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ENCOURAGE OUR MILITARY

Cheering them On: How We Can Actively Support Our Troops

By Linda Jewell
Guest Writer


CBN.com My son and his wife are stationed in Iraq.

I'm often asked, "How do you deal with it?"

What helps is a lesson I learned from watching basketball fans collectively dubbed "The Sixth Man." That is, although the team can have only five players on the court, sustained cheers or boos can influence whether a team wins or loses. Therefore, the fans become the "sixth man" on the court.

My son and daughter-in-law are not involved in a game–but in life and death struggles. They go places where I cannot go, in parts of the world unknown to me. However, while they are far from home, I can encourage them in ways that allow them to hear my roar of approval even to the ends of the earth. Although I'm not "on the court" with them, I choose to see myself as hopeful—not helpless—because there are many things I can do.

  • I can pray.
  • I can mail letters and care packages.
  • I can lend a hand to others on the home front.
  • And I can be brave.

Pray

God gives us the gift of prayer.

I've prayed for my son all his life. However, the first time he was deployed to a war zone, I ratcheted my prayers to a new level and began praying Psalm 91. I chose the Revised Standard Version because it sounds military. I couldn't know how praying Psalm 91 might help my son, but I did know it calmed my nerves as a mom of a young soldier stationed in a war zone.

I retyped Psalm 91 with line breaks to make it easier to remember and carried it as I walked around the park. Memorizing Scripture was difficult for me, but I can now pray Psalm 91 without peeking at my notes because I practiced with persistence while pounding the pavement.

Knowing Scripture by heart comes in handy when I wake up at 2:00 a.m. and start fretting about my son's safety. In the darkness I pray Psalm 91, talk with Jesus, and picture Him watching over my son. I then drift back to sleep, knowing he is in good hands.

In addition to praying Scripture, I've asked the Holy Sprit to nudge me when my son and his wife need special prayers. Shortly after my daughter-in-law deployed, I woke from a vivid dream of a young, intense soldier complete with a crew cut and dressed in cammies coming toward me. With a thumping heart, I slid out of bed and knelt by its side. I asked the Holy Spirit to intercede and asked Jesus, "What do You want me to pray?" After praising God, I felt a need to pray for Jesus to strengthen the hearts of my son, daughter-in-law, and the soldiers around them. While getting ready for work, I saw news reports from Iraq of bombings and mobs running amuck. A few days later my son e-mailed to let me know he had been directly involved with what I'd seen in the news but that he was okay, he loved me-and not to worry.

Mail Letters and I-Care Packages

Part of my heart is wrapped up in every letter and care package I mail.

I've written my son at least once a week for the past 14 years. At first I felt awkward writing letters. Now it's a habit–and my week is not complete until I've shared some of it with him in a letter.

Over the years I've learned some things about writing letters. For instance, I keep an ample supply of stamps and stationery handy. I've learned to ask what my son wants and doesn't want and obey the rules of what can and can't be mailed. I keep writing even when my son doesn't answer each letter. I also share his address with others so my son won't be one of the unfortunate soldiers who never receives a letter from home.

I don't want my son to forget us, so I've learned to be a "reporter" to pass along news about family and friends. At my son's request, I give facts but don't dwell on difficult news.

I also want my son and daughter-in-law to know they are not forgotten. I include notes about anyone who asks about them and when grateful citizens express their thanks for their service and their sacrifices.

I've read books about World War II concentration camp prisoners Corrie ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who expressed great joy when they received care packages. These stories inspire me to send packages-an active way of saying "I care." Even if my son and daughter-in-law were stationed where it is safe to run down to their local corner store, items such as power bars, dry Gatorade®, and computer magazines in English aren't available. Most important, each care package is a tangible reminder of my love for them.

Lend a Hand to Others

When I serve others I can't hold a pity party.

I have a choice. I can feel alone, helpless, and a victim–or I can look around and see where and how I can help others. I asked Jesus to connect me with others I can walk with on this long road and to help me:

"Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
'Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on His way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He's on his way! He'll save you!' "
(Isaiah 35:3-4, The Message)

Even with my busy schedule, I can still reach out to others. I write to soldiers who have no one else to write them. I scribble notes of encouragement to other military moms. I pen thank-you notes to parents, wives, and children for their sacrifices, too, while their loved ones are serving in the military. Often these notes and letters are to people I've never met. However, I try to follow the Golden Rule and write them a note I'd want to receive in their circumstances.

I also wrote a booklet and teach workshops to help others pen notes to their loved ones who are far from home.

Be Brave

Bravery is a matter of the heart.

My son and I love to read and often share good books. Several years ago he recommended Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. It's a historical novel about 300 Spartan warriors standing in the gap at Thermopylae against tens of thousands under the command of Xerxes, King of Persia. When my son recommended the book in a rare overseas phone call, he told me what impressed him most was not only the bravery of the warriors, but also the bravery of the mothers and wives who were left behind. Although my son has never asked me to be brave, I feel my bravery on the home front will encourage my son-or at least not distract him while he is stationed in a war zone.

Knowing that Jesus loves my son even more than I do gives me courage. I've talked with other moms whose sons and daughters are deployed to Iraq. We'll ask questions such as, "Where is he stationed?" or "What is she doing?" We really don't know much–and our answers usually aren't satisfying. But invariably one of us will say, "I know Jesus loves my son (or daughter, as the case may be) even more than I do."

Also, knowing that Jesus has a plan for my son gives me courage. When my son enlisted, I felt pensive, much like the day I watched him take his teacher's hand and walk into his first-grade classroom. Watching him leave for the military was an even larger letting go. However, the next morning while reading the Bible, I knew that my son is right where God wants him. What has sustained me all these years is God's assurance in Isaiah 58:8-9 (NKJV):

". . .your light shall break forth like the morning,
your healing shall break forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' "

These days others are watching me deal with uncertainties and my own anxieties and ask how I can deal with my son and his wife being in Iraq. For me, it all comes back to the lesson I learned from watching basketball fans. Although I cannot get into the action in my son and daughter-in-law's arena of life, I am part of the force of "The Sixth Man."

I pray. I mail letters and I-Care packages. I reach out to others who are also waiting for their loved ones to come home. And, most importantly, I ask God for a brave heart. By doing these four things I can give a roar of approval that reaches around the world–and encourages my soldiers to do their best.


Linda LaMar Jewell believes that life is about love–it's really about relationships. She speaks about relationship issues and teaches letter-writing and journaling workshops for adults and children at retreats, businesses, churches, and schools. Linda is the Manager of Seminars for CLASServices, which trains Christian speakers and writers. Linda and her husband live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her adult son and a daughter-in-law are currently serving in Iraq.

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