That question was tackled by the newly formed Operation Barnabas Advisory Board at its inaugural meeting Nov. 13-14 in St. Louis.
Operation Barnabas — the only denominational program that’s designed to create a “network of care” for the entire military community, according to its LCMS leaders — is now in its sixth year and considering how to adapt for ministry in the years ahead.
A lot has changed since the program started in 2007, but the need to reach out to those who are hurting remains strong, says Chaplain Mike Moreno, the program’s director. Originally Operation Barnabas focused on serving those in the reserves, particularly chaplains, but today it has expanded to include outreach to active-duty military men and women, especially those who are returning home.
“Our returning soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are now leaving the war, but the war never leaves them. The need for adjustment to a more normal pace of life in the military and our civilian communities will be a period of critical adjustment,” said Chaplain Mark Schreiber, director of the Synod’s Ministry to the Armed Forces. “Operation Barnabas is designed to walk with each serviceman and woman, listen to any conflict of the heart they may be experiencing, and offer the comfort and strength that only the Gospel of Christ Jesus can bring.”
Schreiber called Operation Barnabas “a lifelong commitment to our brave men and women in uniform. It is a labor of love begun and sustained in the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Moreno sees the new advisory board — which is composed of LCMS chaplains, pastors and laypeople who have been “heavily involved” with Operation Barnabas — as a direct line to those “front-line,” congregational ministries. They are, he says, board members who can share ideas and provide feedback that will strengthen and expand the program.
“We want to equip churches to reach out to veterans with the love of Christ,” he told Reporter. “Are the materials and support we provide sufficient? If so, how can we bolster those offerings? Is there a need that the congregations have that we are as of yet unaware? If so, what is the best means to discover those needs and provide a timely response?”
Moreno himself was mobilized from January to October to serve as chaplain for the Wounded Warrior Battalion West in Camp Pendleton, Calif. In his absence, the Rev. Dr. Gary L. Danielsen, a retired Army Reserve chaplain and former president and CEO of Lutheran Services of Georgia, served as interim director of Operation Barnabas. Assisting Danielson was the Rev. William Brunold, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Norwalk, Calif., and also a retired chaplain.
Both Danielsen and Brunold will continue their involvement with Operation Barnabas as members of the new 14-member advisory board.
Danielsen said the program’s new advisory board was created “in view of the growing success of the ministry by LCMS congregations throughout the U.S.” Its purpose, he added, “is to strengthen and advance the program by addressing the challenges and opportunities of Operation Barnabas in the form of missional strategic direction and accountability.”
Said Moreno: “Barnabas has done wonderful work, but we are in a time of transition. The deployments are slowing, and many of our military members are returning to the civilian sector. How can churches facilitate their return to our local communities? How can we provide respite and care to families affected by 10 years of war, to include [help for] troubled marriages, post-traumatic stress disorder [and other hardships]?”
Moreno said Danielson’s experience as a CEO makes him “an excellent resource to help us grapple with that transition,” and his interim leadership of Barnabas along with Brunold “brought a fresh perspective” to the program.
Moreno encourages LCMS congregations to “reach out to us, talk to us, let us know what you need, or that you want to begin work in your local community. We will respond to support you to reach out to our military communities. The need is great, and our veterans and their families need our support!”