Specialized Ministry — August 2007
Ministering to Those in Harm’s Way
By Dorlene Harris, State Women’s Ministries President, Alaska/BC
When one thinks of Alaska, they might only think of our forty-ninth state as a place with snow, snow, and more snow. This assumption may perhaps come from statements such as that of Bing Crosby in the famed 1942 classic Christmas movie, Holiday Inn, when he said, “Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it “white.” However, Alaska is not just a land of gigantic snowfalls, lofty mountains, abundant wildlife, glittering gold mines, sparkling jewels, magnificent ice art, remarkable glaciers, fascinating fishing and hunting opportunities. The most incredible thing that you will find about the beautiful land of Alaska is the wonderful loving hearts of its people. Although it is ranked among mission states in the Church of God, the people of this “last frontier” are found giving more than they receive.
Nestled in one of the most gorgeous settings in Alaska are examples of these loving and compassionate hearts. They are found among the Women’s Ministries of the Eagle River Church of God. Under the leadership of Linda Jones, Women’s Ministries president and wife of Pastor Bobby Jones, these women are involved in a variety of ministries which reach out into their community and around the world. They operate a food pantry to feed hundreds each week. They conduct an annual Christmas tree lighting to raise funds for the Church of God Home for Children. However, one of their specialized ministries is reaching out to the military troops stationed on foreign fields in harm’s way.
As the wife of a man who did tours of duty both in Vietnam and Korea, serving his country for 22 years in the military, Linda Jones felt a burden on her heart for our deployed men and women in the military. She prayed and asked God to help her choose women who would also come under this burden with her. He gave her women like Nancy St. Pierre, who also caught the vision for a ministry that would impact the lives of hundreds of military personnel fighting for our nation’s freedom. The effort began with two or three people and has now grown to twenty to thirty people giving their time and energy to prepare care packages to send to our troops in combat. Though much labor is put into preparing the boxes to be shipped, the most important ingredient is prayer. Prayer is offered over each package before it is shipped. The team of workers pray that the boxes will be received by those with the greatest need.
In December 2006, the Eagle River Women’s Ministries, with the help of others in the church and community, put together 200 care packages to send to the armed forces serving in Iraq. Some of these men and women were their very own church members, family members, and acquaintances of others connected with their congregation. However, many were complete strangers from all parts of the country. Again in May 2007, 214 packages were shipped and received by military personnel whose hearts were touched by the kindness of people “back home.”
The care packages include homemade cookies, candies, and breads which are prepared and donated by the local Women’s Ministries. Single Kool-Aid packages and Crystal Light for canteens, beef jerky, hard candy, cheese and crackers, tooth brushes and dental floss, etc., are collected to contribute to the project. Each package also contains ministry CD’s and the tract, “ABC’s of Salvation.” Both the church and the community have helped with donations and financing the project. A business owner in the local church donated postage for over 200 of the packages. Adopt-a-Platoon* in Texas donated $4,000.00 to go toward the contents and the shipping of the Christmas packages.
At least six to seven hundred combat troops have been touched by this ministry. Linda Jones states, “We send packages to military men and women who we know for them to give to others in their units. We also have a Command Sergeant Major from our church that is stationed in Iraq. We send him packages to hand out to soldiers in his unit.”
The church has received cards from many recipients expressing appreciation for the thoughtfulness shown to them. One told of a young man who had not received any mail from home at the time of the arrival of his gift box. He was so touched that he cried. God allowed this small act of kindness to really minister to him.
The Eagle River Church of God Women’s Ministries is making a difference in hundreds of lives. They plan for this to be an on-going ministry with a minimum of two shipments per year. However, there are over 100,000 American troops in Iraq alone and more are being deployed each week. Let’s pray that there will be others, like these women in Alaska, who will accept the burden to minister to those in harm’s way. Everyday can be an “occasion to share our blessings,” as Bing Crosby described it. We don’t have to wait for a white Christmas.
* The Adopt-a-Platoon web site at www.adoptaplatoon.org gives specific information regarding care package ideas and mailing instructions.