Veterans Day: A reminder to serve deployed soldiers

November 10, 2017

“Daddy, when are you coming home?” My kids often ask this question whenever I have a chance to call home. I reluctantly tell them, “By Christmas,” but the reality is, there’s no guarantee that we’ll leave our current location in time to make it before my kids open their presents. I’m on deployment, and since leaving, I’ve missed birthdays, holidays, family vacations, my son’s T-ball games, and more—“normal” activities that I’d forgotten to cherish while I was home.

While this deployment has been difficult, it has also allowed my kids to mature and take on extra responsibilities—especially serving one another. Our oldest child is seven years old and has learned to wake up early nearly every day to serve our family by making breakfast for his four younger sisters. Just recently, he taught his five-year-old sister to ride her bike without training wheels—something I would’ve done if I’d been there.  

Being gone has also caused me to love my wife more. Throughout our marriage, she’s always been self-sacrificing, but that’s become even more evident. She’s the one who takes our kids to church, piano lessons, birthday parties, and other activities. She reads to them, prays with them, and tucks them in bed. She pays the bills, calls the exterminator, and cuts the heads off snakes when they try to crawl into our house (true story!). She wakes up early and goes to bed late, cooks and cleans—all by herself—and has yet to complain about any of this.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, here are five practical ways that you and your church can serve deployed soldiers like me and their families:   

1. Pray. Praying for one another is not only commanded in Scripture but is also one of the first things we learn to do as Christians. We pray for one another—not simply because there’s nothing else to do—but because we desire to see growth and God’s goodness in each other’s lives. Through prayer, we are trusting that all good things come from God’s generous hands and that he is kind and gracious and loves to answer our prayers.

2. Care packages. One of the highlights of deployments is receiving care packages. These often include snacks, hygiene items, books, magazines, and personal letters of thanks. These care packages are often a little “taste of home.” Churches or Sunday School classes can easily put together these packages, and soldiers will love them. But don’t be disappointed when they don’t send you a thank you card. Postage stamps can be hard to come by, and what few stamps a soldier has, he’s probably planning to use for his family.   

Churches or Sunday School classes can easily put together care packages for deployed soldiers.

3. Gift cards. When National Guard and Reservist Soldiers deploy, they often take a reduction in pay from their civilian careers, as well as take on extra expenses. You can help alleviate those costs by sending Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play gift cards. As a National Guard chaplain, my church wanted to support my ministry here and sent me $4,000 in Amazon gift cards to give away. I’ve been able to help host numerous game nights—basketball, softball, volleyball, dodgeball—as well as set up televisions to watch college football. Each week, I give away these gift cards, and Soldiers are stunned that my church would provide these.

4. Help with home. Another great way to help a veteran is to step in and help his or her family. Our church family has been an enormous help. Every week, men stop by to mow the grass and edge our yard. They’ve fixed our fence, automobiles, and a ton of other things that have helped us financially. The ladies from our church volunteer to watch our five kids, giving my wife a much-needed and well-deserved break. They’ve helped with laundry, house cleaning, and are often bringing homemade food over to help alleviate the burden this deployment has placed upon my wife. One Sunday School class even took up a collection, bought groceries, and filled our pantry, refrigerator, and freezer with the types of foods my family enjoys. If you really want to help a veteran, serve his family like this while he’s deployed.  

5. Help when he or she returns. A soldier will be eager spend time with his kids when he returns home, but he’ll also need time to reconnect with his wife. You can offer to watch their kids and pay for their date. Surprise them with a gift card to a restaurant, movie theatre, or their favorite coffee shop. Yes, the soldier will want to see you, but make sure you give him plenty of time to reconnect with his family first.

While I’m away, my wife has been intentional to tell our kids that their daddy is a hero, that I’m providing for our family, and that both husbands and wives make sacrifices as they do the hard work to which God calls them. She’s teaching them that this life is more than about seeking our own comfort and happiness; it’s about furthering the Kingdom of Christ and trusting that one day, he will reward a hundredfold all that we’ve given up to accomplish that mission. Let’s uphold and support deployed Soldiers and their families in this calling by using our gifts and resources to serve the body of Christ.

Justin Sampler

Justin Sampler is a pastor at First Baptist Church Inola, Okla., and a PhD student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a chaplain in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and is currently deployed. He is married to Jessica and they have six children. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24