Thursday, September 18, 2008

Serving Those Who Serve (Part IV)

It is hard to believe that my time in Kyrgzystan is over. I’m writing this as I finish packing and am preparing to fly back to the US. It has really been an adventure. In my past reflections I spoke about the diversity of people that I’ve served, the sacrifices we are called to make, and the need for us to support our priests and pray for them.
As I prepare to head home I’d like to reflect upon the place where I think the people of Manas Air Base have made their greatest contribution – volunteering in the local communities. The airmen here have two private organizations that they may join to assist the locals build better lives for themselves. The Manas Service Organization (MS0) pairs volunteers from various units at the base with local communities. These volunteers go out to the local villages and help improve their schools, playgrounds and way of life. One village this summer received a new well to help provide clean running water for cooking and drinking.
The other organization that does outreach is the Manas Air Base Outreach Society (MABOS). I did most of my work with MABOS as I was the chairman. MABOS worked with several orphanages, a children’s cancer center, a children’s heart surgery center, and a few other outreach projects. It truly was a rewarding experience.
I had the opportunity to brief several distinguished visitors on the work of MABOS. As I was being introduced to one such visitor, the person introducing me commented how great it was to see the young airmen and women taking part in these opportunities as opposed to visiting the bars and strip joints. Of course, I quickly explained that we could not visit bars and strip joints from the base. However, it is good to follow up on the true meaning of his comments. So many times in life we get distracted by a desire to direct our love, not towards others, but towards ourselves. It is times like this that we are likely to desire to visit “bars and strip joints”.
When we focus our attention beyond ourselves, such as when the airmen and women participated in MSO or MABOS, we learn a greater meaning of love. For those who are not deployed to Manas Air Base, there are still plenty of opportunities for us to volunteer and pass some of that love and concern on to others. We can volunteer to assist in our own parishes for a multitude of ministries that exist. I know that I can always find project that can be passed on to qualified volunteers. We also have opportunities in the larger community. When I am back at home, volunteer with the local ambulance services and serve with the wildland fire fighting crew in Garfield County. Volunteers are needed to assist with blood drives. I mentioned the work of MABOS with orphanages. In some of our communities we have children who are almost like orphans. They could use a quality after school program to include mentors to be role models to form these young children to see value of volunteer service and outreach to others.
Find ways in your communities to reach out and share God’s love for you with others. You will truly make a difference. May God bless you, our troops around the world, and the USA.

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