Rachel’s Reflections – April 2013

A little over six months ago we had our biannual day of fasting and prayer at Military Ministry. The scripture verse for that day was John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.”

For one hour we had time for personal prayer and I took the time to talk to God and listen. I felt prompted to ask God about my work with Military Ministry and how long He wanted me to continue serving as a missionary. When I first came on staff I committed to two years and I was at 3.5 at that point.

Clear as I bell, I felt God say, “Six months.” I audibly gasped. Wait. Did I hear that right? I loved my job at Military Ministry and I could not imagine anything else I would rather be doing.

It was a few weeks later that God started putting it on my heart to write this book, “Hope” and the day before Easter Sunday, my author’s manuscript was completed. It’s in the final editing process right now and should be published by June!

I was reflecting on all of this after Mass the week before last. As I sat in the adoration chapel, I thanked God for all of the provision in my life and the countless ways He has blessed me. April marked the six month since that day of prayer, and I couldn’t help but smile at the “coincidence.” The Gospel reading at Mass that day was none other than John 10. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.”

“Lord, I know what you told me about Military Ministry back in October. Please speak to me and tell me what you want me to do,” I prayed.

I closed my eyes, listened and felt God say, “The time to leave Military Ministry is now.”

My heart skipped a beat. Maybe I just made that up. “Are you sure, Lord?” I asked. But again I felt him say, “The time to leave is NOW.”

It would be nice if I could say that was all I needed to hear, but my mind was racing. “What about the money? Paying bills? I don’t have any job or income coming in, how are we going to make ends meet?” I pressed.

I felt God say clearly, “Lay it all down. Have I not already provided for you?”

“Yes, Lord,” I answered a bit sheepishly.

“Then trust me,” He said. I felt a peace wash over me, and I knew that I could absolutely trust God.

I talked to Tyler and we both agree that obeying God is always the right thing to do, so this June I will officially end my time as a full-time missionary with Military Ministry. It is an incredibly exciting (and also a bit scary!) time as I transition to where I sense God calling me – a more intentional ministry sharing a message of hope to all people. This lines up perfectly with the book God has laid on my heart to write about “Hope.”

The somewhat scary part is that I don’t have anything lined up in regards to a job, but God has made it very clear that I am to take this step of faith, not to worry about money and to be obedient to what he shows me step by step. Had I not already witnessed how God has supernaturally provided for me through people like you, this would be a much more difficult decision. But I know that God is faithful to His word, and if He is calling me to something new, He will provide for me!

It is hard to believe that I have been a full-time missionary for 4 years this April. Time sure does fly by and I feel so blessed to have been able to serve our Nation’s heroes! Your support, prayers and financial support over the years has truly been an answer to prayer and I am so blessed and thankful for each of you!

I’m not sure where God will lead me, but if you would like to stay connected with me as I transition to this next chapter of life, that would be wonderful and I would love to keep in touch!

May God bless you abundantly, and I will send out my final “Rachel’s Reflections” in a month!

In Christ,
Rachel

Rachel’s Reflections – March 2013

A ninth-inning home run to win the World Series. A “Hail Mary” touchdown pass to win the Superbowl. A world record breaking time to win the Olympic Gold medal. An unexpected military offensive maneuver to win the war.

All of these are impressive victories. But they pale in comparison to the greatest victory. The victory Christ won when he died on the cross and rose on the third day.

This Resurrection Sunday we celebrated and remembered the most incredible victory that has or will ever occur. And we are not just merely fans in the stands. We are directly connected to this victory. Because through it, Christ won for us the gift of eternal life. He did this for me, for you. For all of us.

That is the greatest news imaginable! Reflecting on that I am filled with gratitude, excitement, love and hope.

But if I’m honest, I have to admit that many days I don’t think about the victory I have in Christ. And it often takes an Easter Sunday for me to remember this life-changing truth.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t just want to remember Christ’s resurrection one day a year. I want to celebrate and live out the hope of Easter morning every day!

It was still dark outside at 6:30 a.m. as I was leaving my house to head to the gym before work. Something caught my eye in my yard. It was a little bunny. I watched him hop away quickly and as I drove down the street, I saw another one in a neighbor’s yard. I couldn’t help but smile seeing a bunny the day after Easter. And then I remembered the hope of Easter and how I want to live each day with the right perspective. Thank you, Lord for that reminder. I pray you help all of us live out the victory of Christ’s resurrection in every moment of every day.

