A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


April 11, 2013

Report on Fisher House

     I have returned from our mission trip to the Fisher Houses at Fort Sam Houston, and as always, I am drained physically, mentally and emotionally.  But I never fail to be inspired and this trip was no different.
Angel Chefs with PLW in background
    PLW and I, along with four other seasoned servants, plus two friends that we introduced to the craziness called Angel Chefs, worked our tails off hauling boxes of food and supplies, cooking, serving and cleaning up for our Wounded Warriors, their families, and various support and rehabilitative staff.  And it seems like our menus get more and more elaborate.  It's always fun to see new residents at the Fisher House respond to the expansive spread of food laid out in their common kitchen for all to enjoy.  I know it beats the sandwiches or frozen foods that so many of them endure between endless rounds of appointments at the hospital.  But Angel Chefs are about more than food.
     As usual, our mornings started at 6:00 with all of us spreading out between the four Fisher Houses to prepare breakfast for the early risers.  Sometimes it's a haggard parent who has just flown in to care for their wounded son or daughter; or it's a grandma who has come to make sure her grandchildren are cared for and gotten off to school while their mother sits round the clock with their critically injured father.  Or it could be a wounded vet who is struggling with multiple amputations, and waiting for the long road toward prosthetics and recovery.  We see them at all stages of grief, depression and recuperation.
     We're there early in the morning with a hot pot of coffee, fresh fruit, home-made muffins and a warm smile.  There are days the tears flow as we ask if there is anything we can pray for them, and oftentimes we find ourselves hugging complete strangers who just need to know that someone acknowledges their pain.  The mornings we serve sausage and pancakes are the mornings that they seem to get up out of bed earlier and find their way downstairs to the kitchen.  It's amazing what the smell of sausage or bacon will do to initiate a relationship.
     Lunches and dinner are no different --- just more hectic, more complicated, and more people!  But what an opportunity to engage in giving back to those who have served this great nation.  Each time I go, the stories touch me in ways that mark my soul.  I just wish there was a way to paint you a picture of the incredible effect each of these individuals has on my heart.  The only way I know how to do it, is to give you a short synopsis of those whom God put in my path.
Chaplain Casteel
     It is part of the Angel Chefs routine that, after serving breakfast, we meet at 8:30 for a short devotional time.  One morning we had a visit from Chaplain Bryant Casteel, who is a favorite of mine.  Each time he visits us, his dedication to the inerrant Word of God and his commitment to standing for Christ is an inspiration.  He keeps us spellbound as he openly and frankly talks about the challenges of representing God in the military.  He spoke to us of his ability to call on the First Amendment if he is asked to participate or endorse anything that goes against his Christian faith.  But he says the military is far from being a Christian-dominated organization.
     He affirmed the stories I have reported here on this blog that there are Wiccan groups that are allowed to meet on Post, and that if he has 20 soldiers show up for a monthly scheduled Bible study, that it is a good turnout.  He said he has great concerns about the lack of the Church to engage our young people in exploring the Christian faith.  He relayed one incident where he had staged a fellowship gathering, and noticed two young women soldiers get up and leave before the event ended.  When he asked them where they were going, one of the young ladies looked at the other and said, "You tell him."  After some prompting, they finally admitted, "Chaplain, the Bible just isn't that interesting."  When asked where they were going, they told him the Muslim services were more exciting.  He said they are more attracted to the History Channel's program Ancient Aliens than they are to the story of Joshua and Gideon, both resourceful and successful warriors.  Somehow, we have failed to make the Bible come alive to this generation.
     Another morning, I had just finished presenting a 5-minute devotional on how serving God means serving others, with Jesus as our role model.  I had just finished sharing how being part of Angel Chefs and working with our Wounded Warriors has affected my walk with Christ, when I became aware of a hand on my shoulder.  I turned to find a frail, gray-haired woman standing behind me.  She leaned down and whispered, "I'd like to say a few words."  Apparently, while our group was meeting, she and her two sons (who looked like they were right out of Duck Dynasty), had slipped into the dining room and were eating their breakfast at a table behind us.  PLW said he noticed that she stopped eating while I was speaking and sat intently watching us.
     We handed her the floor and she introduced herself as Viola Pickett.  She said she was so encouraged to see that there were people who boldly proclaimed their faith at this military installation.  She was there because her 80-year-old veteran husband was very ill, and likely would not survive the day.  He was eligible for care at the hospital on Post and she had been so discouraged at the lack of faith among those she had come in contact with.  Her voiced faltered a bit, but she regained her composure and then gave a short testimony of her life and the saving grace of Jesus.  She apologized for interrupting us and then encouraged us to keep doing what we do, and representing Christ to this microcosm of the world, who needed so badly to know Him.  It was moments like that when God appeared in our midst and washed away our fatigue and feelings of inadequacy.
