By Kara Witherow, Editor
St. Luke United Methodist Church in Columbus stands just 10 miles from the fifth-largest military base in the world.
With more than 25,000 active duty military and a total population of nearly 110,000 people, Fort Benning is an integral part of the Columbus community.
That’s why St. Luke’s new Ranger Outreach Center (ROC), opened last month, is a crucial ministry, said director Ret. Maj. Tony Mayne.
A true outreach center, the ROC, through its partnerships with GallantFew, CRU, and other area ministries, is designed to show Christ’s love to active duty service members, veterans, and their families.
“The mission of the Ranger Outreach Center is to serve as an incubator for veteran’s support and active duty support initiates in the Chattahoochee valley with a focus on bringing our service members and veterans to Christ,” Mayne said.
Housed at St. Luke UMC, through GallantFew, the ROC assists active duty service members and their families as they transition from military to civilian life. ROC’s partnership with CRU Military Ministry helps volunteers share the love of Christ with those members of the military who are living at Fort Benning and those who are there for basic training. The ROC also provides veterans affairs medical claims assistance and provides office space for service members who are in transition and working in Columbus-area fellowship programs.
These are all examples of the ways the ROC is being “points of light” in the military community, Mayne said, tangible ways of sharing the love of Christ with service members.
“It might take someone needing help with their VA claims to get them to walk through a church door,” he said. “If you show Christ’s love you can talk about Christ. But unless you can show the love, people are just not receptive to hearing the story. That’s how you build trust, and I think that’s what we’re doing here.”
Mayne, his wife Nicole, and the St. Luke UMC congregation have recognized a need in the community and, through the ROC, are meeting those needs and reaching people where they are, said St. Luke UMC senior pastor Rev. Thad Haygood.
“The ROC is another avenue for reaching a unique group of people for Christ,” he said. “Being right here in Columbus, Fort Benning is such an integral part of Columbus, and St. Luke UMC wants to be a part of that and serve the community.”
With its prayer groups, support groups, preschool, and school, St. Luke UMC is perfectly positioned to connect and serve military members and their families, Rev. Haygood said.
“St. Luke seeks to reach out in all directions, and it’s important to reach these families,” he said.
The goal of the ROC, Mayne said, is to reach those who might not otherwise hear about Christ’s love.
“The ROC wants to show Christ’s love to open up non-believers to the power of bringing God into their life. Second to that, the ROC serves as the hub for the community to know that if they want to assist military they can come here and we can find different paths and ways for them to be able to do mission work, volunteer work, and just say thanks to our nation’s heroes.”