Saturday, September 8, 2012

It's all about the people...and the food

We are now into month four of our mission as military relations specialists at the Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida.
Finally, what might loosely pass for a routine is beginning to emerge from the happy chaos of this assignment.
Sprucing up base housing with an accent wall
No two days are ever alike. One day we are visiting wives of deployed sailors, the next I am helping paint an accent wall in off-base housing. And yet on another day I’m teaching a Navy wife how to snorkel so when she visits her husband, whose ship will put into port at Key West for a few days, she can snorkel the beautiful reefs of the Keys with him. Lately, our afternoons include reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish with an Hispanic Navy wife. She patiently corrects our gringo pronunciation and we get to learn Spanish. We all benefit by immersing ourselves in sacred scripture.
Evening is our busiest time. An effective way we’ve found to fellowship and build relationships of trust with military members and their families is to invite them over to our apartment for dinner. We host three or four dinners each week, following the promptings of the Spirit on whom to invite. At the end of the meal we bring out the scriptures and invite each guest to pick their favorite scripture, share it with the group, and explain why this particular passage touches them. After each person has taken a turn, we kneel together for family prayer. We can often feel the tender presence of the Holy Spirit as a sweet feeling of love and fellowship attends these after-dinner scripture chats and prayer. Our guests are reluctant to leave and look forward to the next time we meet.
The scene for our "Draper dinner parties"
From out of these little “Draper dinner parties”  has sprouted the tender shoots of friendship, affection, and loving concern. These are amazing people with amazing lives. Over chicken enchiladas, tortellini, or fondue we’ve learned their stories, felt their frustrations, and shared their joys. We extend our experiences and faith traditions. They offer their sometimes fragile faith, their trust, and hopes. We resonate together. The combination yields love and often spawns new opportunities for us to serve them later in ways that don’t involve a dinner table.
As we’ve discovered in this mission, when we find a way to serve that seems to click, we just roll with it. As we seek to serve and when we’re ready, the Lord will present us with something new and then we’ll roll with that too.
May God bless you ‘til we meet again.