      But, believe me, when I say He guides us throughout our time at Fisher House.  There were the parents of a recent Air Force Basic Training graduate who had locked his knees at graduation ceremony and slammed face first into the concrete, shattering his jaw and countless facial bones.  She approached our serving area in the kitchen, unfamiliar with who we were or why all this food was being prepared.  We gave our short little story and asked why they were at Fisher House.  That's all it took.  She began sobbing, and one of our Angel Chefs, Joyce, just instinctively enveloped her in a hug.  Her son's story spilled out, and between the tears and the expressed fears for his recovery, we were able to get his name and give her a promise that we would pray for him.  We encouraged her and her husband to come back and eat a good meal with us and to report to us each day on her son's progress.  The next day, she greeted us with a smile as she told us his lethargy was gone and he was beginning to try to eat.  The surgeons had also expressed their optimism in repairing all the damage to his jaw and face.   Another mother thanked us for our prayers and encouragement.  She said she didn't feel so alone and told us how much it helped to just tell their story.
Jerry, Rachel and Alex
     And each of them have a story to tell.  Jerry was a helicopter pilot and instructor, and stationed at an FOB in Afghanistan.  While sharing lunch with him and his wife, Rachel, and their adorable baby, Alex, we asked him, "What action did you see that resulted in your being here at Fisher House?"  Jerry has an infectious, boyish smile and he sheepishly answered, "It was nothing exciting.... I was sleeping in my tent."  It seems that going to sleep with the sounds of mortars is nothing unusual, except that on this particular night, the screaming whistle of the mortar got louder instead of fading away.  He was blasted out of his bunk and has spent the last six months rehabilitating at Fort Sam.  But on this very day, Jerry and Rachel learned that he had been cleared to return to his original post in Tennessee, so they were packing to "go home".  We had a reason to celebrate.
     That's the way it is with Angel Chefs.  You meet people that touch your heart, and you share a part of a season of their life, and that creates a connection that is not easily erased.  Each time we return, we hope to hear some news of each of these people who affect our spirits.  More often than not, they have moved on; either returning to their home base of operations, or graduating back to some form of active duty, or their injuries are so severe that they are forced to take medical retirement.  But they are never forgotten.  Every once in awhile, there is one who we all cannot let go of.  Such is the case with Dan Burgess.
     If you will recall, during our last visit, Dan was in charge of his beautiful daughters Kaylee and Gracie, while their mom, Ginnette, was back in Ohio frantically arranging for all their worldly possessions to be moved to Texas, which would now be their permanent home.  I remember the calls back and forth as Dan promised her he was getting enough sleep, the girls were being fed well, and he was able to handle all the physical requirements of fathering two active young girls.
Dan and Ginnette
     This trip, Dan heard through the grapevine that we were going to be at the Fisher Houses again, and made it a point to come say hi.  He was instantly enveloped in a series of motherly hugs and we all gathered around to be entertained by his witty sense of humor.  He soon had to leave for a rehab session and Ginnette remained behind to chat with us during a short afternoon break.  It soon became an emotional disclosure as she revealed how stressed she had been to be away from Dan, and how she worried about her girls being fed a proper breakfast before catching the 6:30 bus for school.  Then tears began flowing down the face of this strong, kick-your-ass Army wife as she told us that she knew her family would be OK because we, the Angel Chefs, would be there to take care of them.  She said, "I can't thank you enough for being there for us.  You don't know how much all you do means to us."
     Somehow, they still don't get it that we are there to thank them.  In fact, we can't do enough to thank them for their sacrifice for us.  And so we will continue to endure the burning feet, the aching back, and  the lack of sleep to do our small part in serving these heroes.  I am fully aware that these few words can't express what this experience means to me.  All I can say is, if there is a Fisher House anywhere near you, please don't hesitate to get involved.  God can use you to offer a shoulder to cry on or a hand to help.  And I promise you this ..... you will receive so much more than you give.

Isaiah 49:13     "Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones."

2 comments:

  1. Great post Belle. Thanks for sharing your time there with us and the blessings that everyone has gotten from this mission. It's very inspiring and warms my heart. I love seeing and hearing the "good" out there that others offer to one another, instead of all the negative that seems to surround us these days. Again, thanks for your service to them and to our God.

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    1. Lisa, believe me, I needed a break from all the negative that bombards us as we are just trying to live our lives. As exhausting as it was, it was also exhilarating and I was able to escape from the news cycle for a couple of days. And, although I appreciate your kind words, I want all the glory to go to God --- He makes it possible for us to love on these heroes and their families and it is our privilege!

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