Churches can support
|United Methodist chaplains prepare phone cards for distribution to U.S. troops during a meeting hosted by the denomination's Endorsing Agency. Photo by Mike Dubose. |
Prayer and a ministry of presence are the most important things churches can provide for servicemen and women and the families they leave behind, said military chaplains and an associate pastor serving near an army post.
"Loneliness is the hardest thing a spouse has to deal with. So visit them, take them out for dinner, invite them over for coffee. If you are their pastor, allow them the freedom to talk about their worries," said Chaplain Gary Brown, deputy garrison chaplain at the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr in Germany.
The Rev. Brian Gilbert, associate pastor at Madison Street United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tenn. -- near the Fort Campbell, Ky., army post -- said letting people know you are praying for them and that you are there is crucial.
"It might be helping a mother who has three children get to church. If a soldier or soldier's family attended a Sunday school class, that class sends packages with photos of children's events, church bulletins and notes, things that keep them in the loop with the church," Gilbert said.
The Rev. Tom Carter, interim director of endorsement and pastoral care for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, Tenn., recommends a pastor visit the entire family before the military member leaves.
"The first few weeks are really a grieving process. Then, there should be a monthly visit by the pastor or whoever in the church does visitation," he said.
The parents of deployed military personnel are often forgotten, Carter says. He urges churches and pastors to stay in touch with those who have sons or daughters deployed to a combat zone.
Chaplain Bill Killough, who serves with the U.S. Army's 54th Signal Battalion in Kuwait, recommends supporting the United Methodist Endorsing Agency's phone card program. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry agency collects phone cards for military personnel and sends them to chaplains for distribution.
And keep the contact up, Brown adds.
"Deployments aren't sprints. They are marathons," he said. "Too many times the church does all these wonderful things for a spouse within a short period of time after the soldier deploys. But five months, eight months into deployment, not much is done."
--Vicki Brown, associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation,
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Nashville, Tenn.
Phone cards and donations may be sent to UMEA, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007. The United Methodist Endorsing Agency may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 340-7411.
For tips on how to support military personnel and their families, visit www.americasupportsyou.mil.