Last month, I mentioned we have two new resources at Military Ministry. After many months we have edited and printed our first batch of our Spiritual Fitness Handbooks in the Air Force and Marine versions. With these and the Army and Navy version we already have, we have effective discipleship tools to give out to recruits at all of our Gateway (bootcamp) locations. This is an answer to prayer and is truly making an eternal difference in the lives of these young men and women who are joining the military.

SFH-Airman-USAF-2012-12
SFH_Marine_Final_2012-12

In March we were busy hosting the biannual “Fellowship of Christian Military Ministries” (FCMM) conference March 18-20 here in Hampton Roads. Sever representatives from various military outreaches around the country came together to pray, strategize and collaborate our efforts to better serve troops and families. There were people from Cadence International, Christian Military Fellowship, Military Christian Youth Ministries, Military Missions Network, The Navigators Military Ministry, Officers Christian Fellowship, Operation Reveille and several others. It was a wonderfully fruitful time and it’s a blessing to be able to all work together on behalf of our Nation’s heroes.

As always, there is more to say, but I’m trying to keep these reflections short and easy to read since I know how busy everyone is. :)

Just know that God is alive and working miraculously in the lives of countless troops and families! Thanks for your prayers, support and encouragement!

May the hope of Easter fill your hearts and may God bless you,
Rachel

Rachel’s Reflections – February 2013

It is in giving that we receive,” St Francis of Assisi once said. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35

I could not agree more.

This was my experience a few weeks ago when I served as Lay Director for the Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) retreat at my church. After attending a weekend retreat in September, our team of 15 women has been meeting every Sunday evening since then preparing to host the next retreat, which just happened Feb 9-10.

It was a weekend of serving, loving, supporting and sharing Christ with the twenty-nine women who signed up to attend the retreat. And God definitely met us there.

Each woman had her own story…some single, some married, some divorced and widowed. There were mothers and grandmothers, working women, retired women and stay at home moms. Some arrived full of joy and expectation for the weekend. Others arrived hesitant and guarded. Some are living lives of great fulfillment, while others are struggling through incredibly difficult life circumstances. But no matter who they were and where they were in their lives – on some level they all came because they were looking for something. It may have been peace, hope, purpose, refreshment, forgiveness or love. But ultimately, what they all were seeking was Christ. Because He is all of those things.

The weekend retreat was the culmination of a 5 month formation process that not only helped me grow in my faith and relationship with others, but also reminded me of the true joy of serving others. Here is a picture of our team at the end of the weekend.

CHRP

I had an opportunity to give a 30 minute “witness talk” to these women and share the unconditional love of God and His redemptive work in my life. In my talk I shared about the what I distinctly remember praying to God as a 9-year old girl, “God, I just want to do something “BIG” for you.

God has answered that prayer by allowing me to serve as a full-time missionary with Military Ministry. And thank you so much to all of your for your financial support, prayers and encouragment that make that possible!

I pray that God will continue to use me as His hands and feet, and that He will give me more opportunities to serve others. And He has.

Five years ago (before I ever joined staff with Military Ministy), God told me me I would write a book one day. At the time I had no idea what that book would be about, but several months the Lord started speaking to me very clearly about the theme of this book and that the time to write it was now.

I began in December and over the last 3 months I have done just that. God told me it would be “effortless” and it truly has. It has taken many hours, but as of yesterday I have a 178 page draft of my book entitled, “Hope.”

Only God could have helped me write this book while working a full-time job, leading a retreat team, a weekly Bible study and traveling for work. But He has and now I am ready to begin the formal editing process. Being my first book, I have no idea what I’m doing, but God has already lined up some divine connections with editors and publishers thanks to the support of some wonderful ministry partners in Coppell, Texas. God is so good!

I truly feel God has called me to write this book about hope because there is such a need for it in our world today. Everywhere we look we can see pain, suffering, brokenness and struggles. But I believe that no matter who we are and what our circumstances look like we can always have hope. In my book I wrote:

“Hope is not just for the wealthy, the beautiful, the successful or the elite. Hope is for every single person, whoever they are and wherever they are in life. Hope is not about a 12-step process. It’s an intimate relationship. Hope is not fleeing, it is ever faithful. Hope is not an attitude, hope is a person. And the person in which we find the wellspring of eternal hope is Jesus Christ.”

Would you please pray for me and this book editing/publishing process? I have no idea how long it will take or how things will all come together, but I know God’s hand is on this. And if He has called me to this, He will provide in miraculous ways.

