By Barbara Dunlap-Berg*
If your congregation is seeking ways to reach out to military families, New Providence United Methodist Church, on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, might inspire you.
Just six miles from the Fort Campbell Army base in Kentucky, New Providence is home to many retired soldiers and their families. They know what it is like to have a spouse or parent absent for a year or more. They know how it is to celebrate birthdays with Mom or Dad deployed thousands of miles from home. They resonate with the frustration of a car that won’t budge and the pressure of caring for children 24/7.
They understand because they’ve been there.
Through the Eagle’s Wings ministry, New Providence matches military families with “sponsors” — members of the congregation who act as friends, confidants and, often, surrogate grandparents, aunts and uncles.
This ministry is just one example of how United Methodists reach out to troops and their families. Honoring veterans is the focus of America’s Sunday Supper, slated for Jan. 20, 2013. Inspired by the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., America’s Sunday Supper invites people from diverse backgrounds to come together to share a meal, discuss issues that affect their community and highlight the power each one of us has to make a difference.
Over the past two years, tens of thousands of soldiers have come home from war … to heal from wounds both visible and invisible, to face unemployment, a lack of housing and other domestic challenges.
“Now is the time to give back,” the Rethink Church website says. “Raise awareness in your community, and do something to address the needs of veterans and military families.”
Rethink Church, part of United Methodist Communications, is lining up 250 volunteer leaders to coordinate events and 6,500 volunteers to participate in a variety of outreach opportunities on Jan 20.
New Providence’s event is slated for Jan. 11, and the goal is to equip and offer resources to train additional volunteers to work with members of the military and their families. Workshops will:
Along with New Providence Church, United Methodist congregations in Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin have registered events with Rethink Church.
In Hawaii, the Aiea United Methodist Church community will host a fellowship barbecue to honor those who have served and continue to serve. Two Indiana congregations — Redkey and Mount Tabor, Dunkirk — will present $5 McDonald’s meal cards to the first 300 veterans or active soldiers who attend their Jan. 19 event. Throughout the new year, Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Worcester, Mass., will reconnect veterans with their community through outreach and support. The goal is to help troops make the transition back into everyday living.
A training event is on the agenda for St. Paul United Methodist Church, Hattiesburg, Miss. The activity will nurture communication skills and encourage respect for all people. In Cameron, N.C., the congregation of Solid Rock United Methodist Church will gather for a Sunday meal to share ways members can make a difference through economic empowerment, support for families of active-duty military, emergency aid and improving community well-being. New Washington United Methodist Church in Ohio will hold a series of events on Jan. 27 to affirm and support returning troops and their families and to raise awareness of the challenges they face.
Three congregations — Waverly and Willow Grove in Pennsylvania and Columbus in Wisconsin — plan special meals open to the community. Freewill offerings will assist veterans and military families. Preparing for future service projects with military families is on the docket for St. George's United Methodist Church, Fairfax, Va.
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.