Testimony: Finding a Church Quickly in Your Military Community
By: Eric Williams
I was commissioned into the Army in 2020 out of Texas A&M Central Texas which is a university located near Fort Cavazos (Formerly Fort Hood), Texas. My initial 18 weeks of training were located in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
After I had been there 8 weeks, I met an amazing girl named Elizabeth, who had Christian Grandparents. Neither of us was Christian when we initially met, but after a couple of family group meetings with them, we gave our relationship to God.
The first step of faith we took together, was deciding to get married before we moved across the country together to be obedient to His Word about living together out of wedlock. So, we were married 8 weeks from the day we met and stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, only 2 weeks later.
Adjusting to the new environment across the country and away from our families was difficult, but thanks to God we found a local church to help us find family away from family. As new Christians, we were surprised at the difference a healthy church community could have in adjusting to a new area of the country.
Having spiritual support and relationships in the church was incredibly valuable when, 7 months into our marriage I was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer that had metastasized down my spine. Elizabeth and I had peace beyond all understanding despite going through 4 brain surgeries, 33 radiation treatments, and 4 months of chemotherapy over a period of 11 months.
Our first year of marriage was certainly a time of spiritual growth and perseverance, but with God, a family of believers, and His Word we were able to rejoice in the suffering. In February of 202, the doctors declared me cancer-free, but due to the surgeries and cancer treatments, I was unable to continue military service. Our next chapter of life was about to begin, sooner than we expected.
The only thing that we were certain about following my early retirement from the military, was that we would seek to serve God however we could. One of the main areas of concern was determining where we were going to live following my retirement. We longed to be closer to our families in Texas/Oklahoma but were concerned about leaving our spiritual family near Fort Campbell, KY.
Moving across the country previously the first time and finding a church within a couple of weeks that preached the gospel and reflected the love of Christ in the congregation was a miracle, especially being new believers when we arrived. When we decided to move to Military City USA (San Antonio) to be closer to our families and a place known to be friendly to military families, we were much further along in our walk with Christ. We desired a healthy gospel-focused church where we could get involved quickly, so we did everything we humanly could to look for healthy churches in the area.
After a few weeks of praying and internet searching, we resolved to attend a church where a close friend of mine and his wife served. The first week we were in our new home, our friends were unable to attend their church, resulting in us attending another church closer to our home.
A guest pastor gave a good sermon, and the people were friendly, but at the end of service, the lead pastor came to the stage and welcomed church planters, Andrew and Laura McDaniel from a “Pillar Church” to share a few words. They shared that they were sent from Pillar Church of D.C. to launch a church the following week that would be called Pillar Church of San Antonio. They told the congregation that they were part of a larger family of multiplying churches that were united in an initiative called the Praetorian Project.
When we learned that the goal of the Praetorian Project was to plant healthy multiplying churches near military communities around the world to serve the military families and the surrounding communities, we felt called to attend the launch Sunday the following week.
The following Sunday we attended the inaugural service of Pillar Church of San Antonio and fell in love with the people, the movement, and became members as soon as possible.
Elizabeth and I were both raised near military communities (Fort Cavazos/Fort Hood, TX and Fort Sill, OK) and spent a lot of time fellowshipping with military families while stationed at Fort Campbell. We recognized the need for healthy churches in military communities and had personal experience recognizing the difference it makes when moving into a new community.
In conclusion, being able to call Pillar Church of San Antonio home and knowing that there are like-minded churches being planted near other military communities has been an absolute blessing for us. I am currently a member of the pastoral residency with the church and Elizabeth is a core-servant leading the elementary-aged side of the children’s ministry. I aspire to one day be an elder with the church or to serve as an elder with a church planting team associated with the Praetorian project.
Following the uncertainty we faced moving away after retiring from the military, Elizabeth and I have truly been blessed with a church family who has a heart to make Jesus known not only in San Antonio but throughout the world by connecting with military families and the surrounding communities.