Is Zion Lutheran Church an Operation Barnabas congregation? According to Pastor (Colonel) William L. Brunold; yes it is! Brunold was at Zion Lutheran on Monday, November 10th, the day before Veteran’s Day, to inform those present about ‘Operation Barnabas’ and comment on ministries that care for the men, women, and families of our armed forces. It was also a homecoming of sorts for Brunold who served as interim pastor at Zion for six months in 2005. Food was served and then Brunold spoke with the crowd.
You may ask: “Why is it called Operation Barnabas?” Barnabas was Paul’s companion, who helped him in his missionary journey. His name means “son of encouragement.” Brunold said, “We provide care to reserve chaplains, we provide training and guidance to local congregations to provide care and support to our military members at local congregations across America.”
Several military members and/or their families were present at Zion as Brunold spoke. Jessie Blackford, whose husband Nate has been deployed four times, said that Zion and the El Paso community have made it easier for her family to adjust to a new location. “I’ve had a better time becoming part of the church and community here than anywhere before.” Brunold responded, “That says a lot about Zion!”
Brunold explained that after experiencing combat a person does not see life in the same way. This reality requires compassionate and loving church families who can pray for soldiers and their families and help deal with repercussions of war such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Brunold explained that properly empathizing with those who have experienced combat is difficult, as his personal experience indicated. “I came home and realized that this society doesn’t get it,” he said. “They don’t know that were at war. Only the soldiers and their spouses and families get it.”
Last year, Zion Lutheran Church implemented a plan to enable willing military members of Zion to serve as elders during their stay in El Paso. Often the demands and uncertainty of military service and deployments prevents military members from committing to a position of service and leadership in the church. Zion has devised a flexible approach that pairs elders into teams so that if duties draw someone away they can fulfill their obligations to the army without any guilt. Having active duty men serving as elders is one of the ways Zion is equipped to understand and respond to the ministry opportunities present in the military community.
During the presentation on November 10th, Pastor Stephen Heimer commented, “It’s important to us to care for our military and I pray for all those around us who maybe feel alone in whatever their experience has been. We want our doors to be open.”
Zion member Fay Eckstrom said, “Brunold’s speech was enlightening in a lot of ways and Zion is already doing a lot of the things he was taking about. We use a lot of the principles in ministering to military people but it’s not yet clear whether we will become an official Barnabas congregation. I do know we welcome military with open arms and embrace them the whole time they’re here and then we send them on their way.”
Brunold concluded, “When you’ve mentored them and worked with them and shown them Christ’s love, when you as a congregation send them elsewhere, you are a Sending Congregation.” Zion definitely has a Barnabus connection.