The article below was written for and published in the July 2015 Happenings on the Hill of First Presbyterian Church PC(USA) Starkville, Mississippi.It is based on an interview I had with Aretta when she was in town for a visit a few months ago. The entire newsletter can be found at the FPC Starkville website.
Military Youth Being Served by FPC's Own Aretta Zitta
Mission work comes in various flavors: feeding the hungry, providing childcare, helping in disasters, and many others. One of our own, Aretta Zitta, has found a special ministry and type of mission work. Aretta works with the children of the military through a program called Youth for Christ. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Aretta when she visited Starkville a while back and we talked about her work.
Aretta lives in Kaiserslautern Germany and works primarily with the youth of our military at Ramstein Air Force Base. She said this is the largest concentration of Americans outside of the United States and is primarily Army and Air Force families. Like many missionaries, Aretta works with three organizations which is sometimes confusing when she is asking people for support. She actually works for Youth for Christ. However she also partners with Young Life which formed Military Community Youth Ministries. To do her work on military bases, she has to have a contract with the government which gives her recognition and allows her access to the base and the people. That contract is actually through an organization known as Club Beyond. With such a group, Aretta works with Christians of many different denominations.
Having been doing this work for many years, Aretta, has moved into a supervisory position and now supervises ten people and is involved with work in some twenty-five communities in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Part of the work Aretta and her group do is provide Christian-focused camps for the youth. One camp is a winter snow camp in the Austrian Alps. Through these camps she and her team reach some five hundred youth and leaders each year. Aretta said she could always use money to provide scholarships to these camps. Her youth and leaders are also involved in service projects including Vacation Bible School, work in the Czech Republic, and helping others where needed. Aretta is providing the only program for some two thousand youth so her presence and work is definitely needed.
Challenges faced by military families are many. With assignments lasting for two to three years, military families move to new towns frequently. This makes it difficult for the youth to form close, lasting friendships. A church "home" is really more of a church "apartment" because the families know they will only be in the church for a couple of years before moving to a new place. Military youth also face their own special kind of problems, problems typical children never encounter. Aretta mentioned that it is really easy to talk to military youth about God because she doesn't have to manufacture crises. These children have friends and parents who have gone to war and some have not come home; they live under constant threat of terrorist attacks, exist in an environment where their mothers and fathers may go to work one day and be sent out of the country for an extended time, and know that no matter what, they will be moving and leaving their friends and schools in the near future.
If you would like to help Aretta with her ministry, you can do so by sending her money through Youth for Christ (https://securegive.yfc.net/azitta) or through the church. She certainly appreciates and needs your prayers. She would also like your help in telling her story. With her being removed from us by many miles and several time zones, it is difficult for her to spread the word of what she is doing. You can friend her on Facebook and then message her with a request to be added to her mailing list and be kept informed of her work.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the stresses and concerns of the military youth continue. Even in peacetime (not that we are anywhere near that yet), Aretta and her staff are performing the Lord's work in an environment and location where it is much needed. Please consider providing her with financial support and your prayers for her success and safety.