Heroes at Home
Loving Your Military Neighbor
With prolonged separations and wartime deployments the norm, members of our military and their loved ones are often over-extended and tired. Adding the stress and loneliness of wartime deployments to all of the normal stresses of life can leave them vulnerable.
What surprises many people is that over half of our military community is not located near an active duty base, but scattered as individuals among us in our local communities. This leaves them without easy access to military resources, but plants them firmly in our backyards.
God often creates opportunities in the middle of difficulty. We don't have to be part of a huge organization to make an impact. Small communities, small churches and individuals have a unique opportunity to express their faith in action by doing the same simple things we do for our own friends and loved ones.
We know instinctively how to help a friend going through a stressful time. We're not trying to remove their burden, just make it a little lighter for a moment, allowing them to catch their breath and know they are not alone. We make ourselves intentionally available and do things such as invite them over for tea, take their children for a few hours, help them find a way to connect with their spouse or give them a little escape from the stress to be themselves.
While we do those things, we also watch for opportunities to pray for and with them, to share words of encouragement and hope and, if a sudden emergency comes up, we are in touch enough with their needs to respond in a meaningful way. When we do those same things for a military family, caring for them as we care for our own family members, it can be overwhelming to see what an impact these simple actions make. Volunteers at our congregation - St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lockport, New York - have seen the impact firsthand.
While hand delivering the precious photo t-shirts or pillowcases of military members' loved ones, our volunteers brace themselves for the emotions that come without warning. As we provide children's activities and crafts, with volunteers willing to play catch, chess, or other one-on-one games, our volunteers are the ones asking when we can do this again. When we offer to pray for them and their loved ones, and maybe even get the precious opportunity to call attention to Jesus' presence and peace, our volunteers get a taste of the mission field in their own backyard.
When asked in Mark 12: 30-31 about which was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Jesus fulfilled that among us. His love in its full expression was the gift of His life, dying on the cross to save each of us from our sins. As we show love to our neighbors, we are His hands and an expression of His love for them. As military families shoulder their burdens among us, there is no greater gift we can offer.
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