When StandWatch formed in 2015, we had a serious discussion about how to position ourselves in the nonprofit space. There are millions of nonprofit organizations out there, and many base their organizational models on the assumption that they will partner with governmental entities, faith-based organizations, or try to go it alone. Because of the bureaucratic difficulties that come with seeking out government grants, we decided very early on to avoid any type of government money. That meant we would either align ourselves with a faith-based approach, or try and remain independent.
Looking for answers, I had multiple meetings with people from faith-based nonprofits and those that weren’t. Being a Christian, I also met with the pastor of my church, and other leaders in the local Christian community to get their advice. The conclusion the other founders and I came to was this; even though we are motivated by Christian ideals, because many veterans have difficulty reconciling the things that happen in war with core Christian principles, we could not position ourselves as a faith-based organization. Simply put, we were afraid it would turn some of the people we were trying to help away. I personally struggled with this decision, but looking back, it was the right one at the time. As we enter a new stage, however, I think it’s time to revisit the issue.
Before I go any further, I need to say that even though I consider myself a Christian, I recognize all of my flaws. I can’t profess a deep theological understanding of my religion, and I can’t quote chapter and verse from the Bible; I have never read it through and through. Having served in the military, I sometimes cuss like soldiers do. I am not immune to anger, and have been known to drink a beer every now and then, but never to excess. This has kept me from referring to myself as a Christian in certain circles for fear of being called a hypocrite. But after recently speaking with a pastor and the superintendent of my kids’ school (it’s a Christian school), I have learned that if Christians wait until they achieve holy perfection before trying to do God’s work here on Earth, nothing will ever get done. We have to come as we are. We have to come as we are. So, on a personal level, that’s what I’m doing.
After discussing this with Al Conaway, and Melin Moses, we have decided that StandWatch is going to begin organizing various short-term veteran-led Christian missions to help fight today’s biggest social issues. Our team will not be evangelizing, but will demonstrate their faith through hard work and Christian example. The issues we address will be the same; veteran’s healthcare, human trafficking, and improving people’s lives in rural America. We will draw on our faith and the support of Christian partners to have a greater impact in people’s lives.
Programmatically, we have spent a lot of time lately connecting veterans with students. These events have been huge successes. As part of our new mission approach, we are starting Christ-centered team-building programs that will take place on wilderness expeditions, where people of all ages can learn from veterans and community leaders who have deep experience in leadership, small group dynamics, management, and getting things done in difficult environments. It’s going to be amazing.
Over the next 18 months, we have set some ambitious goals that include launching the following expeditions:
- Ten veteran-led outdoor leadership courses at various locations across the country with classes for men, women, and young people where attendees learn how to start, manage, and grow community service programs. We will have special training opportunities for people interested in fighting human trafficking in rural areas, and substance abuse.
- Five veteran-focused mobile clinics
- A seven-day expedition in Arizona and New Mexico to assist local faith-based groups in fighting human trafficking on Native American reservations and immigration centers. We will also conduct youth leadership outdoor seminars.
- Using the same approach as we do in Arizona, we will conduct expeditions in Utah, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Washington, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, South Dakota, Mississippi, Texas, and Alaska.
- Where possible, we will also hold veterans’ healthcare clinics on the extended expeditions.
We will continue to hold our Rally Points, which will be strictly dedicated to fundraising and awareness, but our charitable work will be referred to as “Operations”. Each one will get a different name, such as “Operation Veteran Care”, or “Operation Human Reach” (I know, those are awful names but you get the point). Additionally, like we’ve been discussing on our website, we will also open the door to any issue that can be addressed by a veteran led initiative. If you’re a veteran and you see a social need, come up with a plan and we’ll listen to your pitch. If it falls in our wheelhouse, we’ll help you get it done. We’re willing to listen to anything as long as you’re passionate, have a well-thought out plan, and can leverage the experience you gained while serving.
Dedicating ourselves to a Christian-based approach is a huge step for StandWatch. We anticipate losing several large donors by doing this. But our hope is that the support and strength we gain from the Christian community will fill any void created by the departure of those who disagree with our new way of doing things. It’s a risk well worth taking.