By Cheri Fuller
"I'll Be Home for Christmas" rang out over the intercom as I walked through the B terminal at DFW airport on my way to Gate 24 to fly to Wisconsin to see my newest grandbaby, Lucy, born last week. Christmas trees with twinkle lights decorated each gate and red and green posters encouraged waiting passengers to shop at the airport stores before departing.
Suddenly I saw a large group of Army soldiers in their cammies and boots, loaded down with backpacks and duffelbags, about to board a plane for Kuwait and then head to Baghdad. A lump formed in my throat as I realized they were definitely not going to be home for Christmas. I went over to thank these troops for their service for our country, and as we talked, they began to pull out their photos of children and wives and share their hopes.
Like Sgt. Nathan Rich. Originally from North Dakota, Sgt. Rich has been stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, for five years. Last April he married the love of his life, Crissy (she's darling; he showed me her picture), but had to leave for Iraq two months after the wedding. The son of a minister, Nathan was returning to Iraq to a dangerous assignment. He leads a squad of twelve military police in the heart of Baghdad.
"In October and November our squad was hit by IEDs twice, but there were no injuries or deaths. My dad's church in Fayette, Missouri, has adopted the whole squad, and covers us in prayer, sends packages and letters weekly."
Most of his men weren't close to God when they were first deployed, but he's seen changes in their behavior and values in the past months. "We see God working as people pray for us," he told me. "But we need and the country of Iraq needs prayer."
With violence erupting all around them, their homes and communities going up in flames, many Iraqi people have told him that the only way things will get better is GOD. Nathan agrees. He prays for the wisdom to answer the many spiritual questions his men are asking him, for God's protection during the next seven months so they'll all get home in one piece.
Standing next to Nathan was Sargeant Gardner, a member of the 410 MP Company also headed for Baghdad. His two boys, ages four and six, and wife are back home in Ft. Hood. "To come home safely to our families, that's the greatest hope", he says.
Luciana Henry, a twenty-four-year-old soldier from Texarkana, Arkansas, was across the hall getting a sandwich when we met. Part of the Alpha Company, Luciana is in aviation supply and will be serving seven more months near the Syrian/Turkey border. She left behind a brother, mom and dad, beloved grandmother, and friends who are praying for her safe return.
"What is your greatest hope and prayer?" I asked Luciana. A smile lit up her face. "For God to continue to guide me as I lead other soldiers to Christ, witness and encourage them to be active in church."
After we talked and hugged, she said, "Thank you for supporting us!"
Every day at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport and other airports in the U.S., there are flights going to Kuwait City, loaded with men and women headed for service in Iraq and Afganistan. They are our brothers and sisters, husbands, and sons. They are fathers and mothers of kids whose greatest hope is that daddy or mommy will come home.
Two years ago at this time my son, a Navy doctor, was serving in Iraq. Now I am about to fly to his and his family's home in Wisconsin, where he is in a residency, to meet his and his wife Maggie's baby daughter.
As the war drags on, approaching the fourth year, it's easy to turn the channel when bad news from the Middle East is broadcast on CNN. Unless you are personally touched by the war because you have a loved one deployed in the war zone, you may wish it would all go away so you could get on with your holiday activities.
But let me encourage you, in the midst of Christmas preparations, not to forget our troops who are sacrificially serving our country and facing danger every day, and their families who miss them. Here are some ways:
*Pray for our military. Your church or small group could adopt a company or squad, as the Missouri church did. As you cover those troops in prayer, send cards and for the duration of their deployment. Your support and prayers will make a huge difference.
*Reach out to military families. One way is to schedule a prayer meeting monthly for military families. When a Washington church started a once-a-month prayer time especially for military families in their community, they had sixty mothers, fathers, and wives of deployed servicemen and women show up. These families were overwhelmed and grateful that Christians would take their time and offer to pray for their loved ones and for their own fears and struggles. December is a great time to start this.
*Light a candle each day during December as a reminder to pray for our troops. You can visit my website www.militaryfamiliespray.com for Scriptural prayers to pray, a list of ways to survive and thrive if you have a deployed family member, and other helps.
*Order prayer cards in packs of fifty entitled, "Prayers for our Military and Their Families" from Navpress.com. These are great to give to military moms and wives and to put in your Bible to remind you to pray God's Word for our soldiers. Because when we pray for them, it releases the Lord's power, protection and presence into their lives. October was the bloodiest month since 2004 in terms of U.S. and civilian casualties. They don't need less prayer and support, they need more! Because our military troops face continuing violence and terrorist threats around the world, it is more vital than ever to pray for them and their families.
*Send a thank you card to a soldier. Go to the website, www.letssaythanks.com, pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. It's free and only takes a minute. Although you can't pick out who gets it, the card will go to some member of the armed services, and every one of them deserves our thanks. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these? Our guys and gals over there need to know we are behind them.
Copyright 2006 Cheri Fuller. Cheri Fuller, a popular speaker and author of A Busy Woman's Guide to Prayer (Integrity), Focus on the Family's The Mom You're Meant to Be, and her upcoming Loving Your Spouse Through Prayer: Praying God's Word Into Your Marriage (January release) and other books.
Use only by permission of author. Visit www.cherifuller.com for more resources and encouragement for parents.
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