Photo by Marines
Today's guest post is from Alan Mercer, Executive Pastor of the Leawood campus of Christ Community Church in Kansas City, KS.
It’s been an emotional week in our home. Our oldest son is home for a short ten-day leave before he heads to Okinawa, Japan for three years with the United States Marine Corps. Throughout the past nine months since Ethan left for boot camp, we have prayed every day for him to find some sense of community wherever he lands. God has come alongside him and our family and answered our prayer in two remarkable ways.
The first has been our church’s military support group. The group is mainly older men, most of them veterans, who are almost like grandparents to Ethan. There’s Mike, a 75-year-old USMC gunnery sergeant who has taken Ethan and our family out to dinner to share stories and bits of encouragement. Today, Ethan helped Mike celebrate his 75th birthday. Why? Because Mike is an important part of his life.
Then there’s Emmett, who has been investing in Ethan and encouraging his love for all things military since he was in grade school. And men like Walt, who served in special operations and has pushed Ethan to be more physically fit. And there are are the other enlisted men who have tried to be there to support and encourage Ethan along the way. As we look back, Ethan has had men all along his path who let him know that he is not alone in this process.
This group is a lifeline for Ethan and our family. They meet regularly and pray for our active-duty military personnel, as well as their families. They support them through letters, packages, and prayer. They support the family by asking about our service members almost every week. The 5:1 community that has been built for Ethan through this band of support has been astounding.
The second way God has answered our prayer for community involves a couple named Brad and Sue. Brad and Sue live 20 minutes from Camp Pendleton in California, and while Ethan has been stationed there these past few months, they have adopted him into their home for long weekends. They have treated him like their own son. Feeding him (no small task), taking him to see the sights of San Diego, letting him sleep in a warm bed and live in a “normal” environment. Most importantly, they have taken him to church. The weekends Ethan has spent with this family have been life-giving and sustaining for him. Brad and Sue adopted a soldier and kept his faith alive by giving it the shot of refreshment it needed throughout his training process.
When I stop and think about our military support group and Brad and Sue, I am humbled.
When I see our attempts to be an intergenerational church and provide 5:1 support for our teenagers, I see this as a great example of how well it can work. I see several people stepping out of their comfort zone and taking a risk to get to know a young person based on only loose connections and affinity. And I see that risk paying off in the life of a young person in ways we may never really know.
What can you do? Take a risk! Reach out to a student or a child in your church, or a college student or young adult, and get to know them.
Invest in them. Encourage them. Love on them.
The church is a family of families. We need more adoptive parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings to take up the challenge.
Need specific ideas for supporting young people in the military? Here’s a helpful resource!
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