As a relatively new member of the Serving California team, my exposure to the various events in which our organization takes part has been somewhat minimal. Compounding this is the fact that accounting responsibilities usually keep me within 50 feet of a desk most of the week. However, I was recently given the opportunity to escape the cubicle and see a very special event in action: the Fight Club for Men graduation ceremony on December 11th in Paso Robles, CA.
As I’ve learned during my time here, Serving California is fortunate to partner with The Mighty Oaks Foundation, a group of people entirely committed to ministering to veterans who’ve suffered hardship during their service to America. One of the ways in which the Foundation accomplishes this is through the Fight Clubs; week-long intensive programs combining discipleship with activities to bolster the well-being of this particular group, or “Warriors” as Mighty Oaks so aptly describes them.
Each day of the week, the Fight Club group is encouraged to overcome the many challenges faced by this demographic. Speakers are brought in from around the country to lend their knowledge, and nature’s beauty is enjoyed during activities such as horseback riding and zip lining. The week is spent at SkyRose Ranch, a fantastic lodge located outside of rustic San Miguel. The end of each program is marked by a graduation event to celebrate the accomplishments achieved, and several hundred people usually gather to watch the process.
Since this was my first ceremony, I didn’t know what to expect. My first impression was derived from the feeling of joy permeating the event hall; the faces of the graduates were excited, and the people surrounding them mirrored that excitement. As we all took our seats, I glanced over the list of names in my bulletin. Of the twenty-eight graduates, seven were from the Army, nineteen came from the Marine Corps, one was a Navy SEAL, and one was a civilian. All of them were packed together towards the front of the room, waiting patiently for the program to begin. As introductions were made and a prayer given, I enjoyed watching the delight evident around me. People were genuinely excited to support these men in their step towards healing, which they showed by clapping at every chance they could.
Of all the words of encouragement offered by speakers Colonel Willard A. Buhl and Jeremy Stalnecker, the thing that really hit home was Jeremy’s description of the biblical account of Jonathan and the Philistines. Accompanied by a faithful servant, Jonathan set out against a small group of the enemy, defeating twenty of them with the help of his friend. Jeremy’s point was simple: the war will be daunting, but the battles can be won. In order to overcome future obstacles, problems should be handled one at a time. Very importantly, support and accountability must be sought. Proverbs 27:17 was mentioned in keeping with this topic: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
For me, the best part of this whole ceremony was seeing the camaraderie among the men. While I’ve never been in their shoes and have no personal understanding of what they’ve gone through, I have to assume that being around others with similar backgrounds must be encouraging. No matter what the situation may be, the message is still the same: no one needs to fight alone.