Church serves up holiday dinner, spirit to soldiers
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Dec 3, 2012, 14:10
photo by Caitlin Davis Youth Group member Keith Brown shares a joke with soldiers.
As the 100 soldiers from Fort Lee filed into the room at First Baptist Church in Disputanta, their faces lit up. The church was serving up a holiday meal for them during an event organizers hoped would also give them some holiday cheer.
Donna Williams and Juanita Tayborn, with the Youth Ministry at First Baptist, helped put together Saturday’s Honoring One Hundred Servicemen holiday social, wanted to teach the church’s youngest members how to reach out to their community.
“Every December, we try to do something with the children to show them how to share in the holiday season,” Williams said.
Tayborn said the youth look forward to events like the one on Saturday and have found happiness in giving to others in the community, soldiers and senior citizens alike.
“If we give when we’re young, as we get older it’s a habit,” Tayborn said. “It’s a habit so you never stop doing it.”
In the past, the church has reached out to seniors and other children, but this year, soldiers seemed like a perfect choice, Tayborn said.
“We have a lot of military members in our church, lot of retirees,” Tayborn said. “It’s a way to give to some of our brothers.”
The evening opened up with songs and words of worship for the visiting AIT soldiers.
The soldiers got into the spirit, standing up and clapping along during one song, performed by the Youth Choir.
Joseph Bryant III, from First Baptist, told the soldiers that as a retired Army man himself, he understood the feeling of being away from home during the holidays.
“There are a lot of us here that used to be in the military and be a long way from home,” Bryant said. “You don’t get mom or grandmother’s cooking. We are hoping you have a good time and relax a little bit.”
And relax is exactly what the soldiers were able to do as members of the church waited on them.
“And we’re going to serve them. There will be no lines tonight,” Williams said. “They stand in lines all the time. We want to serve them.”
Although he enjoyed the home cooked stuffing, turkey, roast beef, ham, green beans and mac n’ cheese. SSG Whitmore said the night was also a chance for soldiers to reconnect with their spiritual roots, which Whitmore said is essential to the composition of a soldier, both on and off the battlefield.
“There are questions that soldiers have that maybe their battle buddies don’t know the answers to, or maybe they don’t want to talk to someone about it,” Whitmore said. “But it always helps to know that God is here for us and he knows our calling better than we do. A lot of people don’t know their calling, but he does.”
Whitmore said the dinner gave many soldiers a taste of home, which was important for them to keep their minds focused and alert.
“Some soldiers when they come here their mind is on home,” Whitmore said. “They miss it so much it may keep them from performing to their standards because they are thinking about home when they should be thinking about their training and job performance.”
Specialist Michael Jones said he was looking forward to visiting his home in Indianapolis, where his mom was decorating the house and getting ready for his arrival.
Jones said that the food didn’t distract him from the real purpose of the the night.
“This is very special,” Jones said. “I haven’t been to church and I have been feeling kind of bad. He has helped me through things. I don’t go to church. I tend to use that time for myself. It’s nice to go somewhere where he is instead of Him having to come to me to me for a change.”
Whitmore was pleased to see the soldiers not only enjoying the meal, but enjoying fellowship with one another
The holiday spirit of giving had captured Keith Brown, a member of the Youth Group who served the soldiers. Brown said he talked with the soldiers, who told him to stay in school, follow his dreams of one day becoming a veterinarian or playing in the NFL and to respect his elders.
Brown said the event was helping him learn to give back to the community and to help him learn how to be more generous.
“It’s great and fun, because we are helping people,” Brown said. “They helped this country and nation and are helping us. It’s an honor to do what they do.”