Last week I was invited back to Regent University to speak at an event Thursday evening. As I shared again about our call as Christian’s to be “light for the world,” I felt God confirming that this book is a way I can do that, point others to Christ and give God glory.

So that’s my big news! I wanted to give you a personal update this month and ask for your prayers for this new endeavor. Thank you for all of your support and encouragment!

God bless,
Rachel

P.S. I have exciting news about two new incredible resources we have developed at Military Ministry…but I’ll save those for next month’s update!

Rachel’s Reflections – January 2013

Divine Appointments.  If I had to sum up January, that is what I would call it…a month of divine appointments.

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at Regent University – where I completed my Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership.  The evening reception and event was hosted for Regent’s military students and about 50 showed up that Thursday night.

Some were active duty, some retired, some Guard and Reserve and they were either working toward their Bachelors, Masters or PhD.  I was honored to be able to speak to this diverse group of Veterans for about 30 minutes.  I shared my own experiences while deployed and how I was able to handle my coursework  (since I was taking two classes while I was in Iraq).  Additionally I was able to tell them about Military Ministry and how God called me to become a full-time missionary.  Finally, I exhorted each to be the “the light” wherever God has them at this moment and to take serious Regent’s motto of “Christian Leadership to Change the World.”

This article was posted to their webpage after the event:

http://www.regent.edu/news_events/?article_id=1499&view=full_article

The cool part was not that I was there or what I said, but rather what God did in the hearts of the people who attended.

After I finished, about 10 people stayed after to talk to me.  One lady was crying and said that she was inspired and reminded of God’s goodness (through my story about God providing all of my financial support in the midst of the stock market crash of 2008).  Four individuals asked about volunteer/staff opportunities to join Military Ministry and three of them are scheduled to come visit our headquarters next month.  One lady was a military spouse whose husband is currently deployed.  She was so thankful to learn about the marriage resources we offer.  And yet another Veteran approached me about his son who has just recently separated from the Army.  His son is facing a very difficult struggle with PTSD and this dad has been trying everything he can to help him.  After my talk, he was thrilled to hear about our “Combat Trauma Healing Manual” and eager to purchase one for his son.  When he asked where he could get a copy I just handed him mine.  You would have thought that this $10 resource was worth $1,000 based on his gratitude.  But it reminded me of how invaluable our resources are and how so many people need them.

It was certainly a night of divine appointments.

As I write this, I’m wrapping up a week in Dallas where I have been meeting with personal supporters, ministry partners, family, friends and even complete strangers.  EVERY single one of my appointments was a God ordained divine meeting. There were opportunities to talk to and pray with complete strangers.  There were times of prayer that brought about tears of healing.  There were moments of laughter and fellowship that lifted burdens and spirits.  There were words of encouragement spoken and many, many discussions about the goodness of God, His faithfulneses, unending love, mercy and grace.

To tell each story would make this a 10 page reflection.  So let me just sum up and reflect on this:

We ARE the light of the world.  We are called to shine the light of Christ in every situation.  And the awesome and exciting part about doing so is that you never know who you will get to encourage.  You don’t know who is struggling and having a tough time and how your smile can brighten their day. You never know who is desperate for a kind word and how your words are healing balm to their souls. And you never know who is lost in the dark and by loving them and pointing them to Christ, you help them rediscover hope.

It’s not about any strength or power of our own, but about allowing ourselves to be filled by the Holy Spirit so it can flow through us to bless others.  And God is looking for willing vessels.  He wants us to be his hands and feet, to speak his words of love and truth and to embrace our “neighbors” as the precious sons and daughters He loved enough to die on the cross for.

I never know what divine appointment God has in store for me. But what I do know is that when I am obedient to Christ, when I die to myself and my own routine and expectations, I am AMAZED at the people and divine opportunities God brings across my path.

And so I thank God for all of the supernatural connections I have experienced this month.  And I pray that each one of you will allow yourselves to be the light wherever you are.

May God bless you and may His Spirit overflow out of you to all you meet!

In Christ,

Rachel

Rachel’s Reflections – December 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Spending the holidays with family and friends was a tremendous blessing and I pray this Christmas season was just as wonderful for you and yours!

Another year has passed and it seems they keep coming and going quicker and quicker.  December is always a busy month, but this year at Military Ministry we did something new that I would like to highlight.

