Jessi Sams   -  

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” ~ John 15:13

Having friends & family in the military and knowing how many holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and even the births of their children are missed, the Lord laid it on my heart to do something to serve our local military families during the Christmas season. For several years we had been supporting the Angel Tree program through Prison Fellowship, but it just wasn’t an effective ministry outreach like we had hoped. I took the idea of Operation GUARDian Angel to Rick in December of 2014 and told him I didn’t know how we were going to do it, but the Lord did and would open all the doors – or He wouldn’t have put it so heavily on my heart. The Lord gave me the name Operation GUARDian Angel – not only because they are the National Guard in our community, but also because every man & woman who serves acts as our Guardian Angels. Normally, as a church we would not be allowed to go onto a federal installation and do any kind of program. Rick said it was worth checking into and I called my friend MSGT Heather Echols with the Air Guard. Many of you have met Heather, or at least heard her speak, on Sunday mornings for the past couple of years when we kick off Operation GUARDian Angel with the Christmas tree in the lobby. Heather “ran it up the flagpole” and secured a meeting for me with the JAG (basically their legal department) and the Vice Wing Commander for the 124th Fighter Wing to present what we would like to do. I met with them and told them we really want to serve those who GUARD our everyday freedoms – that because of what they do, we are able to be a free people and we get to meet in a building we call “church”. We talked through any possible legal issues or other issues that may arise. They both immediately signed off on it and we held our first Children’s Christmas Party on Gowen Field in December of 2015! Yay, Lord!

Each December we hold the Children’s Christmas Party on base. We have a different fun theme each year and come up with games, crafts and snacks that go along with that theme. As each family enters, they check in with Family Programs and get their family numbers. Each child then gets a themed goodie bag to collect their treasures in. They move on to play several games with prizes and do multiple crafts. Once they are done with crafts, they get to take their number to Santa’s Helpers (they always request a Santa – who happens to be played by my brother, Bill). While they go to sit on Santa’s lap & get their picture taken, Santa’s Helpers grab their gifts from behind the curtain. Each child receives a gift that is wrapped with their name on it and is something the parent(s) said they wanted. Watching them open their gifts and shout with glee has to be one of the best parts of this party! This year we had 53 families with 134 kiddos come through the party! It takes a lot of volunteers to be able to pull this party off! We have 2 hours to set up the party, 2 hours for the party (open house type – the families come as they can) and then clean up and load everything back into the trailer. THANK YOU to each and every one of you who have helped with this!!! What a blessing you are to the families!

Operation GUARDian Angel goes far beyond just the Children’s Christmas Party, however. Every November we come alongside the Chaplain Corps and Family Programs for all branches of service to provide Thanksgiving Assistance to families who are in need of a Thanksgiving meal. A “Government Shutdown” occurs when the national debt surpasses the debt ceiling, and Congress fails to raise the ceiling or pass a budget. If no defense bill is passed, active-duty military members will still be required to work since they’re often deemed essential. However, they see a delay in their paychecks…meaning they would receive back pay once a budget bill is passed. Sometimes this delay can be a month and sometimes several months. The holiday season is when they should be able to celebrate with their families, not be concerned on whether or not they can put food on the table for them. In 2023, the number of families who needed a meal more than doubled from 2022. Deer Flat assisted with over 50 complete meals – from the turkey to all the fixins! We also helped the Chaplains & Family Programs with Christmas Assistance again this year. We had 18 families with 43 kiddos who wouldn’t have had Christmas if we hadn’t been able to support. Again – Yay, Lord!

For the sake of keeping you awake, I will bullet point some of the other things we do throughout the year to serve those who serve:

  • Parent Child Ball in February
  • Tea Party in April
  • Multiple Family Days
  • Care packages to deployed troops
  • Support for Trunk or Treat
  • Support for Prayer Hike
  • Family Portraits in the park

Here are some stats from this year:

  • Volunteers for various events (including Gowen Thunder Airshow) – over 150!
  • Gift cards and donations for Thanksgiving Assistance, Christmas Party & Christmas Assistance – $10,622.60!!!!! WOW!

Another event coming up on Saturday the 20th that we are super excited to support is the Community Kickoff for Chad & Summer Pfeifer’s new home through Homes For Our Troops! What an amazing blessing to be able to support one of our own! For more information on this event, please visit the HFOT website.

If you would like to learn more about how you can support, please EMAIL me or put MILITARY OUTREACH on your communication card!

In His Service,