Indiana Support Group Offers Prayer, Packages

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2007 - An Indiana group is employing what it considers its most powerful weapon in its quest to support the nation's servicemembers: prayer.

"We take an active role in praying for each of them, believing that prayer is the single most effective means we have of meeting needs that we do not know or understand firsthand," said Gary Strader, a volunteer with the Military Support Group of Connection Pointe Christian Church.

The group formed in spring 2003 when church members realized that several of the church's families had sons or daughters in Afghanistan or en route to Iraq.

"War was new for all of us; we were worried about what the future might hold," he said. "We met every week at first to support each other, pray for safety for our children and for a sense of God's peace for ourselves."

That original purpose grew to include a more tangible form of support for servicemembers, he added. Soon the group was sending care packages that, they learned from thank-you letters, were touching other troops as the original recipients shared the boxes' contents.

"Our main efforts are focused on supplying those on our list with items from home that they might otherwise not get," Strader said. "We package supplies on a regular basis."

February means boxes and boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, he said, adding that this year's shipment totaled 450 priority mail boxes of cookies -- more than 2,415 boxes of the sweet treats.

Each fall, the group ships "Treats for the Troops" boxes containing snacks and other goodies. At Christmas, it's more edibles, but the members also send small Christmas trees and blankets.

While the Military Support Group's original purpose expanded in scope, it also recently shifted in direction, Strader said.

"Our prayer efforts took a new direction when one of our members designed and produced the 'Prayer Warrior Challenge Coin,'" Strader said. "This coin, much like the challenge coins popular with our armed forces, can be carried everywhere, providing a reminder every time it's touched that our faithful troops need our prayers."

The gold coins show an eagle in flight with an American flag in its talons on one side with the words "Military Support Prayer Warrior." On the other is a set of hands pressed together in prayer with the phrase "Hand-to-Hand Combat."

The Military Support Group of Connection Pointe Christian Church recent became a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

"We are ... privileged to be counted with the many dedicated organizations which are also supporting our troops," Strader said. "It is our distinct privilege to be able to provide some small measure of support for the United States military while they stand for us around the globe, many in harm's way every day."
Indiana Support Group Offers Prayer, Packages [ ]