PENSACOLA–Relocating with the military can be a stressful time for men, women and children as they navigate a new community, find a home and make friends. The military ministry at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola seeks to connect with members of the military, encouraging them in Christ.
Naval Air Station Pensacola, known as the home of the Blue Angels, typically employs more than 15,000 military personnel each year. Some arrive in Pensacola as newly enlisted members, and others take part in Naval and Marine Aviation or technical training.
Seeing the need for members of the military to have a family-like connection and a home away from home, Olive began the ministry more than 30 years ago. Whether stationed in Pensacola for three months or three years, military members are often far from their own families and need to be heard, understood and encouraged.
Mike Dimick, military minister and United States Air Force retiree, shared, “It’s an opportunity to meet the physical and spiritual needs and to be the hands and feet of Christ as our military men and women face deployment and changes of duty stations. We offer support for their spouses and children as well.”
The children of military families can be challenged with leaving friends and getting reestablished in states or even countries far away.
Through connections with other chaplains and churches around the globe, Dimick is able to welcome in and send off military members with contacts, helping them connect in a local church wherever they may be heading.
For those at NAS or Corry Station, a shuttle provides transportation to and from Olive Baptist Warrington campus on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.
Darlene Vannigan, head chef at the Warrington campus, and her staff, provide lunch every Sunday, free of charge, for active and reserve members of the military.
The lunch is often a continuation of senior pastor, Ted Traylor’s sermon, as Dimick asks attendees to share something they heard in the message that touched their hearts.
Dimick noted, “The military lunch environment creates a perfect setting for members to share stories about their lives, spiritual walks and military training and experience. I believe some of our greatest growth in the church stems from these meals, as many decisions of salvation and baptism have occurred over breaking bread together.”
The military men and women enjoy helping with various church ministries and are always ready to jump in and serve.
‘Our military members know they are loved, respected and feel highly valued for the contributions they make in the community, city, country and world for Christ.’
“Our military members know they are loved, respected and feel highly valued for the contributions they make in the community, city, country and world for Christ,” said Dimick.
Other events are hosted throughout the year, including date nights, when church volunteers provide childcare, giving military parents a night out. Dimick and his wife and ministry partner of 50 years, Maria, attend graduations and promotion ceremonies. The church hosts commissioning ceremonies for those leaving the area, with various military members from all generations laying hands on the departing members’ shoulder and praying for them.
The Dimicks hold the ministry close in heart and home with a guesthouse on their property that they use to host military members who need relaxation and recovery or parents and family members visiting for graduations and other occasions. The Dimicks also rent out the guesthouse with portions of the fees going back into ministry for young military families and veterans suffering with PTSD.
The Winston Guesthouse is named after a church member who showed up with a truckload of lumber after hearing Dimick’s vision for the space and asked, “Are you ready to start building?”
Dimick recently spent a month in Ukraine on the frontlines with The Warrior’s Journey and Reboot Recovery, two organizations that support military personnel who have experienced trauma. “I worked with many who were dealing with refugees and combat trauma in many degrees,” stated Dimick. “I was privileged to come alongside and learn, and look forward to starting a Reboot program for those experiencing combat trauma and first responders in our church soon.”