Memorial Day weekend, Pentecost Sunday I was given the honor of announcing the initiation of the Veterans Ministry and First Lutheran’s partnership with Wesleyan Methodist Church in La Crosse. In attempting to demonstrate the connection we all have with veterans, I asked the congregation to stand if they were a veteran, a spouse of a veteran, related to a veteran, were a friend of a veteran or knew a veteran. As I looked out upon them all, almost the entire congregation was standing. “Look around you.” I said. “Whether this is our church or a national stadium somewhere, the result would be the same.”
Veterans and their caregivers have an impact on us and we on them. This is community. This is neighbor keeping an eye on neighbor. The caregiver might be a spouse, family member, neighbor or friend. It is anyone who cares, in any way, about those around them.
Veterans have been trained to be strong and independent. They have been trained to do what they must do, no matter what capacity that might have been while they were in service. They will not ask for help. There are veterans and caregivers in our community who need our help.
Young Iraq/Afghanistan veterans are having issues related to Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain injuries (memory). Other veterans have power shut off, are behind in their rent, have no food or find themselves homeless. Older veterans might require equipment, change in medications, a check-in from someone after returning home from the hospital. Any one of us might find that we need a little help in some way at home. Families that live close to each other is not as it once was. We need to rely on each other more. Veterans have served and done their part for us, it is now our turn.
Sometimes it seems that “we” take our most vulnerable people and ask them to seek help for themselves through phone cascades and waiting lists. Those with mental health issues (PTSD, depression, anxiety etc.), those who have medical issues, those who are young (children) and those who are elderly. This is a system that drives any person to just give up.
This shall no longer stand.
I am a member of this church. I am a nurse. I am an employee of the Tomah VA. I am a member of this community, and I am here to help.
As it turns out, so are many others.
YOU are my church. For any who are veterans or not who need assistance in any way, know that I might be able to help.
Wesleyan Methodist Church is transitioning to a community outreach parish. The first calls that I received regarding veterans and caregivers in need where from Pastor Ellen and her congregation. In the coming months I will tell you, through this column, about the Veterans Ministry, what we are doing, who we are helping, what our goals are. You will see pictures of those who have partnered with us and the coalition of individuals from organizations that want to help us in our efforts. You will hear of true stories that will need to be told.
The veterans and those who care for them have a wide array of support from folks they have never heard of.
We will be working to give direction to this initiative. There will be a small group from First Lutheran that will help in that endeavor, to use this opportunity to reach out. As a congregation, we will extend a helpful hand to others.
For those of you who are veterans, this is for you. I would like to know who you all are. I would like to know what you would be interested in seeing in this ministry. I would like to speak to you about all the possibilities this ministry might fulfill. Should you get the chance, please leave a note in the office (there is a veteran’s ministry mailbox), call the church, send a note or call me. Know that calls are coming in, and through this ministry you continue to serve. In fact, there might be others who are interested in joining us.
I would ask that each of you look in front of you and look behind you. Look to the right of you and look to the left of you. Within this congregation, within your family, within this community. And call me if you think or know that there is someone in need. I contact them personally. Your call might have a significant impact on someone’s well being.
For those of you who have offered your services thank you, yes I will be in touch.
My name is Sharon Kjos, they call me Shaz around here. My phone number is 608.790.2752. I am here every Sunday during coffee. This is the Veteran’s Ministry. As we leave church every Sunday, we see these words above the doorway: THE WORSHIP HAS ENDED, THE SERVICE BEGINS… and so it shall.