Cassie Steele – OCP News Service – 13/8/19
Recent data provided by Pew Research and the National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics suggests that around 91% of veterans identify as Christian. For churches, this represents both a challenge and an opportunity. It is the Church’s duty to provide comfort and compassion to those who need it, but meeting the needs of individuals who may be experiencing PTSD or other post-combat conditions can be difficult to achieve. With the Orthodox Church’s ongoing commitment to improving pastoral support, ministers are becoming better equipped to offer empathy, listening, and effective Gospel sharing. In return, the church can benefit hugely from the talents, energy and understanding which veterans can offer their communities.
Demonstrating love and compassion
The Bible is very clear that God’s love is for everyone, and that churches must be inclusive and accessible. Even before Jesus’s teachings on compassion and kindness, Leviticus 19:14 called upon God’s people to remove stumbling blocks for the deaf and blind; this extends to all people experiencing difficulty. In practical terms, this may mean accommodating those with hearing impairments by providing hearing loops, training ministers in sign language, or recording sermon podcasts which can be listened to comfortably at home. It can also be achieved by running additional support groups where veterans can find friendship, support and Biblical guidance in a loving atmosphere.
Providing a sense of purpose
The National Institute of Mental Health confirms that depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the US, and an estimated 1 in 3 veterans is affected by it. For many, finding a new purpose outside of the forces can help with feeling productive and fulfilled again. Churches are uniquely placed in that they can offer a range of voluntary positions which are necessary and effective ways to serve Jesus, while still helping the individual to feel more confident, needed, and included.
Celebrating peace and understanding
Just as churches can offer veterans practical and emotional help as well as a sense of purpose, veterans have much to offer in return. Their commitment to duty and selflessness can be remarkably inspiring examples to younger members of the church. At a time when so many young men in particular are in crisis, the church community can benefit from having these role models, who can offer an experienced view on world problems, celebrate a strong work ethic and encourage young people – both men and women – to seek peaceful solutions. Working alongside youth ministers, veterans may find it personally rewarding to be part of helping the next generation to build a more positive future.
Churches, which model Jesus’s love and compassion, will always be an appealing safe place for veterans or indeed anyone who is experiencing hardship or entering a new chapter of their life. For veterans, the church can offer practical solutions but also emotional support and fellowship, which is often much needed after the camaraderie of the forces. church life can also be a wonderful place for finding purpose and growing in confidence. In return, veterans have much to offer their church community; when approached with love and understanding, both sides can successfully model Jesus’s love to one another.
Cassie Steele- OCP News Service