Louisville—Nearly two years after his military chaplain baptized him in one of the world’s most spiritually dark places, Illinois police officer and Army veteran Scott Carter reunited with Southern Seminary alumnus Raymond Lowdermilk at the April 12-14 Together for the Gospel biennial conference for what he described as a “glimpse of heaven.”
Carter, a patrol officer near Chicago, was deployed to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp with the 339th Military Police Company in January 2014. Working first as a camp block sergeant and then as an operations sergeant, Carter supervised guards and Gitmo detainees.
But Carter said he felt overwhelmed at times seeing dangerous war criminals detained for terrorism, which constantly reminded him of the 9/11 attacks he witnessed on TV the day his now 14-year-old twins were born.
“It’s physically dark because you’re looking through tinted glass,” Carter said. “But it’s so spiritually dark in there, it’s draining—that’s what led me to the chapel.”
It was there on a Sunday he met Lowdermilk, serving a deployment as an Army 1st lieutenant chaplain for the Joint Detention Group. Lowdermilk said shortly after he invited Carter to a Wednesday night service, “I don’t think I could keep him out of the chapel.”
Soon, Lowdermilk and Carter were attending an open-air barracks Bible study with nearly 20 other soldiers and meeting as often as five nights a week for fellowship events.
“The level of community was so intense, not only did we see six get baptized, when people left they would leave being deployed as missionaries to their home churches,” said Lowdermilk, now an Air Force chaplain stationed at the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. “Their theological understanding, their growth in the Lord had never been as intense, accurate or relevant.”
Raised as a nominal Lutheran, Carter says no one ever explained to him that salvation came “by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone” until Lowdermilk shared the gospel with him.
“I was so worried about legalities of religion—I haven’t done this or I haven’t done that,” Carter said. “I was actually avoiding church because of legalities. And when he explained to me I didn’t need that—wow. … I couldn’t get enough.”
Lowdermilk baptized Carter in Guantanamo Bay on June 29, 2014, a day Carter said was filled with “glorious tears” as he shared his testimony before the other soldiers. Since returning to Illinois, Carter joined a Baptist church nearby and enrolled at Liberty University online to complete his bachelor’s degree.
After more than two decades spent saving lives as a police officer, soldier, firefighter and paramedic, Carter now senses a call to save souls as a minister and hopes to pursue his Master of Divinity at Southern.
Lowdermilk, who graduated with his M.Div. in biblical counseling from Southern Seminary in December 2012, said he recognizes a “huge” opportunity for ministry in the military. Lowdermilk says he never has to compromise his convictions as a Southern Baptist chaplain and “continually contends for the sufficiency of Scripture in counseling, preaching and teaching.”
During his ministry in Gitmo, Lowdermilk explained the biblical instructions for pastors and encouraged soldiers to depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance and not on a chaplain. At the end of his deployment in August 2014, Lowdermilk said he and Carter made a promise to reunite at T4G in 2016.
In the week they spent together in Louisville revisiting some of the same truths Carter first learned in Gitmo, Lowdermilk says the sixth biennial conference—focusing on what it means to be a Protestant—reinforced teachings on biblical manhood and the nature of grace.
One of those key lessons was from a three-week sermon series he preached on heaven while in Guantanamo Bay. The beauty of Christian friendships, Lowdermilk said, is how those relationships will continue for eternity. His reunion with Carter for the conference illustrated that truth, as well as the massive gathering in Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.
Carter agreed: “Ten thousand believers singing those hymns at the conference. What a glimpse of heaven.” (SBTS)