Co-written by Amy Ezell and Rev. Walt Garrett
When asked how the Phillipi Project was born, Rev. Walt Garrett, Benton First UMC associate pastor, shared, “The Lord gave me ears to hear the needs of our veterans over a three-month span in 2022.”
“Beginning in May 2022, with a ministry request from a veteran, a fire scare, and a word from the Holy Spirit; then in June (2022) listening to a member’s call to serve veterans, and ending in July (2022) through an innocuous story in a sermon leading two members to serve a veteran in need, and members gleaning hygiene items from a church-wide mission event for needy veterans… brought me to the point where I believed that the Holy Spirit was inviting the church with my leadership (a veteran myself, married to an active servicemember) to serve veterans in our community for the Glory of God,” said Garrett.
The mission of the Phillippi Project: Veterans and Families Ministry, is to encourage, equip, and empower veterans and their families through community, intentional fellowship, and mission opportunities.
Rev. Garrett references Acts 16:6-40 as inspiring the name of the project. Luke mentions that Paul and Silas, while in jail in Phillippi, were affected by the jailer who wanted to attempt suicide because he thought that a natural disaster had released all of the prisoners. They were able to convince him to do no self-harm, and after witnessing the miracle, the jailer (a veteran) sought to be saved.
So far, since November 2022, The Phillippi Project of Benton FUMC has hosted a community-wide “VA Briefing” that brought 80 veterans and their families together in fellowship and learning about benefits for veterans.
Benton FUMC has also hosted a “Freedom Rings” song-writing retreat for Veterans. A Weekend of Sharing, Healing, and Song was held in February 2023.
There is also a monthly Bible Study, building strong connections with the military community, and participating in the 2023 Saline County Vietnam Veteran Memorial Day ceremony.
Inspired by the Phillippi Project, church members have jumped in to serve as well by procuring 1,100 Bibles for veterans and creating a nursing home ministry.
Members of the local Veteran community in Saline County have also been inspired to begin Veteran Bible Studies in other area church settings.
Plans for the Phillippi Project to be shared across the Central District and the Annual Conference are underway. There will be a cohort beginning in February 2024 that will support church leaders wanting to build their own Phillippi Project.