In my past updates, I’ve highlighted the various groups we serve:

  1. Recruits
  2. Cadets and Midshipmen
  3. Military families
  4. Chaplains
  5. Churches
  6. Internet Outreach

Today, I’d like to recognize the selfless volunteers who assist Military Ministry with this vital outreach.  Several times a week we have dozens of volunteers who come to our headquarters building to help pack and ship Bibles and other spiritual resources to our troops in harm’s way.  Since 9/11 these volunteers have helped us ship more than 2.5 million (yes million!) Rapid Deployment Kits (camouflaged Bibles packed with a Daily Bread and “How to Know God Personally” tract in a water-proof bag).

Mil Min volunteers

 

Mil Min volunteers 2

Simply put, we could not do our ministry without them.  These volunteers range in age from 6 to 85 and they come faithfully to give their time and effort on behalf of our Nation’s heroes.  This Christmas we decided to host a special Christmas luncheon in their honor!  Our staff put on a “Christmas program” that included musical performances, solos and duets, reading from the Bible and singing Christmas carols. After honoring them for their service, we served a complete Christmas dinner with turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, rolls, yams and lots of desserts to more than 100 people. It was a wonderful celebration that no doubt blessed our staff just as much as it did them.

Here are a just few emails we received from our volunteers who attended:

    Please extend our thanks to all the members of Military Ministry for the fabulous Christmas Party today.  The program, food, greetings (including lots of hugs), and sacrificial effort by each of your team members was felt by all our ladies.  I don’t think I personally have ever been to such an emotional “party.”  I looked around and saw many smiles and heartfelt rejoicing during that party.  Many of our ladies are Army widows and they feel so connected to Mil Min because it is an opportunity for them to still feel a vital part of the support effort to our deployed troops.  I know your primary mission is to those who serve, but our ladies also receive much as they come each month to pack RDK’s and join the all- over ministry to the spiritual health and well being of our active duty troops and their families.  Thank you for letting us be a small part of that effort. 

    We truly felt blessed beyond measure today.  Thank you for such a lavish expression of love.  May God continue to bless your ministry as you serve Him.  

And another one:

To All You Wonderful Ministers!!

    Yesterday’s program and luncheon feast warmed my heart more than you can imagine!  Each of you has special talents and there was no doubt love, the Spirit of Jesus Christ and true faith in your mission, and that of all of us volunteers, permeated the walls of that building!  Your effort in putting on the lovely program was truly appreciated by each one of us.   

     My feeling of accomplishing something so worthwhile keeps me coming each month knowing that some young or older person in the military or allied in some way may have life changes because of the materials that reach them in such harsh conditions of living that most of us can’t imagine but have had loved ones experience it.

     May each of your holidays be blessed with knowing that you make a huge difference in spreading the word of Our Lord!

We are so blessed and thankful for each and every one of these volunteers! A few are veterans.  Some are military wives.  Many have family members who have served. And ALL are incredibly thankful for the selfless sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

In the same way these volunteers serve at Military Ministry, many of you serve as well – through your prayers and financial support to me.  Thank you so much!  Simply put, I could not do what God has called me to do without you!

Please know that you and your families are in my prayers!

May the light of Christ illuminate your hearts and give you immeasurable hope as we begin a new year!

In Him,

Rachel

 

Rachel’s Reflections – November 2012

Newly married and pregnant with their first child, Bambi knew her husband had “seen” a lot during his military service.  But she had no idea the extent to which her husband was struggling with PTSD.  That is, until November 5, 2009 – the night of the Fort Hood shooting tragedy. Even though he was not directly affected, that singular event triggered something in Mark that he had been desperately trying to hide and suppress. He began drinking and continued all evening. Things escalated with an argument and Bambi feared for her life and called the police when Mark pulled out a knife and threatened to kill her.

Mark was intoxicated and the policeman encouraged Bambi to get a hotel for the night.  Scared and confused, she didn’t know what was going on or what to do.

“Did your husband serve in the military?” the policeman asked.  She explained that he had recently separated from active duty and had deployed several times.  “Ma’am, your husband has PTSD” he told her.

