When the New Providence United Methodist Church decided to create a ministry to support members of its congregation, it became a real family affair. Located near Ft. Campbell military base, the church started the Eagles' Wings Ministry to pair military families with sponsors who help shepherd the children and spouses of deployed soldiers.
Catherine Harwell, military spouse: "It's really just about, you know, reaching a hand across the aisle."
Donna Markel, Eagles' Wings Ministry chairperson: "It's as easy as loving your own family - that's what it's all about."
Pastor at church event: "Good afternoon. We are glad that you've come to our Eagles' Wings kick-off meal."
The Rev. B.J. Brack, New Providence United Methodist Church: "I'm B. J. Brack. I'm the pastor of New Providence United Methodist Church. The Eagles Wings Ministry is a program that New Providence started many years ago, basically, to support our military families in this community."
The New Providence United Methodist Church is located in Clarksville, Tennessee near Ft. Campbell Army Base. The community knows the strain of regular deployments.
Donna Markel: "My name is Donna Markel, and I am the chairperson for the Eagles' Wings Project that we started."
Russ Markel, Spouse: "I'm Russ Markel, retired military."
Donna Markel: "When you don't have aunties and uncles and grandmas and grandpas close by, you know, the church family can really fill that."
At the Eagles' Wings kick-off dinner, the sponsors are connected with the military family.
Pastor at church event: "So, first of all... Bill and Wanda Wheeler."
Catherine Harwell: "We first met the Wheelers, I believe, the first time we came to church."
Christopher Harwell, MP Officer, Ft. Campbell military base: "My name's Christopher Harwell. I'm an MP officer, Fort Campbell, Kentucky."
Catherine Harwell: "And I am Catherine Harwell and I am an Army wife of going on six years."
Christopher Harwell: "They were the first family that actually came to visit us at our house, aside from her mother who was already there."
Catherine Harwell: "She calls herself Grandma Wanda, and Charlotte just absolutely loves her- she'll just start talking up a storm when she sees Grandma Wanda."
Hope Murray, Military spouse: "My name is Hope Murray and my husband is currently deployed. We have two boys. One is six and the other one just turned a month old. My son was turning four and we had a birthday party for him. Well, I was new to the church, but the Wheelers came and they just made it so nice because it felt like family was there."
Wanda Wheeler, Eagles' Wings Ministry: "Here just recently Hope went in to have her baby. She needed somebody to take care of Xavier, her boy, while she went in."
Hope Murray: "Bill and Wanda are a military family, so, you know, they have the background. They've been through it. They know what it's like."
Bill Wheeler, Eagles' Wings Ministry: "I entered the Army in 1953 as a draftee for the Korean War and I stayed until 1974. We've seen so many soldiers were deployed about three years ago, we got a committee together, and now we sponsor those families to show our love and our appreciation to the soldiers that serve our country."
Wanda Wheeler: "My name is Wanda Wheeler."
Bill Wheeler: "I'm Bill Wheeler. We've very, very proud of that program."
Pastor to boy at church event: "Is that, what did you say, your favorite part of eating? The dessert?!"
Christopher Harwell: "The main reason she got me in the door was the food on Wednesdays. (laughs) I think the thing that most people get wrong when they try to deal with the military, is they try to be psychologists. And there's a lot of times where you just don't want to talk about it. You just want a chance to relax."
Pastor B.J. Brack : "There's a book out called, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon - Ministry to Combat Veterans, and we just did a Bible study around that. And we just invited all of our military families to get together and we listened to their stories, and just tried to figure out what was needed in this community. What did they need from our church?"
Catherine Harwell: "Most of the time you just want a friend. Just someone to talk to. How is your day going? Tiny, little things like that can just really make a huge difference."
Christopher Harwell: "The hardest job in the Army, honestly, is being married to a soldier. And it makes a little bit more comfortable when I leave to know that somebody's going to be dragging her out of the house and making sure everything's okay."
Donna Markel: "It's hard enough for a soldier not to be there, but to know that someone's wrapped their arms around their family back home and is with them, is just a tremendous thing."
Pastor at church event: "We give thanks for all of our military families and the sacrifice they make for this country."
Pastor B.J. Brack: "I think it's what God calls us to do. I mean, we're supposed to be opening our doors to whoever's out there. And if you're around a military base, these people are...they have hurts and pains."
Hope Murray: "We're very family oriented and so to have that bond and make it feel like we have a family here is just. ... there aren't words to describe it."
Donna Markel: "You anticipate giving and that being the gift, but in the end it's what you get back that truly is the gift."
For more information on the Eagles' Wings Ministry, contact the New Providence United Methodist Church at 931-647-1638. Find resources for supporting the military and military families.
This story was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.
This video was first published on Dec. 19, 2012.