As far back as people have shared and our church can remember the Waukegan Seventh-day Adventist Church (now Gurnee SDA Church) has served the military. During the 1940’s into the late 1950’s our church elders would give a soldier from Fort Sheridan, IL, or a sailor from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center a ride to church once they graduated from a three month program. A series of events occurred.
First, a medical doctor by the name of Dr. Lawrence Joers was stationed at the Naval Hospital, Great Lakes, IL. He conducted a series of evangelistic meetings in 1952, at the Masonic Temple, in Waukegan, IL. Our congregation grew. In 1956 we broke ground enabling us to have a place to invite all to worship. In 1958, our first Navy Chaplain to be stationed at Great Lakes, IL, Chaplain Robert Mole, came aboard and the Base Ministry was established.
Through the years since 1958, pastors and a few laymen, as well as stationed military members, have served in assisting the eight Adventist chaplains that have been stationed at Great Lakes, IL.In October 2013, Chaplain Adrienne Townsend came aboard and we are very blest to assist her in the conduct of religious activities and Sabbath services each Friday evening at the Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL. The recruits cannot leave base during their military training of eight weeks so we provide the service for them in the beautiful main chapel on base! Our Adventist church community is proud and committed in seeking the spiritual well-being of all military personnel. What a privilege is ours!
The Gurnee Seventh-day Adventist Church enjoys proximity to Naval Station Great Lakes, the largest military installation in Illinois and the largest training station in the Navy. This results in a continuous ebb and flow of Seventh-day Adventist men and women who are assigned to the base.
The Gurnee and Shalem Seventh-day Adventist Churches share in ministering to the officers and enlisted personnel who call this base their home for periods of time ranging from eight weeks to several years. This ministry addresses the needs of two different groups of Navy personnel.
One ministry provides transportation to sailors who are stationed at the base that wish to attend regular worship services on Sabbath, but lack personal transportation. The sailors simply contact one of the churches to express their desire to attend services and church members volunteer to give these individuals a ride to and from church. Lunch is often provided for the sailors as well as Sabbath afternoon fellowship. This ministry benefits newly graduated recruits who are attending "A" School at Great Lakes as well as others who are assigned to the base for their duty station.
The other ministry provides worship services to Navy Recruits at an independent part of the Great Lakes base, known as the United States Navy’s Recruit Training Command Great Lakes (RTC Great Lakes). During an eight week basic training program, Navy Recruits are highly restricted in their activities and are unable to leave the base. They are given an opportunity to attend a religious program each week on either Friday evening or Sunday morning. The Gurnee Church has been providing Pastors and lay leaders to lead out in Friday evening Seventh-day Adventist worship services for over 50 years.
Until 1996, there were three recruit training centers for the United States Navy: Great Lakes, Illinois; Orlando, Florida, and San Diego, California. All three were consolidated that year, making RTC Great Lakes the Navy's only basic training facility. Now nearly 40,000 recruits pass through Recruit Training Command annually with an estimated 7,000 recruits on the base at a time. With this consolidation, the number of Recruits attending the SDA services has grown, often reaching 150 or more each week.
Attendance to these worship services is voluntary and open to whomever desires to participate. For this reason, a significant percentage of attendees have never attended a Seventh-day Adventist worship service - many have never previously heard of SDAs. During the RTC program, Recruits are somewhat isolated from their families, and this often results in a reawakening of religious interests.
The basic training typically runs eight weeks, although injuries and/or failure to complete required proficiency requirements results in extended stays at the RTC. There usually is a number of Recruits who are “on hold” who come to worship services. They often come to combat the isolation they are experiencing, or to combat the fear that they may not successfully complete the training and be sent home unemployed, and feeling like a failure. For this reason, the RTC ministry is centered on encouragement and faith building.