News: Old Hickory Soldiers pause for a "Night of Praise"
Story by Spc. Ruth McClary
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A gospel program targeting Congregational and Baptist enthusiasts was offered at Falcon to give Soldiers a chance to continue praise and worship while deployed.
North Carolina National Guard Soldiers performed praise and worship songs during the "Night of Praise" at the Steel Chapel on Forward Operating Base Falcon, here, Dec. 28.
"Don't worry about who is sitting beside you or what is going on outside," said Spc. Talisa Cooper, as she addressed the congregation. "This night was set aside just to allow God to have His way."
The group, which usually performs one song during the Protestant service on Sundays, organized its first gospel service at the chapel; hosting the event to embrace the style of music and service they remember from home.
Group members, including Cooper, of Clinton, N.C.; Master Sgt. Anita Wyatt, of Minneapolis, Minn.; Sgt. 1st Class Barry Oxendine, of Raeford, N.C.; Staff Sgt. Iraina Witherspoon, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Sgt. Ronald Trainer, of Fayetteville, N.C.; along with musicians Spc. John Riggs, of Kinston, N.C., and civilian contractor, Mike Taylor; practiced for about two weeks to prepare for the performance.
"Master Sgt. Wyatt asked me to play tonight," said Riggs, of 230th Brigade Support Battalion. "I loved it; it's a different style of worship and it's more of what I'm used to, more gospel than Pentecostal."
"Anytime I can be where I can play music for the Lord, I'm happy," he added.
Trainer was the mastermind behind the scene; getting the singers on board, and finalizing the date. Wyatt determined the flow of the schedule, posted flyers and designed the programs. Capt. Wayne Lehto, the battalion chaplain, sponsored and emceed the program.
Lehto opened up the service by asking everyone in the congregation why they came. Most of them said Wyatt asked them to come. It became the running joke as each person found a way to connect their presence there to Wyatt.
"I was charged to tell people to come," said Wyatt. "It really took me out of my comfort zone to do so. I sent out emails to the leadership and told people that I have cordial relationships with, but God ordained this night. It was really all God."
Five voices echoed through the church, with the strength of a full choir, as onlookers jumped to their feet, clapped their hands and sang along in approval. Group members said they were happy with the success of the event and felt a great sense of accomplishment.
"I think it was wonderful," said Trainer. "It gave people a chance to have church and release some stuff they had pinned up in them."
"It felt good to see other people, who love to worship Christ, fellowship and be led by the Spirit," said Witherspoon, of 1472nd Civil Affairs Team attached to the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
"I found it encouraging and uplifting to partake in the gospel celebration," said Staff Sgt. Harold Faison, of Roseboro, N.C. "And I can go on and on and on and on and...", as he broke into song, sculpting his words to the last song performed.
"It was a joyous occasion, a real blessing from God and I'm glad I had a chance to be a part of this event before leaving the base en-route to my home church," said Melinda Gosa, of Fort Hood, Texas, a civilian member of the congregation.
The congregation huddled around the singers after the service, congratulating them on a job well done. Thirty minutes later the last of the group emptied the church, singing some of the songs and discussing how the program reminded them of services back home.
"Just like at home, you can't get the people out of the church," said Trainer.