SO YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW WE GOT STARTED?
Military Missions is just one of many organizations that sends care packages overseas to our deployed military, but I like to think of this organization as one that is different from the rest. This ministry didn’t just open its doors one day and start sending out boxes. It started when this mother of a brand new Marine went to dinner one evening with my son and 15 other men who had just graduated from training and entered the fleet. I didn’t do anything extraordinary. I just did what all moms do. I followed my mother’s heart.
That evening, back in November, 2004, I sat at the table with about 15 young men, eager to start on their adventures after several months of strenuous and challenging training. I saw something that I had not expected to see………………I saw a need. Fully expecting to be “out of place” at the table that evening, I had offered to stay at the hotel while my son went to dinner with his friends for the celebration meal. He encouraged me to go along since I had made the 12 hour trip to see him graduate earlier that day. Each of the new graduates had been assigned a duty station. They were all about to go their separate ways to serve in the USMC. I heard their excitement as they shared information about the units they were joining. I heard their fears, concerns, and feelings of invincibility, as they discussed the inevitable tours of duty that were near in their futures.
What I didn’t expect to see was their interest in talking to me. As the evening progressed, I began to realize that each of these men, at some point or another, had made an effort to chat with me. Some shared about home, others about girlfriends. One man had a new bride waiting for him in his home state and worried that she didn’t understand his obligation to the military. Another had a fascination with my camera and told me all about his intentions to learn more about photography. By evening’s end, my mind was filled with bits and pieces of the hearts and minds of these new Marines.
Back at the hotel, as I watched my Marine sleep, I pondered all that had taken place that evening. I was struck by the fact that these Marines, who left home as boys months before, were now faced with the expectation of being men. Even more striking was the fact that they had no idea how much in need they were for Mom, for home, for love, for Christ. What other reason would a bunch of 18-21 year old guys have for spending their evening vying for a chance to talk with Pennington’s mom?
I wrote down each name that night and what I could remember about each young man. This guy is from Ohio and loves dogs. The blond guy from PA is the newlywed…wife was crying on the phone. The tall, skinny guy is from GA and he wants to buy a nice camera. The confident one from North Carolina just got a brand new mustang with gigantic USMC detailing all over it….and on and on. I began to pray for these men each day asking God to meet their needs and guide them as they went off to serve their country.
Once I had returned home and back to my daily routine, I tried to keep up with these young men through my own son. He would update me with tidbits of information from time to time, and it wasn’t long before they all began to deploy overseas….first one, then another. Unable to forget about these lives, I found myself trying to get their addresses so I could write to them from time to time. That led to the idea that I could send them care packages. It wasn’t long before God was showing me that I could do the same for others right here in my own hometown. I realized that I belonged to a large church that probably had plenty of military connections. Immediately, I could think of 2 or 3 people that were serving. Before long, I was coordinating an effort to send out packages to any deployed military who had a connection in some way to my home church.
What started as a simple prayer has turned into a ministry that is blessing hundreds, if not thousands, of deployed military. God took me, a “home-school mom” with no intentions of changing her path in life, and placed me in a position where I have the privilege and blessing of touching the lives of many with His love. Through sending care packages and cards of encouragement to our military, I have the opportunity to share the love of Christ in each and every box and card that makes its way overseas. I have met the most amazing people through this ministry during the past two years. God has placed me on a path with veterans and WWII brides who have amazing stories about their service to our nation years ago. I have met people from all walks of life who just want to say thank you to our military, though they have no personal connection. I have been blessed to come to know military families………….wives, children, mothers, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the fiancées, girlfriends, neighbors, and friends of our Armed Forces. Each has a story and each has a desire to do something for our troops. To see these hearts overflowing with love for our military and our nation is an amazing blessing for me each day. I have had the privilege to see how much a simple card or box of snacks can bless the socks off of a 19 year old serving his tour in the deserts of the Middle East. I have seen the joy on the faces of the parents who know their son will get a box from someone who cares. I have seen the excitement and awe in the eyes of the child who finally meets the two Marines he wrote during their deployment when they come home and shake his small hand to say thanks……..
In addition to supporting our troops with care packages, this organization has grown to provide support for military families here on the home front as well as our veteran community.
Though I will never know the extent of His power and how this ministry might change the lives of those who receive our packages and support, I do know what a blessing it is to be a part of Military Missions. I have enjoyed every minute of this endeavor, and hope to continue in this effort as long as we have troops and veterans who need God’s love and support. I can’t think of a better place to be serving in His Kingdom. Won’t you consider joining me in this ministry?