The other day Reba Gram in our chaplaincy relations area shared this story with me. It reminds me how much the BGCT staff cares about other people. Like you, we are doing everything we can share the hope and love of Christ with those around us.
On a Sunday morning around the first of May a beautiful little, preschool girl at church was not her usual self. She is always running and playing and this particular day she was walking with her shoulders stooped over, almost dragging her feet. I’d never seen her like that before.
When she came with the other children to sit on the front pew preparing for the Pastor to do the children’s sermon she ended up sitting directly in front of me. I chuckled thinking all along that she was pouting. I couldn’t imagine what had her so out of sorts.
I leaned forward and put my arms around her and across her little body and asked, “Are you upset?” Suddenly, I felt her body just heaving as though she was gasping for air. I realized she was sobbing. Not crying, sobbing. I couldn’t imagine the news she had been given that had her reacting this way.
I directed her to come around the pew to me and my husband, her pastor, on the second row and I put her on my lap and held her begging her to tell me what was wrong. She kept saying, “My mommy went to the airport.” Then, she would cry more.
Her cousin came over to us. He always looks after her. I asked him what trip her mom went on and how long she would be gone. Much to my surprise he said she had joined the Air Force … and was going to learn medical. With what I know from my job, I translated that to mean her mom must have joined the Air Force and was at boot camp and her specialty had to do with the medical teams.
I started to tell her how important and special her mommy is to be in the Air Force and that she planned to come home when she finished her class. I realized that none of what I told her mattered; she missed her mom. She lives with her grandmother. Her cousin told this girl that the first thing her mom planned to do when she came home was give her a great big hug. I told her that I would love to have a little girl give me a hug every Sunday and asked her if she would do that for me. She said she would.
I promised to bring her a calendar the next Sunday and we would fix it so that she could mark a big X on each day until her mom comes home. I did just that and it seemed to make her happy.
Following that tearful Sunday morning, I contacted 3 of our military chaplains and asked them to please locate a small USAF bear for me so I could give her something to hold onto. Today, it arrived. It is a female US Air Force bear dressed in cammies and the appropriate black boots with strings. There is a place on her pocket where we can write her mom’s name; just like in real life.
I can’t provide every child a bear when their mom or dad goes to boot camp but I’m so grateful that God provided me the way to get her something to hold onto every night that relates to her mommy. I’m also glad that He let me personally see how hard it is on the children of our military. It broke my heart. We sometimes hear about the “families” left when someone deploys but to feel the pain in your hands and arms as you hold the child is something I’ll never ever forget.