ARMED FORCES BAPTIST MISSIONS, formerly known as Servicemen for Christ Baptist Missions, got its start in 1964 through the vision of three families residing in the area of Norfolk, Virginia, the largest military complex in the world. Harold Woolston, Joe Tolston and Rev. Charles Robinson had a great burden for spreading the gospel among the military in the Hampton Roads and Tidewater areas. The burden began during a Woolston family vacation to Hampton Roads. God moved their hearts for the military men and women so much that they sold their farm in Iowa and returned to Newport News in 1964. This marked the beginning of their ministry to the military. The major bases included Fort Monroe, Fort Eustis, and Langley Air Force Base. The Woolstons, Tolstons, and Robinsons bathed their vision in prayer. Visits were made to local pastors to generate interest and support by the local churches. Their philosophy was to establish fundamental, independent, evangelistic ministries near these bases under the auspices of the local church. AFBM has continued this original vision, mission, philosophy, and practice since its inception. The vision of its founders became a reality in a short time when a three story building was purchased in Newport News, just one and one-half blocks from the Newport News Naval Shipyard, the construction site of nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines. Thousands of young sailors flooded the area while their ships were under construction. This location was also in close proximity to the Norfolk Naval Base, which gave the missionaries access to thousands more Navy personnel. “Pop” and “Mom,” the names given so lovingly and descriptively to the Woolstons by their “buddies,” began winning servicemen to Christ even before the building renovation was completed. Their first convert was a young sailor named Allen. He was from Iowa, the Woolstons’ home state. “Pop” and “Mom” are still household names known and loved by thousands of servicemen and servicewomen whose lives have been impacted by their ministry.
The new Mission was named Servicemen for Christ Baptist Missions, Inc. The building was dedicated on April 17, 1967 and became the first headquarters for a Servicemen’s Center. Rev. Charles Boone, Pastor of Clearview Baptist Church, became one of the mssions most faithful supporters. Each of the servicemen reached by the Woolstons was taken to Clearview Baptist Church where they were baptized and discipled.