If I were to compose a list of all the things we have learned (so far) by starting Dinner Churches for our Veterans of War the list would be very long. As we continue to minister to our Vets it’s amazing how the Lord is using these Dinner Churches to begin building trust while at the same time creating some very close relationships with many of them. Basically a huge part of the mission is we love turning strangers into friends. Click To Tweet
To narrow down our very long list, here are the five most important things that we have learned and that God has been showing us from being with our Vets in the Dinner Churches.
The Value of a Home-Cooked Meal…
We have learned how thankful and grateful our Vets are for a home-cooked meal including the fellowship we have with them around the dinner table. Many of them are hungry for the physical food, but we were blown away by their genuine hunger for spiritual food as we share Jesus and his stories with them! They are very receptive in hearing, taking in, and discussing the messages of the love of Christ as well as what Jesus is teaching us in the story. By the way, several of our Vets now have a personal relationship with the Lord. Praise God!
Knowing Jesus as Healer
We have learned that a majority of our Veterans continue to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It really has been an eye opener for us as well as for them. Several of our men and women vets didn’t even realize they had been fighting this disorder nor did they know what it was until many years later. One Veteran shared with me recently that they had both literally and mentally put everything in a locker to never be opened again after his stint of service. However, 30 years later the mental strife came seeping out and he found himself coming to grips of dealing with the flooding pain over again. He said “If it wasn’t for Jesus I probably couldn’t have gotten through it.” They like all of us are in desperate need to know and experience the love of the Savior and Lord as well as to know the Jesus that can heal them.
Many of them have experienced Jesus as savior but have never thought of Jesus as healer. But saving and healing are both at the root of the work of Jesus in our lives.
Start with Funny Stories
We have learned some of the hardships in war from their service by listening to their stories and how they have been effected by them. Some stories are harsh, some ugly, many raw (but honest), and a few of them are downright funny. We have learned to ask them for these funny stories first and it always brings much laughter to these folks and for us! Laughter is good medicine and opens the way for sharing the more painful stories. All of our Veterans can always identify with these stories regardless of their branch of the service.
Sharing On Their Terms
We have learned that many of them have been hurt and disrespected (spit on by some) in our country after arriving home from their time in the service. Many of our Vets can’t begin to describe the hurt that they experienced after coming back home from serving our country in wartime. We let them share on their own terms and never go where they don’t want to go. Once again Jesus healing and praying over them is a critical need for them. We ask to pray with them and we have seen that they are always open and very welcoming of us to pray for them.
Some Are Protectors
We have learned about some who, because of their service, are purposed to help and protect folks from harm in their everyday life. At one of our dinner church gatherings during a Jesus Story message about the Great Commandment (loving God with all our hearts, mind, and soul as we love our neighbors as ourselves) one of our Vets told another Vet a very honest takeaway. He said to him, “It’s like this Johnny, I may not like you but I would jump on a bomb for you because I love you!” He went on to say that “Jesus loves you and the world so much that he gave his life for all if us.” We had one of our Vets share with us that some of the awful things he saw in war actually drove him to an encounter with Jesus and this helped him became a believer. After arriving home, he immediately enrolled in the Baptist Seminary in order to help others as a Christian Teacher/Counselor. He continues to work part time as a counselor at a local college campus.
It’s so amazing and such a privilege to minister at the dinner table with these men and women, who in many instances are so under appreciated and marginalized by society.
We always make an opportunity to thank them and tell them how much we appreciate them as they have all laid their lives on the line for us and for our country!
As I summarize our mission to our Veterans, it looks very similar to the early church in Acts 2:42.
We provide a delicious home cooked meal (Breaking bread together) along with a Jesus Story (Apostles teaching and now we get to use the Jesus Story Bible created by the Dinner Church Collective and American Bible Society) while creating a great time of Fellowship by being with them and listening to their stories. As we do, we continue praying over our Vets and engaging in all-out love for them in the name of Jesus.
The Reverend Greg LeMaster has served as Deacon, Teacher, and in Outreach at Graceland Baptist Church. He was ordained into the gospel ministry in September of 2013 and has been active in church planting of house churches, dinner churches, and Fresh Expression Fellowships since July of 2010. He is currently serving as Associate Pastor of Outreach at Graceland.