11/23/11 — Church offers airmen, families a holiday meal

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Church offers airmen, families a holiday meal

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 23, 2011 1:46 PM

Patrick Moran and Cheryl Brim have been there.

They know what it is like to be stationed far away from their families, and how difficult it is to manage a household when a spouse is deployed.

That's why they helped create Call to ARMS, a military ministry for service members in the Wayne County area at Whitley Church and The Bridge.

They understand the holidays, especially, can be tough on a single airman or a young family. Moran is a career Air Force man planning to retire in January after 26 years of service, and Mrs. Brim is the spouse of a retiree.

Among the programs Call to ARMS sponsors are a bi-monthly family dinner to connect military families, helping with chores while a spouse is deployed or on remote and offering programs geared to children.

"What we are all about is in our name," Moran said. "That's been our theme from the get-go, based on Galatians 6:20, (the Bible verse about) bearing each other's burdens."

The acronym, A.R.M.S., represents four components -- acknowledge, respond, mentor and support.

While it might have the added benefit of bringing people into the church, that is not Call to ARMS' main mission. The emphasis has been on responding to the needs of those in the military community.

"We have been there for labor and delivery for babies and sickness and sat with them at the doctor's, arranged child care, lawn care during deployment," Mrs. Brim said. "Helping to manage finances, anything that comes up. We're there as a safety net when they say they need help."

Mrs. Brim, who has a background in counseling and leads a Bible study for military wives, said one member of the group put it best, saying that Call to ARMS "is our family right now."

And that is especially true at this time of year.

"Which brings us to Thanksgiving," Mrs. Brim said. "We love what we can do for military families. Some can't run home for Thanksgiving every year and sometimes the spouse is deployed. That allows us to minister to them."

Moran's wife, Robin, was instrumental in forming the ministry, which started out small.

"That first event, Robin had five people and today we're at 150 to 200," he said.

Popularity of the Thanksgiving meal has also grown since it was introduced last year, through word of mouth as well as Facebook.

"We have doubled it," Moran said. "We had around 125 last year and this year we're looking at seating, guests and volunteers, around 250. I'm sure we'll have more folks sign up.

"It's for military families, whether or not their spouse is deployed. It's for singles. We have offered to shuttle them from the dormitories."

Such rapid growth has been admittedly "kind of scary," he added, but only because the ministry is growing faster than its infrastructure. They have tried to keep pace by growing the pool of volunteers, which is now around 40.

"That's huge, on Thanksgiving Day, to have over 40 people coming out to volunteer," Mrs. Brim said.

Volunteers will prepare the meal and set up the sanctuary, which will be converted into one big "family room," complete with a big-screen TV for folks to watch the Thanksgiving parade and football.

"We'll start serving at noon and the whole program will run to 3," Moran said. "We're striving for a family-type atmosphere. We'll have a children's corner, board games for families. We're asking folks to bring footballs, Frisbees."

"We want it to feel as much like family," Mrs. Brim said. "There's no charge, and no dishes."

The bulk of the group's events are held on the "main campus" of Whitley, just off U.S. 70 West near Princeton. In January, Whitley will adopt the same name, The Bridge, as that of its second location on Berkeley Boulevard.

"This is an outreach of the ministry, not just to get people to come to Whitley Church," Mrs. Brim said. "We're working with the Red Cross, with the VA, and we're trying to incorporate community leadership as well.

"We're at a point we want other churches to get on board. It's wonderful to get people to come to our church, but that's not what we're about. If they get involved in another church, that will be wonderful."

Enlisting the faith community in supporting the local military presence is what it's all about, the organizers said.

"Robin knew when we started (that) this thing would take off, only be-cause we have been there," Moran said. "There's a better way we can band together as believers and other military folks."

"I have lived through it without support and it didn't go well," Mrs. Brim said. "Knowing that, I just wanted to save other people from that because it's much harder than people realize."

For more information, call 735-5411.