by BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID WARNER, USAF (RET.)
Strong support system crucial to dealing with struggles of military life
In 1988, a younger Captain Warner was at his desk when his Air Force boss, Brigadier General Lance Lord, loomed over him saying, “Warner, it’s time for your mentoring session. Grab your running shoes.” Halfway through our circuit around Maxwell AFB’s perimeter, General Lord’s question provided me—a new Christian—an unmistakable opportunity to test the power of prayer: “What do you want out of your career?”
My response to General Lord after imploring the Lord God for inspiration: “Sir, I’m not sure how long I’ll run this race in uniform. But when I cross the finish line, I’d like to have accomplished three goals: to finish with my integrity intact; to fully know I ran my race with excellence; and to have my family by my side.”
Speaking to my last goal on the importance of family, OCF places an extra emphasis on the role of family in the lives of our military men and women. “Nurturing the Family” is not only OCF’s sixth spiritual pillar, but it’s also a critical component in our goal of “Building Christian Leaders, Families, and Fellowships…for a Lifetime.” Many of you are under attack with your own struggles—extended absences, constant moves, never ending operational tempo—as the military life body-slams you at every turn. And you may be wondering what’s the answer to that raging storm surrounding you?
If you want to be the Christian military leader God has called you to be, I believe a must-have is a strong support system that loves, supports, and sustains you! For those with a family, I’d contend that the stronger the family, the better the leader. It’s rough enough alone to serve in combat or work those horrific fourteen-hour days without worrying about your spouse or children, but those things become even more demanding when your family is in turmoil. And this is where OCF can help, by providing you with opportunities to be surrounded by fellow believers who pray, listen, and understand you. They will come by your side and provide a safe refuge for you and your family.
There is no greater gift we could give to our deployed members than them fully trusting and knowing that during their absence their families are being taken care of at an OCF conference center retreat. When a deployed member’s spouse had once been asked how her week had gone at OCF’s Spring Canyon Conference Center, she pointed to her son, “Do you see that smile? He hasn’t smiled like that since his father deployed,” she said.
Reflecting on how the Warner family was able to overcome the unique struggles of the military life—we moved eight times, with Brittney going to three high schools and Ashley spending most of her senior year without Dad—I can point to a seminal moment in our lives, while attending the Army War College, when we took advantage of being only two hours away from OCF’s White Sulphur Springs Conference Center in Manns Choice, Pennsylvania. From attending Junior AO! with “tweener” daughter, Ashley, to the Carlisle chapel retreat or our own AWC Junior AO!, we fell madly in love with WSS because of what happens at that beautiful respite. For the next eight years—regardless of our home station—you would find Ashley and Brittney at WSS, soaking up the opportunities for friendship, service, and solid Christian mentoring. WSS is so special to the Warner family because that’s where our girls made Christ their own.
As you continue to run your race, my prayer for you is that you too are afforded the blessing of crossing the finish line with your integrity intact, having run your race with excellence, and with your family by your side!
Practical ways to nurture your family
For your spouse:
- Pray over each other and your family daily; read Scripture together.
- Date your spouse weekly (Bible study is good; dinner and a movie is better).
- Steal away together at least once a year—without the children.
For your children:
- Spend special time with each of them—let them pick the activity. Remember: it’s not so much about quantity as it is quality.
- Get into their world early on and stay there. It’s harder to build a relationship with a teenager than to sustain one.
- Never miss an opportunity to tell them how much you love them and how proud you are of them. Read Scripture over them that shows how much they’re loved.