Church Link June

Church Link

Dear Friend,

‘In this issue Rev. Colin Chambers shares his learning around chaplaincy with Veterans. Colin is a very experienced chaplain, both in England and South Africa and brings the added perspective of having served as a naval officer.

In his writing, Colin works with the image of ‘friend’ to portray his chaplaincy role. This is a rich description for a trusting relationship that Jesus adopted with his disciples towards the end of his ministry, as recalled in the Gospel of John. This week I have had the privilege of working with a group of naval chaplains at Amport House (the home for military chaplaincy). As part of our time together we explored images and words to describe the role and task of the chaplain. Being ‘alongside others’, taking the theological imagery of the Holy Spirit (The Paraclete) was one image that was suggested.

I hope this edition of church news encourages you in your varied ministries. I would be delighted if it was seen as an encouragement for further theological reflection on how you as supportive reader ‘image’ the way you live out your baptismal calling and your relationship with Alabaré and those we serve. I am particularly interested in how the chaplaincy practised within Alabaré may resource the church communities in their mission.

Here’s to an increasingly fruitful conversation.
Keith Thomasson
Senior Chaplain
Alabaré Christian Care & Support 

Working as Christians with Veterans 

WORKING WITH VETERANS

 It is a great privilege and pleasure to work with Veterans, as both a Christian Chaplain and as a Christian Friend.

Every particular group has its own and often unique specific challenges.

However, whatever group I am working with as a Christian, the basic needs are the same. All people are looking for LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, ENCOURAGEMENT and FORGIVENESS, together with a HOPE for their future.

We as Christians are able to offer people, whatever their situation or circumstances may be these vital things that all people everywhere are yearning for.

I think that working with Veterans who have fallen on hard times is particularly challenging, as every individual veteran faces different personal situations and circumstances.

With some there are cases of post traumatic stress, having faced harrowing times on the battlefield and even loss of close friends. Often extended times away from home have led to family breakdowns, as well as feelings of emptiness away from the camaraderie they have experienced as part of a group and now suddenly finding themselves virtually on their own. These things can sometimes lead to feelings of worthlessness and feelings of not being appreciated or understood. Some are fairly disillusioned with the Church, having been forced to attend Church parades and such things.

I realise that these situations that I am mentioning don't apply to all Veterans, but certainly there is a mixture of these things that have befallen many of those who have fallen onto hard times.  In some cases these and other things can lead to substance abuse.

As Christians, working with Veterans experiencing these difficult times, we need to remember at all times that we have the answers to all these deep needs through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only real and enduring source of love, acceptance, encouragement and forgiveness, as well as providing a real tangible hope for the future.

When working as Christians with Veterans, we need to remember that we are representing Jesus, who said, "as the Father has sent Me , I also send you"  (John 20:21) Jesus has sent us to extend His love, acceptance, encouragement, forgiveness and hope

 From years of personal experience in various forms of Chaplaincy, I have learnt that one of the secrets in working with troubled veterans is to simply be one's self, be real and be a friend first and foremost meeting them where they are, don't rush in with Biblical quotes or any form of patronising attitude, they will see right through that.

 I have found that meeting them as a friend, building an understanding, trusting and accepting relationship with them, generally breaks through the barriers of suspicion and mistrust. Once this kind of relationship has been established, one can go on a journey together with them, gently bringing them to where one would hope and want them to be. This can, and usually does take perseverance, commitment and time.I think that it is vitally important to "be Jesus", loving, accepting, encouraging and forgiving, always hopeful, rather than rushing in and "telling them about Jesus"

 In other words earning the right to share one's faith and beliefs with them.

So be relaxed, be real, be an empathetic,  understanding and accepting friend first and foremost and in many cases you will find that you will earn the right to have the privilege to share Jesus with them, in the hope to bring them into a living relationship with Jesus.

If anyone feels the call to work with Veterans who have fallen on troubled times, there are wonderful opportunities and openings to be a "befriender" which is just what the label says says on the container - just be a friend, and allow the Lord Jesus to take matters from there.

This month...

We give thanks -
  • for our founder John Proctors OBE. 
  • the development of faith provision for the Emmaus Community.
We pray for -
  • wisdom on how to respond to proposed capping of benefits.
  • increased opportunity to have links with church communities.

Things to Reflect on:

Prayer is the means to release the power of the Lord to make things happen and to give strength for the task.

I would therefore highly recommend that groups or Churches have a regular slot in their prayer meetings to pray for the work of Alabaré and for the numerous Veterans living in our various houses as they put their lives together again, enabling them to indeed live abundant and fulfilling lives. 

Our Lord Jesus began his ministry when He quoted these words from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1)

Luke 4:18  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. Because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor (and needy): He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. To set free those who are oppressed. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

That is our calling and mission to represent the Lord as we work with Veterans.

We also need to remember the words of Jesus, which He spoke in the shadow of the Cross:

Matthew 25:35-40  "For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; i was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was in prison and you came to visit me............ Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you do these things to the least of these My brethren, you do it for me"

That's our challenge.

Information For Your Church Newsletter

One of the best ways to support Alabaré is to let people know about the services we offer.

Each month, Church Link will provide information that can be included in your Church’s newsletters, shared on their website or community boards or spoken about at prayer groups etc.  

"Alabaré has been offering care to homeless and vulnerable people for over 25 years.  From its founding by an ecumenical Christian community in Salisbury, its work was made possible with support from churches and individuals.  <This church has supported/continues to support it…>  It now helps nearly 2,500 people a year and still relies on volunteers from churches, as well as donations, to transform lives.

Its work with Veterans who struggle with the transition to civilian life and have become homeless, stretches throughout Wales and the South West.  Veterans (who can be any age, from 19 to 65!) are provided somewhere safe and supportive to live while with professional help, they work through their problems and issues so they can become independent or re-connect with their families.  As well as providing practical support, Alabaré’s network of volunteer chaplains gives people a chance to explore deeper questions about life. 

For more information about Alabaré and its work with Veterans, please visit www.alabare .co.uk or contact <name of your church rep>"

Malcolm, aged 52, served with The Royal Irish Rangers until 1992.  In the summer of 2011, Malcolm experienced a personal tragedy which set in motion a chain of events which resulted in Malcolm becoming homeless.  Click here to read Malcolm story...

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