By Chris Moon
Point Man of Newburgh—an Indiana ministry that helps combat veterans returning from war—is moving toward purchasing and developing a $4.5 million retreat center.
The project is a monumental one for the 13-year-old nonprofit organization that got its start with the help of Crossroads Christian Church in Newburgh, Ind.
“We’re in a growth period right now,” said Mike Burkdoll, board chairman for Point Man and a 35-year member of Crossroads.
The group is closing in on the purchase of 123 acres of land near Newburgh, which is adjacent to Evansville, Ind.
The property eventually will have a major retreat building, shelter house, and family cabins. Veterans will be able to walk nature trails and go fishing and boating.
The plan is for the retreat to host veterans and their families for weeklong stays, where they can get help reacclimating to civilian life.
Christ will be the heart of the retreat’s mission.
True healing for returning service members, Burkdoll said, “comes with a relationship with Christ and what it can do to heal you from those experiences.”
A HUMBLE START
Point Man of Newburgh got its start when Ken Idleman—former longtime president of Ozark Christian College who was serving as pastor of Crossroads Christian Church at the time—asked Burkdoll to talk to a wounded combat veteran in the congregation.
That was back in 2009. Burkdoll is a former Marine who was wounded and nearly died in Vietnam. Burkdoll had struggled for years after the war and had only recently found healing during a reunion with other Vietnam veterans. Before that, he hadn’t talked about his war experience for more than four decades.
So, Burkdoll listened to Idleman and went to talk with his fellow church member.
“I felt a definite need to help veterans who were in that boat,” Burkdoll said.
As he did so, Burkdoll began conducting research into groups that provide help to former combat vets. That’s when he discovered Point Man Ministries, a national organization.
With the support of Idleman and Crossroads, Burkdoll helped start the Newburgh chapter.
“It was kind of a natural that he would have the heart and have the capacity to lead this kind of a ministry,” said Idleman, who retired from Crossroads in 2016. He said Burkdoll knew “the difference that the lordship of Jesus had made in his life and helped him to overcome the impact and potential negative impact of PTSD as a wounded warrior.”
Point Man of Newburgh took off from there.
“My wife has convinced me time after time that there’s a reason why I’m still alive,” Burkdoll said. “And my ministry to Christ is the reason for that.”
UNIQUE CHALLENGES FOR VETERANS
Burkdoll said combat veterans like himself often feel as though no one can understand the things they did during their military service.
“I thought nobody could understand what I went through, so I wrapped it up in a neat little package and put it away,” he said.
But the isolation can damage a veteran’s personal life, pushing him or her into alcohol and drug abuse and into domestic violence against their spouses.
“PTSD is contagious,” Burkdoll said. “You can give it to your kids or your spouse.”
The goal of the Point Man ministry is to help combat veterans move forward in life—to lead their families, to find employment, and to find role models.
Point Man of Newburgh decided early on it did not want to be a burden to Crossroads Christian Church. None of its staff receives a salary. The group receives donations from people within the congregation and others.
It recently funded a small home for veterans at a cost of $165,000.
“We started with nothing,” Burkdoll said. “Christ has just provided.”
He is quick to deflect attention from himself and instead credits the board members of Point Man of Newburgh for helping the ministry to grow.
“Christ has brought so many valuable leaders into our ministry,” he said. “These men and women deserve more notoriety and attention than me.”
GOD’S OPEN DOORS
The group has held support meetings at Crossroads for years.
Point Man offers a 12-week course for combat veterans to assist in their recovery. It also offers groups for women, and it serves first responders and noncombat veterans.
Burkdoll said Point Man’s 12-week course “brings Christ ever stronger each week into the healing factor. It works well for those who are really looking for answers.”
Burkdoll said the organization hasn’t kept track of how many veterans it has served over the years—so as not to make it “a matter of pride.” But he said “a rough estimate is hundreds and hundreds.”
He said the group focuses on peer support. It also partners with the Veterans Administration.
Burkdoll said the VA can help heal the physical wounds of returning combat veterans while Point Man of Newburgh assists with their spiritual and emotional wounds.
The group now meets at multiple churches in the Evansville area.
Donors have taken notice. One supporter put up nearly $2 million for the purchase of land for the new retreat center.
“We’re just walking through the doors God has opened,” Burkdoll said.
Idleman, who now serves with The Solomon Foundation as vice president of leadership development, said growing ministries like Point Man can benefit by having a physical location with which they are identified.
He said Point Man has been an “on-ramp” into Christianity and into the life of the church for many families.
“Every veteran who is impacted spiritually and emotionally has a family and network of friends,” Idleman said. “It has been this ever-widening circle that has come out of the Crossroads church in Evansville and touched that community.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colo.