This weekend at the beach, or in the backyard, Americans will celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy, even as we remember the soldiers who died to protect them. Memorial Day is also a good time to consider the sacrifices of the military families in our communities, and why it’s important to honor them.
Jesus gave us a remarkable example of how He cared for a soldier and his household through the story of the Roman Centurion, found in the Gospel of Matthew. Regardless of how we feel about war, or the political reasons behind it, believers can follow the standard of love that Jesus demonstrated toward the Roman soldier ... even if the soldier was a member of the same armed forces that would eventually carry out the orders to execute Jesus’ death.
Jesus responded to the soldier with compassion, healed the man's servant, and gave him one of the highest compliments in the New Testament: “I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel” (Matthew 8:10, NASB). In the same spirit of care and respect, here are a few simple ways to be generous to the military families who give so much:
- Offer hospitality – On average, military families move every two to three years, which can lead to a life of loneliness and isolation. A warm welcome into your church family, your small group, and your home can go a long way to making them feel loved and accepted. During deployments, the remaining spouse often has few other friends or family to rely on for companionship and support. Invite them to be a part of your family life, and be sure to ask if they have a place to go for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and other holidays.
- Look for opportunities to serve – It’s estimated that there are approximately 700,000 spouses of active military men and women who are stationed across the country. According to one study, the average military wife is less than 35 years old and has two kids under the age of five. In essence, military families are single parent households, and basic acts of service for them are a huge help. Activities like providing childcare, helping with home repair, and mowing the grass are all significant ways to serve.
- Pray without prying – Specific prayers are important, but often military spouses can’t give detailed information, or they simply don’t know the answers. It’s best to refrain from asking a lot of questions if you want to know how to pray. Rest assured that it’s always a good idea to pray for: protection and safety for those in the field and their families at home, healing and jobs for those who have returned, and strength and salvation in the combat zone and beyond.
For more in depth information on how you and your church can minister to those in the military, check out this guide from Cru Military, a division of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ International).