bless it. When I finished speaking, Col. Broome presented me with a flag flown over the Pentagon. He did it not only to say thank you, but said he hoped that whenever I saw the flag, I would remember to pray for those who serve in the Pentagon. 

After we wrapped up the prayer breakfast, “Whiz” and Bobby took us on a tour of the Pentagon. We had the solemn privilege of standing at the spot where the plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11. A chapel has been built to remember those who perished that day. Later we went down the paneled hallway housing Army Chief of Staff, the worldwide headquarters of the U.S. Army. Then we saw the special display for Medal of Honor winners and the gallery honoring Douglas MacArthur, one of a handful of five-star generals. We walked and walked and walked, and I suppose we saw maybe 1% of what there is to see at the Pentagon. Much of it is always off-limits because of security considerations. Somewhere there are war rooms where life-and-death decisions are made about where to send troops in a time of crisis.

L-R Marlene and Ray, Whiz and Alexa Broome, Sheila and Bobby Little.
By the time our tour finished, I was exhausted. We all felt like we had seen so much so fast that we couldn’t take it all in. I came away with a new appreciation for our military leaders and the pressure they live with every single day. They (and all the Armed Forces) are the guardians of our freedom.

Tonight we went to dinner with “Whiz” and his wife Alexa and Bobby and his wife Sheila. In talking to them, we learned more details about what God is doing in Washington. Be assured that the Lord has his people in every agency. Most of them are never talked about or written about, and it is better that way. The Lord’s work is going forward in the halls of Congress, at the Pentagon, along Embassy Row, and all across Washington.

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Ray Pritchard
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