By Jo Anita MileyApril 18, 2014
The back corner of the Corps of Engineers, Huntsville Center's Life Fitness Center may look like any other area of the gym -- full of fitness equipment, DVDs, health magazines and other things necessary to keep physically fit. However, this particular area is also the location where Huntsville Center employees can get a "spiritual" workout.
Huntsville Center's Life Fitness Center's weekly Bible Study/Fellowship was initiated in 2008 by Dr. Lynn McAllister, Bible scholar and Theology School teacher, and also the wife of former Huntsville Center commander, retired Col. Larry McAllister. The group was formed as a nondenominational, spiritual health and morale booster for employees within the organization.
"Back in 2008, Col. McAllister, established the fellowship/Bible study group as a way to boost morale and relieve stress," Rex McLaury, of the Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate, said. "He believed that working on the employees' spiritual well-being was equally important to eating healthy and staying physically fit."
The group started out with 10 members. An estimated 50 employees have participated in the group at some point over the past six years.
Group members are responsible for specific tasks that help keep the group going. Lori Byrd, chief of security at Huntsville Center, is responsible for taking care of the location and providing necessary security measures to allow access to the meeting location and Cheryl Renz-Olar, Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate, and Willie Stokes, Corps of Engineers information technology, are also group facilitators. Everyone who participates in the study/fellowship can lead the discussions and prayers.
"I began facilitating in late 2008 when Dr. McAllister was away, and then full time in late 2008 after she wanted to turn the study over to us, in preparation for her family's move to Alaska after Col. McAllister's retirement from the military. Then, in 2012, Willie Stokes began to facilitate and has continued up to the present," Renz-Olar said.
The first formal topic that Dr. McAllister facilitated was a Spiritual Gifts class in November 2008. She discussed the unique spiritual gifts God gives to individuals and showed them how to unleash their hidden potential and embrace them.
The group has also studied several Christian precept books to include, "Living Victoriously in Difficult Times" and "Lord, I Want to Know You" by precept author, Kay Arthur and "The Rules of Engagement: The Art of Strategic Prayer & Spiritual Warfare," by Cindy Trimm. Of course, the Bible is the foundational book for all group discussions.
Center employees who have participated in the Bible Study Fellowship said they enjoy the experience for different reasons.
"We are trying to stay together as a group to make our organization stronger. Many of us have pretty robust work schedules and need a break from the stress that comes with it. This focus group gives us an opportunity to share our faith and gain strength from others within the Huntsville Center family," McLaury said.
Willie Wade said she loves the easy access, fellowship opportunities and the prayer groups.
"Sometimes when you are feeling low, you can break away from work to get that uplift to take you through the rest of the day. When I can't get away to attend the Bible study at my church, I know I can participate in the Huntsville Center Bible study group at work. I enjoy the prayers! We have always prayed for our workplace, our families, our community, our military, those who are deployed and our nation's leaders," Wade said.
Stokes said he loves the opportunity to teach and share his faith with others.
"I feel honored to have facilitated the group since 2012, and look forward to more growth in our numbers. I invite everyone at Huntsville Center to join us for the Bible Study/Fellowship each Wednesday from 12:30-1 p.m. Come eat lunch with us!" Stokes said.
Group members said they appreciate the support of Corps leadership, and would welcome special group sessions with USACE chaplain Col. Phillip Wright in the future.
Col. Robert Ruch, commander at Huntsville Center, said the group's existence shows the value of the military spouse being involved in the morale and welfare of an organization.
"We thank Dr. McAllister for her efforts. I want to build on this. I look forward to inviting our USACE chaplain, Col. Phillip Wright, to visit our organization for a prayer breakfast sometime this year," Ruch said.
Stokes said he is a man of few words, but when it comes to helping others grow spiritually, he has a lot to say. He challenged everyone to take inventory of their spiritual fitness.
"So what about you -- what will you start doing today to build strong (faith)? How will you measure your spiritual growth (e.g. fruits of the spirit), the contents of your mind (scripture memory, an increased prayer life)? Physical health and spiritual health go hand in hand, so nurture both. Come join us for a spiritual workout!" Stokes said.