In March of 1941, Pastor E. W. Crockett founded Christian Service Centers, Inc. in Rantoul, IL, thus making this organization the oldest among Military Service Centers. Christian Service Centers, Inc. was founded to provide Christian Fellowship and a gospel witness to the Airmen serving at Chanute AFB in Rantoul. Pastor Crockett observed that war was imminent in our country’s future so the Center operated twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week completely through WWII. Volunteers provided all of the manning, counselors, and other miscellaneous help needed. As the needs changed, Centers were opened or closed accordingly.
Centers were also established at bases located near Sioux Falls, SD, and Gulfport, MS during WWII. Thousands of military personnel were saved during the course of WWII. After the war, the bases at Gulfport and Sioux Falls closed, so the corresponding Centers closed as well. Many Chinese Air Force Officers were saved also through this ministry while training at Chanute Field. When the war drew to a close, Pastor Crockett saw a need to expand the organization to include various other military establishments…first in San Antonio, TX (1951), then in Norfolk, VA (1955), followed by Lawton, OK (1957). Brother Crockett went to be with the Lord in 1988.
In 1995 Chanute AFB was closed so the Center in Rantoul was shut down. George Thorpe became organization Director. Soon it became apparent that a Center was needed in Clarksville, TN, near Fort Campbell, and a couple was available to serve as missionaries there. The Center was opened in Clarksville, TN, in 1999. Another need for a Center in Columbus, GA near Fort Benning was filled in 2004. Our goal is to start Centers and, once they are running strong, turn them over to the local church in their area. This has recently been accomplished with the Clarksville and Columbus Centers.
Gary Heinz assumed the Directorship of the organization in July of 2014, and our Center located in San Antonio continues to serve as the flagship of the organization. In April of 2017, Gary stepped down and Cliff Castle, the San Antonio Center Director since October 2015, assumed the role of Executive Director. The organization will continue to be looking at starting new Centers in the Joint Base Lewis-McCord area, Keesler AFB area, Sheppard AFB area, and the Goodfellow AFB area. If a God-called missionary approaches us with a new location for a Center, we always survey the area and pray about opening a new Center there.
We are also praying for a God-called missionary couple (where one or both are retired from the Armed Forces) to take over the day-to-day operations at the San Antonio Center. This will allow the flagship to continue reaching out to our men and women in uniform as Cliff and Beth Castle travel to various military bases in order to identify needs and start new Centers as the Lord directs.
Financially, the organization is doing well, but we can always find a use for extra monetary support, and the Lord is a great Provider. We pray every day for missionaries to come looking to serve the Lord in a ministry like this one. Thousands and thousands of our military personnel from all five of our services have been saved and many are now serving full-time as pastors, missionaries, and various other full-time vocations.