May 1, 2003 - During times of war and unrest, some loved ones of deployed troops cling to Someone more comforting than a yellow ribbon, more powerful than patriotism, more permanent than any government. They cling to Christ.
by Karen Pierce
Carla Davis knew for months that her husband would likely be deployed to the Middle East. But it wasn't until about a week before he had to leave that she found out exactly when Darren, 37, a chief warrant officer for the U.S. Navy, would go.
"We waited to tell the children until about four days prior to his departure date," says Davis, 36, of Hampton, Va. "That was the hardest conversation we've had through this entire process. You make plans. You have conversations about all the 'what ifs.' But when your child looks you in the face and asks, 'What if Daddy doesn't come home?,' that's the hardest thing to deal with."
And there is a lot to "deal with"—loneliness, the daily challenges of childcare and home management. Not to mention the constant dread of a visit from a person in uniform with bad news.
Still, Davis finds respite in her Lord.
"During the evening, after I put the kids to bed, I have some great conversations with God," she says. "He listens to all my complaints and gripes and reminds me of all the blessings He has already given me."
Too, Davis clings to promises from God's Word, including "As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you" (Isaiah 66:13, NIV).
"I spend a lot of time comforting my children," says Davis of son Cody, 7, and daughter Emily, 4. "I see the effect it has on them—the calming, the trust in their eyes. I feel those same things when my Lord comforts me."
For Amanda Hensley, 24, the wife of Philip, a 25-year-old Army specialist and former Marine, comfort comes from Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God" (NIV).
Since her husband's deployment from Fort Bliss, Texas, in mid-February, Hensley says her prayer life has grown tremendously. In fact, when her husband is able to telephone from overseas, a lot of their conversations—between the "I love yous" and the "I miss yous"—are filled with prayer concerns.
"Prayer requests are a big thing between the two of us," says Hensley, who has been married for two years. "'Is there a person I can pray for?' 'Is there something specifically for you that I can pray for?'"
Prayers from others are a big help, too.
"The best thing is to hear from people that they're praying," Hensley says. "Sometimes ... I can't get words out. I don't know what to pray; I just want to sit. And it's good to know that people are interceding for me."
Support from family, friends, neighbors and her church has helped Susanne Orth overcome the hardships she's faced since her husband, Paul, a 38-year-old captain in the U.S. Air Force, was deployed in January.
"I have great support from many people," says Orth, 34, who was six months pregnant when her husband left. "I have many Christian friends that live right here on my street that have gone out of their way to be of any help that I need."
For instance, when her washing machine was on the fritz, Orth—who, in addition to preparing for a baby, was homeschooling her two other children, Luke, 7, and Evan, 6—called Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va. The church recently established a ministry to support families of deployed military personnel.
"Our purpose is to minister to the needs of the military families, especially in times when the military member is deployed," says Tammy Maschak, ministry coordinator. "We strive to provide a place where they can come, fellowship, feel welcome, know people care, and can get emotional support and help with household chores if they need it.
"Basically, our goal is to reach both Christians and non-Christians in their time of need with their loved ones deployed."
Ministry activities include dinners, movie nights, and weekly meetings with prayer, praise and worship, and fellowship. There's even a ministry program for the kids. More than 55 volunteers and organizers are part of the outreach.
Some wives of deployed troops find their circumstances provide opportunities for evangelism.
"When asked, 'How do you manage?' it gives me the opportunity to share my Source of strength," Orth says. "There have been days that I have tried things on my own strength, but eventually learned that without God I have none."
Davis has encountered similar conversations, and Hensley says her situation has opened the door to a lot of friendships—through which she can share her faith.
"When people are going through situations like this, they are searching for comfort; they are searching for answers," says Hensley, adding that she has more non-Christian friends now than she ever has. "It enables you to reach out—because a lot of people are in need of a friend or they're just in need of something to do."
Davis adds that she can't imagine going through her situation without God.
"He sustains me," she says. "When I feel I can't go another day, He always comes through in those dark times. Usually it's when communication has been down for several days and I have no idea where my husband is and how he is. I cry out to God, and every time I've gotten to that point, He comes through for me with what I need at that moment—be it a particular Scripture, unexpected word from Darren or perhaps a phone call from someone who's praying for me."
Hensley echoes Davis' sentiments.
"I just have to trust God, that He has a purpose and that He has a plan for this time," Hensley says. "Whether it was just for me to reach the people around me that needed to hear the Truth or whether it was for Philip to share the Truth with somebody—whatever the reason—God has a reason. And God needed him there, and He needed me here."
Hensley quotes from Scripture: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28, KJV).
And she continues to trust in the Lord—even if "all things working together" might mean her husband's death.
"I think about it—not all the time, but it crosses my mind," Hensley says. "If something like that is to happen, as hard as it would be, I have to do the same thing I'm doing now. I have to trust God."