Mark and Bambi shared this story with me two weeks ago as they visited Military Ministry.  They wanted to meet our staff and see the ministry that they had been supporting financially since 2006.  Back then, they never knew that one day they would desperately need the resources and support Military Ministry offers. With tears streaming down her face, Bambi recounted the experience and how the “Combat Trauma Healing Manual” had been a pivotal tool in helping Mark find healing for his PTSD.  The couple began extensive counseling and the painful healing process. “The first session I felt like I was raped,” Mark explained.  The emotion and experience was so raw, he felt striped and violated.  But he knew enough to know that he needed help.  “If the police hadn’t showed up that night, one of us would have ended up dead,” Bambi shared.  Mark nodded soberly, adding, “The crazy thing is that I don’t remember a thing about that night.”

Looking at Mark and Bambi, you would never know what they have been through. Today they are happy, healthy and the proud parents of two little boys with another on the way. They credit Military Ministry and God with saving their marriage and family.  Praise the Lord!  Testimonies like these remind me of the importance of this vital ministry…and that there are many other troops like Mark, and wives like Bambi out there who need hope and healing.

Thank you for all you do to support me and Military Ministry!  I asked Mark and Bambi if I could share their story with you because I wanted you to know the impact that you are making in the lives of so many of our Nation’s heroes.  At the end of their visit we had a beautiful time of prayer and I know that God is going to use Mark and Bambi to help many other couples struggling with the wounds of war.  It was fun to also discover that Mark and I were both deployed to Baghdad at the same time and have many mutual friends.  As we talked more we realized that we had been neighbors in Baghdad and our trailers (where we lived) were only three rows apart.  What a small world!

For all of the negative news you hear these days, I hope this story encourages you.  Our troops and families have endured a lot and many are wounded physically and emotionally…but God is the divine Healer and He continues to redeem even impossible situations. Please take a moment to pray for our military and thank you!

This holiday season, we have much to be thankful for.  The sacrifice and service of our military members and their families is at the top of my list.

May God bless you and your loved ones!

In Christ,

Rachel

Rachel’s Reflections – October 2012

October absolutely flew by!  Two weeks ago I headed to Minnesota to meet with ministry partners and to attend a wedding for a dear friend, Josh.  I met Josh when he and I were being trained to become missionaries for Military Ministry.  An Army veteran who had seen several deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Josh was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He survived his tours of combat and, after returning home, entered a dark time of harrowing struggles with drugs and alcohol that cost him his career, but thank God – not his life.  With God’s grace and the support of Military Ministry, Josh has found hope and healing and has a new outlook on life.  It’s amazing to see the victory in his life today and the turn around that only God could accomplish.  Josh could very well have been a statistic….but he’s living proof that God can redeem and heal ANYONE. Two weeks ago he married his best friend, Kelly, and I know God has incredible things in store for them.  Congrats Josh and Kelly!

One of the ministry partners I met with in Minnesota is a sweet lady named Pam.  She and her husband were both Army veterans.  They have one child – a daughter who recently married the love of her life.  Both are active duty Army officers and scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in early 2013.  Please pray for protection and provision for Bethany and Joe, their unit and all who are deployed and preparing to deploy.

Your prayers are powerful and effective!  And it’s awesome how God answers them.

Speaking of, last month I mentioned an increasing desire to do more ministry with women – to be able to encourage, support and share the Gospel with them as they travel through this sometimes painful journey called life. God is fulfilling that desire and giving me more opportunities to do just that.

You may remember that I have started up a women’s Bible Study and we continue to meet each Monday night.  I love watching what God is doing in each of us as we journey through this study, “Breaking Free.”

We all joke that Monday nights have become our favorite night of the week!  We are truly being set free…and man does it feel good!

“For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” Galatians 5:13.

Last month I also attended a women’s retreat at my church called “Christ Renews His Parish.”  It was a beautiful time to connect with many other ladies.  At the end of the weekend we had to discern our “role” for the next retreat.  God called me and I was selected to be the “Lay Director.”  Together with the “Spiritual Director” – we help lead these 20 women in the formation process every Sunday night until the retreat February 9-10.

Being able to participate and lead both of these groups has truly been an answer to prayer in many ways. It was just a few years ago I was feeling very lonely.  Yes, I had many friends, but I didn’t seem to know many other women whom I could really connect with. I longed to have deep, meaningful relationships with women who could share my faith and who could truly be “sisters” to me.  Of course I have a wonderful mother and sister and I love them with all of my heart…but they live in Alabama and Louisiana respectively.  I needed women here in Virginia.

Today I marvel at how many incredible women God has brought into my life. The military is a common theme among us. Some of these women are currently serving on active duty or in the reserves. Some have spouses who serve and are currently deployed. Some have siblings who serve and/or are deployed.  Many have fathers who served in the military.

