For many, Memorial Day is little more than a 3-day weekend. It was designed as a day of remembering those who have given their lives in service to our country. To me, the day is also a reminder of those who are currently serving in the military and the families they leave behind.
As men and women are sent into "harm's way" (What part of the world is free from harm today?), we have an opportunity to remember and encourage them. This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with ministry. Here are some ideas to get you started.
If you live near a military base, you can give hands-on help. Many women are raising a family or having babies alone stateside while their husbands are away for months at a time. Sometimes these wives live in military housing far from their hometowns. They need a friend, someone to remember their birthdays, babysitters, and a hospitable place to eat holiday dinners when everyone else seems to be with family. I observed a simple gesture that spoke volumes when I saw an assistant pastor carrying the sons of an absent naval submariner around on his shoulders. This was something that their dad would love to do if he were here.
If someone in your church is in the military, you can send care packages. It is difficult to be overseas and working with strangers while enduring the constant threat of conflict. Nothing is familiar. Some troops don't get packages from home and, possibly, very little encouragement. Cards and letters relieve the loneliness and boredom, too. One of our women's discipleship groups sent packages to the unit of a young man in our church. The women gathered protein bars, beef jerky, flavor mixes for water, reading materials, sudoku books, toiletries, small toys for children the soldiers meet and money to cover shipping costs in what they called "sharing the love of Christ in word and deed."
If your denomination sends chaplains to the military, you can "adopt" one of them and their family. A chaplain may not be in the direct line of fire, but he is called to minister to those who are. Spreading the good news of Jesus Christ is a big task when there are many troops in your care. Pray for the chaplains to have energy for their tasks, wisdom in ministering to all sorts of people, Christian fellowship and strength to be faithful to God and their families. Wives need prayer, too, because they may carry a burden of ministering to other military wives while having responsibilities at home. One chaplain was especially thankful for the books and encouraging letters we sent. His wife received treats and items to pamper her, including restaurant gift cards, and his children got toys and other goodies.
Military personnel and their families are often lonely, in an unfamiliar place, under stress and in need of Christian fellowship. Think about people stationed near you, deployed people from your church or your denomination's chaplains. I encourage you remember them in word and deed.