(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)
Last week we concluded our conversation on developing a theology of healing and the faith community’s role. This week we will begin a conversation on the faith community’s strengths and capacities for care.
Beyond the difficulties our warriors experience in combat, the transition home from a deployment presents numerous challenges for the veteran and the family. War changes all who step onto the battlefield. A sense of brokenness and alienation from God, self, and others result.
God’s response to heal human brokenness is powerfully lived out in the midst of the faith community. The faith community has an important role in a healing strategy; be a blessing to others. God gives life as a gift and expects that those who know God’s mercy share it with others. A faith community that lives this role will partner with the veteran on a difficult and long journey toward transformation and healing of the soul. The faith community has unique strengths and capacities for care, one being hospitality.
The dictionary defines hospitality as;
ommanded in scripture;
- Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other…cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given gifts to each of you for God’s great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you. (1 Peter 4:8-10, the New Living Translation)
- Romans 12:13 encourages us all to practice hospitality. “When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.” (New Living Translation)
Scripture commends hospitality;
- Abraham’s servant is welcomed in Rebekah’s home (Genesis 24:22-25).
- Moses is welcomed by the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:20).
- When David arrives at Mahanaim, he is provided vital supplies (2 Samuel 17:27-29).
- Jesus received hospitality from people of all social backgrounds (Matthew 9:10, Mark 14:30, etc.).
- Hospitality was shown to the disciples, and Peter and Paul post-resurrection (Matthew 10:11-12, Luke 10:5-7, Acts 10:32, Acts 16:15).
The above examples of hospitality are just a small sampling of what scripture shares about the practice. Hospitality in the ancient world focused on the alien or stranger in need. The plight of the alien was dire. They lacked membership in a tribe or community. Because of their lack of “status,” the alien was in need of food, shelter, and protection. Hospitality meant graciously receiving an alien or stranger into one’s home or community. It also meant providing directly for that person’s needs.
- He did not wait for the visitors to come to him, Abraham went out to meet them where they were.
- Abraham was humble in conversation and action (used humble forms of address, bowed before the guests, washed their feet).
- Abraham and Sarah prepared a meal using the best ingredients.
- Abraham walked a distance with his departing guests.
What lessons can the faith community learn from this example in practicing hospitality to the veteran?
- We do not wait for the veteran to come to us, we meet them where they are.
- No matter our feelings toward war or the warrior, we treat every veteran with respect as we listen to their story with our hearts, not judging them or their experiences.
- We provide for their needs, whatever that may be, by giving the veteran our best effort and resources.
- We walk with the veteran on their journey, not passing the veteran or their challenges on to someone else. When the veteran feels ready to move on the journey without us, they will let us know.
RELEVANCE FOR THE VETERAN
In last week’s blog, Honoring Relationships, we discussed that the church has a unique capacity for care, hospitality. Hospitality takes on an important role to the veteran and the veteran’s family. Veterans have experienced a strong sense of community in the military, a band of brothers and sisters. Relationships to veterans and their families are quintessential. When warriors demobilize and return to their civilian communities, they often miss the close bond of the military family. The faith community can become a resource so that the veteran and family feel a part of a social network, a family.
Also, hospitality opens doors for developing a relationship and trust with the veteran. Both are important. The veteran no longer has his or her brother or sister in arms to rely on. A congregant who truly practices the biblical model of hospitality can become a friend or spiritual mentor that will journey with the veteran or the family through hell if needed.
When we practice hospitality, we have the opportunity to touch lives in an intimate and personal way. God calls us to love everyone, including the veteran, but we may be doing much more than we thought. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it.” (New Living Translation) When we show genuine hospitality to a stranger, we may be serving an angel of God. Indeed, the story of Abraham’s hospitality reminds us just that.
I am not saying that our veterans are angels, but they do deserve our respect, honor, and hospitality. Next week, we will discuss the role of liturgy and traditions. Until then, thank you for the conversation…