I am a military brat and I’ve served in the military myself and deployed.  I have a military spouse and a brother who has deployed and will return to Afghanistan next Spring. I can relate to each of them personally!  There is no doubt that God prepared me specifically for this assignment.

One of the life lessons God has been really impressing upon me is that it is better to give than receive.  (Hence the quote at the top of this website: “Live to Give”). But I’ve discovered that in giving I am receiving…a LOT. I see how God abundantly blesses those who give….give of themselves, their time, their finances, and their prayers. Thank you to all of you who give to me so I can give to others.

May God bless you and your loved ones!

In Christ,

Rachel

Rachel’s Reflections – September 2012

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.  For active-duty military and veterans, the focus has been on suicide prevention – especially given the tremendous strain they have experienced after more than a decade at war. Tragically, military suicides have increased sharply.

From 2005 to 2010, active duty service members took their own lives at a rate of approximately one every 36 hours, according to a recent report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). The majority of the increase in these suicides occurred with the Army and Marines.

The problem doesn’t end when servicemembers leave the military, either.  The New York Times reported earlier this year that on average, 6500 veteran’s commit suicide every year in our country.  VA officials estimate that a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes, according to the CNAS report. “Moreover, although only 1 percent of Americans have served in the military, former service members represent 20 percent of suicides in the United States,” the report stated.

With respect to these sobering statistics, I’d like to ask you to pause for a moment and offer prayers for:

  1. Those who right now are contemplating suicide, and for divine intervention to stay their hand.
  2. For the families of those who are grieving the loss of a loved one who committed suicide.
  3. For continued opportunities to minister to hurting troops and families and share with them the hope of Jesus Christ.

Your prayers are powerful and effective and thank you for lifting up those requests.

On a lighter note, on Sunday, September 9, the Knights of Columbus at my parish hosted a pancake breakfast to raise support and awareness for me and Military Ministry.  After both Masses I had a booth set up and was able to meet with many military families and tell them more about our ministry and resources.  Thank you to all who worked so hard to cook, set up and serve that day to…your support of me and Military Ministry is a tremendous blessing!

The following weekend, Military Ministry hosted a city-wide church workshop – called a “Bridges to Healing Seminar and Workshop” – to help equip and train church leaders here locally. This is especially important because the greatest population of military members anywhere in the country are living here in Hampton Roads, Va  (where our HQ is).

Sorry this is a bit grainy…had to take a picture of the poster to upload it as a JPG instead of a PDF.

At the seminar, a military couple shared their personal testimony of walking through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in order to educate pastors and church leaders about the often invisible wound of war. Workshops followed to highlight a few of our key resources and how churches can use them in small groups to minister to the military in their midst.  Praise God for the ­­­16 churches and 4 para-church and professional organizations that sent representatives to attend this event!

On a personal note, I have felt God calling me to a deeper level of ministry as well and to minister directly with young women.  In response to that calling:

  1. This month I kicked off a women’s Bible Study that I’m leading every Monday evening at my house.  We are doing a study called “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore and it has been wonderful so far!  We have met three times already and each time the Lord is showing us new and exciting things and deepening our relationship with Him and each other.
  2. This weekend I am attending a women’s retreat called “Christ Renews His Parish” at my parish, St. Joan of Arc.  I’ve never participated in this particular program but am thrilled to attend and excited for what God will show us. After that we will begin a 14-week formation program to prepare to host the next retreat for another group of ladies in February.

It should be an awesome experience and I covet your prayers both of these divine opportunities.

As always, there is much more I could say…but I’ll close for now. Please know that I will be lifting you up during our day of prayer on Oct 2.

Thanks and may God bless you and your loved ones,

Rachel

Rachel’s Reflections – August 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

I pray you are all enjoying the last bit of your summer!  August included a wonderful trip to California.  There were meetings with fellow Military Ministry staff members, ministry partners, personal supporters, churches and potential ministry partners.  Some were Veterans, others had family members who served and some had no personal military connection, but all heart for our troops and families.

I loved seeing and hearing their enthusiasm and passion for what God is doing through Military Ministry!  What a blessing to spend time with such wonderful people and be able to encourage each other and pray together.

Apart from my trip, we have been cranking full speed ahead as we prepare for a busy Fall!

