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More than just babysitting

One church gives the priceless gift of time

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It was Thanksgiving. The USS Maine was deployed, and several families gathered for dinner in the sanctuary of a small church in Kitsap County. Holidays can be brutal when your sailor is gone, but this one was different. Spouses smiled and laughed. Children ran and played. Several young mommas ate their meals kid-free, probably for the first time in weeks, while volunteers snuggled their babies and fed their toddlers. It was a meal that many Maine Blue families will never forget and the beginning of a mission that would touch more lives than anyone ever thought possible.

In 2013, Calvary Chapel of Silverdale was searching for an outreach project. They wanted to find a group of people to make an impact on. They decided to reach out to the families of the USS Maine Blue, but they didn't want to simply deliver a few meals or hand out gifts.

"We'd been reading this book about outreach and decided we wanted to do this differently. We weren't sure what that would look like so we started by simply asking ‘what do you need?'"

John Carter, Calvary Chapel member and liaison for the outreach mission, sat down with command and FRG leadership to discuss what this outreach might look like, and it became apparent that what these families needed most was child care, time alone for moms to help with the burden of solo parenting during deployment as well as time with their sailor when the boat returned.

It seemed simple enough at the time, putting together a few events, babysitting a couple of kids, but over the past three years, Calvary Chapel has hosted or provided child care for nearly a dozen events. There have been barbecues and ice cream socials, date nights, and of course, that special Thanksgiving dinner, with each event focused on kids and giving parents time.

Joanna Rogers, President of the USS Maine Blue Family Readiness Group, remembers one event that touched her.

"It was just a drop-off night at Play Kitsap, but I had a night to myself without kids. I went to Barnes and Noble and just sat and drank coffee ... it was huge for me."

Anyone can see how valuable free time is, but this outreach of child care has had even further reaching effects.

"When I got back to Play Kitsap, to see my boys play and roughhouse with the other kids and fathers from the church ... I didn't realize how much my boys missed that while their dad was gone until I saw it. They gave their Friday night to do that for us, and it was so special. I don't think they even realized how much that meant."

John says that the outreach has affected the church as well.

"Over time we have become the project. I've seen people's lives changed because they have found so much joy in giving. We are better for having done this."

Children loved, moms cared for, and volunteers' lives changed forever. All because one church gave the greatest gift of all ... their time.

Military life can be difficult, both for the servicemember and their families. If you'd like to help ease that burden, there are many organizations focused on serving military families. For more information, contact www.uso.org, www.militaryfamily.org, or www.bluestarfam.org

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