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Operation Enduring Friendship

Jan 1, 2005

Where did those bags go, and what good did they do?

By Beth Bryant


Military wives at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii were the grateful recipients of more than 2,000 care bags stuffed with notes, personal care items and other gifts from the women of the FGBC. Most of the women have husbands who are in Afghanistan in the unit which Chaplain James Schaefer serves. (photo courtesy Elizabeth Schaefer)

Have you ever had a really big dream? Some people seem to live that way. I happen to be married to one. Helping Philip put feet to his dreams is more than a full-time job! I am one of those down-to-earth people who likes things all in order, punctual and tidy. Dreams are messy, and they’re not very predictable.

Last spring our church went through Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God. I was challenged to listen for God’s voice more, to say “yes” more quickly, to not ask so many questions and to rest in Him more.

That got me thinking about dreams. If a dream is actually an invitation to join God in what He is doing, why wouldn’t I want to be along for the ride? What would God do if I just said “Yes!” to everything He asked of me, and stopped asking questions and doubting?

Before long, I got a chance to find out. The idea for care packages was such a little thing, but God took it and turned it into an energizing faith-builder for the entire FGBC. It gave us opportunity to touch the lives of thousands of people.

This is an update. The distribution of more than 2,000 gift bags to military wives was very decentralized and was completed only recently. But notes from those you touched are beginning to come in. Some will be excerpted here. To read them in full and see more photos, log onto the Women of Grace website at

We wanted to partner with Chaplain James and Elizabeth Schaefer in their ministry to soldiers in Afghanistan and their wives at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Here are Elizabeth’s thoughts as we began:

“This will truly be a wonderful outreach of Christ’s love. No matter how many wives you reach, it will be an extreme blessing and wonderful surprise for them. I know it will lift their spirits and let them know that someone is thinking about them!”

As the packages were distributed she wrote:

“Everyone who has spoken to me has truly been touched that ladies in the Mainland would do this for them. When they opened the notes, some got tears in their eyes. The notes, especially, really touched their hearts”

The first letter came from Afghanistan in response to four boxes sent to troops. Kimya Hicks wrote: “Thank you so much for your contributions. We were able to provide mouthwash, shampoo and candy, not only on this post, but all over Afghanistan. We mailed out things to different fire bases where the soldiers have very little or no commodities…On behalf of our staff and the soldiers in Afghanistan, I thank you for your support, love, and most of all, your prayers.”

The Rear Detachment Commander, Captain Gregory Wright, wrote:

“On behalf of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, I would like to say ‘mahalo’ (Hawaiian for ‘thank you’) very much for the care packages you put together and sent to us. The spouses of our units were very touched by your well-wishes for them… I witness daily the sacrifices families here make and the struggles they go through with their service member deployed overseas. Theirs is a difficult job as well. … Your thoughts, efforts, and prayers are very much appreciated.”

April Pedersen, wife of the base commander, helped coordinate the distribution. She says: “As an Army spouse I am used to doing for others, as are many of my friends, and not expecting anything in return. It’s what we do; it’s how we give back to the community where we live, worship and play. The day Elizabeth shared what you and the ladies from FGBC had in mind I was blown away. We military spouses, are not used to being the receivers…we are usually the givers. I cannot express enough how much the friendship bags meant to so many ladies. Your thoughtfulness, prayers, words of encouragement and kindness did so much to help the emotional and spiritual welfare of all the ladies in the combat team who have spouses deployed in harm’s way.”

What a blessing that God asked us to come along and see how He wanted to touch the families of Schofield Barracks! You never know where God-given dreams will take you, but you can be sure it will be exactly where He wants you to be, doing exactly what He wants to accomplish.

Beth Bryant, who along with her husband Philip is part of the Canada church-planting team in Mississauga, Ontario, organized and directed the Operation Enduring Friendship project that culminated this past August.

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