We continue to attract thousands of recruits to Bible studies every Sunday at the “Gateway” locations (boot camps).  Military Ministry has a presence at 5 of the 7 boot camps.  Please pray for God to open up ministry opportunities at the other two.

We’re partnering with FamilyLife, one of our “sister” ministries to launch a program to provide DVD-based Art of Marriage Seminar kits FREE to any chapel or church that will hold a military-focused event.  For more information check out: http://www.theartofmarriageops.org/

With divorce rates at an all-time high in the military, this initiative is vital. We are also providing a HomeBuilders start-up kit that includes Military specific books for marriage and families to help plant follow-on small group ministries.  These groups are a wonderful asset in providing on-going spiritual support for military families.

With college students heading back to school our Valor ministries are gearing up for kick-off at academies and ROTC locations across the country. The response from cadets at Army & Air Force summer ROTC encampments has been particularly encouraging.  Praise the Lord for what He is doing in the lives of these students!

Finally, on an international front, we have an exciting opportunity to train chaplains and counselors in Kenya with our new Military Ministry Director.  We recently had 55 new graduates from our New Life Training Center in South Sudan and we have new ministry partners in Asia.   Also, please pray for the Honduran military cadets who will visit with the VA Tech Corps of Cadets from 30 September to 7 November in a partnership between our U.S. and Latin American ministry.

Just wanted to share these awesome updates with you so you know what is going on and can be praying!

As always, I’d like to ask for continued prayers for our troops and families as well. If you have been watching the news, you know that we continue to take casualties in Afghanistan almost on a daily basis.  Each servicemember leaves behind a family.  Please pray for those grieving husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters and brothers and sisters.

May God bless you and your family abundantly!

In Christ,

Rachel

Rachel’s Reflections – July 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

It seems like just last week I was writing my June reflection.  Time is absolutely flying by!

July included:

  • A trip home to Alabama visit my family for the 4th
  • Putting the finishing touches on a video project to raise support and awareness for Military Ministry: http://support.ccci.org/e/supportracheljohnson
  • Organizing a “Hope for Heroes Walk” –  a first-time event that Military Ministry is going to host in the Hampton Roads area in November
  • …and so much more.

All that said, one of the most rewarding experiences this last month was being asked to host and speak to about 20 young Army soldiers at the Fort Eustis Coffee House last Saturday night.

Since the Army and the Air Force both have a “Core Value” that mentions service – “Selfless Service” in the Army and “Service Before Self” in the Air Force, the Lord prompted me to speak on this subject.  As I prepared for this talk, here’s what came to mind regarding the idea of “Selfless Service” or putting others before ourselves:

  1. It’s counter cultural.  Our society places a high value on status and position and being served. Those who assume a “servant” role are often looked down upon or seen as “lesser.”
  2. It is NOT easy…in fact, serving others can be hard to do.  We are called to serve everyone…not just God and our friends, but those who we don’t like, who hurt us and even our enemies.
  3. It is blessed by God.  “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45).  This is what Jesus did and what we are called to do.
  4. It’s an amazing way to spread the Gospel.  When you go above and beyond to serve someone, you are embodying what St Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.”
  5. It changes you.  “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  6. It can change others.  Remember how you felt when someone went out of their way to serve, help, encourage, love, support you?
  7. It is what God calls us to do. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” John 15:12
  8. It is fulfilling and ultimately brings peace and joy to your heart.  Think about when you selflessly served others.  It might have been challenging at the time, but looking back, hopefully you feel peace and joy.

The evening was wonderful and many soldiers participated in the conversation sharing their own struggles and opportunities to embody selfless service.  I was able to talk to two soldiers in particular for about an hour.  One had just recently become a U.S. citizen and as a self-proclaimed “goody goody” found himself in a bad situation and ended up spending a life changing week in jail.  He recounted the way the Lord changed his heart, took away his bitterness and even how he began to minister to and share the gospel with the other inmates.  The other soldier grew up in a tough neighborhood.  “I’ve been shot, stabbed and taken every drug that doesn’t require injection with a needle,” he said.  “But God has changed my life and I want to either go back home to be a youth leader if I separate from the Army, or I want to become an Army Chaplain.

Both of these young men were profuse in their appreciation for the Coffee House ministry and for a place where they can relax, share their faith, be in a positive environment and grow spiritually.  It was a divine conversation and the Lord is working in mighty ways there every week!

Thank you for all that you do to make events like the Fort Eustis Coffee House possible.  Your partnership is truly changing lives!

In Christ,

Rachel