Women in Uniform Conference
Posted in: Stories
Cru Military®, along with four other ministries, came together to design a conference to meet the specific needs of active duty women called “In His Service: Women in Uniform, Followers of Christ.”
The idea for the conference came from a group called the Fellowship of Christian Military Ministries (FCMM). “FCMM is a group of ministries who come together to talk about what they are doing and find ways to collaborate,” Laurie Eatman, National Director for Cru Military, said. “We meet once a year in-person to have panel discussions and to look at trends in ministry that we are seeing. One of the trends we saw was the need for ministry to women in uniform.”
“Women in uniform overall are such a small number in the military,” said Martha Jones, Global Director for Cru Military. “So already they feel isolated. They are spread out all over the country and the world–which makes them feel more isolated. Many are in leadership positions, so they are not free to explore friendships with women they outrank. Then with COVID, they faced even more isolation.”
To think about how to meet this need, a group of women from FCMM decided to get together once a month to pray, to talk about what each was doing to minister to women, and collaborate on future plans. Cru Military’s previous National Director, Carleene Myer, was formative in these initial meetings, contributing her decades of experience as a military spouse and ministering to women in the military community. As the group continued to meet and collaborate, one of the team members, Esme Dietz, the special projects coordinator for The Navigators, felt led by the Lord to create a conference for active-duty women.
“She wanted to provide a place for women to come together, find connections and unity, and to study the Word,” Laurie said. “She brought that idea to the group and five ministries came together to make it happen—The Navigators, Cru Military, Officers Christian Fellowship, Planting Roots, and Women in Love with the Lord.”
Cru Military team member Joy Kimmins heard about this conference and immediately volunteered to help. Joy served as a weather forecaster for the Air Force, and her husband is still active duty in the Air Force. “I was so excited for this conference because I don’t know of any other ministries that are ministering to women in uniform like this,” Joy said. “Often the active-duty women are overlooked because they are the minority in the military. They can be perceived as ‘spouses’ of active-duty men, but active-duty women, even if they are spouses, are individuals. They have different challenges.”
Fifty women attended this first conference from all branches of the military ranging from enlisted to officers with the youngest being a senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet.
The team led the women in an ice breaker activity where they lined them up in order of years of service.
“We had more than 300 years of service in that room – from the ROTC cadet to the lady who had 27 years in so far,” Joy said.
Joy continued, “Once we got lined up, we asked the ladies who had been in the service 10 years or more to look at the younger women and give them one word for their future years of service. Some words were persistence, faith, trust, and community. The last lady said, ‘Jesus.’ It was so wonderful to have the older women speak into the younger women’s lives.”
The conference consisted of two days of workshops including topics like knowing and loving God, discipleship, fruitful labor, forgiveness, how our wounds affect our walk, healing from trauma, and giving God your best. The final session was a commissioning service with content from “Matthew 28:16-20,” and concluding in prayer for each to exercise their leadership in reaching other members of the military.
Laurie Eatman was able to bring Korissa Lopez, one of the Sailors she disciples to the conference. “That was a sweet time to spend with Korissa,” Laurie said. “And she loved the conference!” Korissa wrote to Laurie later and said:
The conference was a very refreshing weekend. Despite being introverted myself and meeting all new women, I felt at home being among women who serve in the military. The weekend encouraged me to study the Word continually, and the knowledge of the others I was with, challenged me to get deeper in my studies. The weekend ended up being a great way to refocus my heart on the Lord, and the Lord was able to show me a part of His Church that I related closely to that I was blind to before.
“It was a place for the women to be poured into, but also to find each other,” Joy said. “We gave them time for reflection after the sessions, time to connect with each other, and even set up a prayer room where they could grab someone and go pray together. I saw them connecting and even hugging.”
“This partnership between the five ministries was so beautiful,” Laurie said. “These ministries came together with their giftings and talents, and worked together so beautifully to put on a conference that blessed women in uniform.”
Ministering to Women in the Military
Everyone can have an opportunity to minister to women in the military.
“I would like to challenge you to find a woman in uniform in your local area and connect with her personally or connect her to a ministry,” said Martha Jones, Global Director for Cru Military® and herself a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.
Martha encourages everyone to be strategic – to have a plan. “If they are in Chick-fil-A in their uniform, just say, ‘Hello.” Ask about their service,” Martha said. “You can even say, ‘I understand that there are challenges being a woman in uniform,’ then ask questions. Listen to their story. Pay for her lunch. Find a way to show the love of Jesus.”
And in the end, connect them to more ministry. “Just say, ‘I’d love to connect you to a ministry,’” Martha said. “Then tell them about a ministry at your church or another local ministry. Or connect them to Cru Military. There is a need to minister to women and you can help!”