To Serve and Be Served

To Serve & Be Served, To Serve and Be Served, Comfort Farms with Jon Jackson, Middle Georgia Christian Voice, Milledgeville

In October I visited Comfort Farms during their Comfy Funky Pumpkin Patch. I joined my friend with her children to explore and have some fun. I had heard Comfort Farms supports veterans, but I was not clear on how it all worked. After meeting Jon Jackson, the owner, he agreed to an interview. 

Joyce Glass, Middle Georgia Christian Voice

Meet Jon Jackson

Jon has a deep faith and a big heart for others, especially veterans. He served two tours in Iraq and four in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2013, and retired from the military in 2015. 

Growing up he did not think he was going to serve in the military, but after watching, the devastating attacks on our country on 9/11 a patriotic fire welled up within him. He grew up on the Jersey shore, and when the twin towers fell from the New York skyline a piece of his childhood ripped away in his heart. 

His faith had always been important to him and his family growing up, but while serving his country, his faith became solidified in his heart. During this time he held to certain beliefs and Bible teachings he holds dear. The beauty of his faith helped him as he served in the war.

He served with people who shared beliefs with him and some did not, but at the end of the day when the bullets were flying they believed in protecting each other’s back. 

Come To The Table

During his time overseas his personal beliefs were drawing closer to God. He shared, “You have your team to depend on, but it’s your grit and determination. How is that going to help you through the next day when you just lost two or three friends the same day? And you go back out there and fight. Fight for people who do not like you. Fight for all types of causes. It’s not just your cause. It’s selfless service.”

He is closer to God now than he has ever been. One of the best things he learned in Afghanistan was to bring people together. Food and music bring stubborn men to the table. Even though his mission is to help Veterans, it is a ministry as well, because through good food and relationships he is able to bring people to the table who would not usually speak to each other in the first place. 

What The Military Taught Jon

Once we understand why we feel certain ways, and how we were raised, and what our belief systems are. Those belief systems we hear on the radio and other media, even though they are foreign to us. When I look at you as a human being, and I can respect you and appreciate you as a human being regardless of your beliefs. Yes, I respect you and still love you for what you do, but I have to get to know you.” Jon explains his story. 

“We have become so detached away from people, it is so easy to be poisonous with regards how we treat each other. One thing the military taught me was to accept many people, and their beliefs, and fighting for someone’s right to not agree with me is probably one of the hardest things I had to go through.”

The Right To Choose

Jon fought in the war to make sure people had a right to vote for their own government, and the government wanted to kill them, but he put himself in the line of fire to make sure they had a chance to choose this type of government. As Americans, we believe in democracy, and the right for people to choose their own government even a government opposed to us. 

Love Your Neighbor

As a Christian, Jon aspires to do all things in love. And like Jesus and the Bible says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a) This is his personal mantra about everything. Even on Social media he will end all his post with love. It’s the greatest commandment Jesus gave to love your neighbor as yourself. Jon works hard to practice loving others at all times. 

If we as Christians would give love and respect to all we come in contact daily, how would the world be different? Some people are hard to love. I completely agree and understand. With God infusing us with His love we are able to give more love than we could imagine. God has infused Jon with a big heart for the hurting, and desires to give them the encouragement from God. 

Transformation

His time overseas was difficult leaving all he knew to be around many people with drastically different beliefs than his. He transformed in many ways. The transformation to a seasoned hard-core combat soldier was one of the hardest things ever, but the one thing he did not change was how he felt about God. His personal relationship with God increased, and is very personal to him. 

He grieved to see only a small glimpse of what God sees everyday in one portion of the world. After seeing the atrocities everyday, he wondered what all does God see? 

The easy thing to do is die. It would have been a lot easier for him to die overseas. For vets it is tough to transition back to civilian life. Many feel guilty for not dying. They feel guilt for doing things possibly causing other people’s deaths. People have to live with the guilit and pain for the rest of their life. 

Why Am I Still Here?

When you go to war, like Jon and many others do for us. Death is not the deal breaker. Losing your arms and legs is not a deal breaker. Losing relationships and people you love is a deal breaker. Many marriages and families struggle to stay together. 

For whatever reason God preserved Jon’s life. His first year he went on patrols 20 out of the 28 days of the month in combat. He did not come back home until November for his anniversary. He had to survive. While there he lost many friends. He always felt he was going to lose his life over there. When he thinks about it, he wonders how he still here. God definitely had more plans for him. 

STAG ~ Strength To Achieve Greatness

Jon created the nonprofit STAG Vets Inc. STAG stands for Strength To Achieve Greatness. He created Comfort Farms as an acute veterans crisis agriculture center. Named after his friend Kyle Comfort. They went through training together. 

Comfort Farms helps vets going through crisis as a three or four day stand down. Immerse them into the farm life. The farm gears vets in a way they are used to operating similar to being in the military. There is structure and no gray areas. They have responsibilities to tend to while they are at the farm. This is what they need to get back in line. Comfort Farms puts them back into a place of being productive and helpful boosting them to work on their problems and struggles. 

The main focus for Jon is to return them back to their families. He doesn’t care about their job, their car, or anything superficial. What he cares about is sending them back to their families. Many have kids they are not connected with or their wives, because they are arguing so much, we need turn them back around. Guide them back to the important parts of life. 
Kyle and Jon became close friends overseas. He was from Alabama, and he continues to help his military brothers through Jon’s big heart and Comfort Farms. 

You Have Done Great Things

Comfort Farms is not a Christian organization, however, Jon leads and manages based on his Christian principles. One of the things he adheres to is being patient, being humble, and being a servant to the vet, his family, and his community. He wants to provide a space for healing. 
He doesn’t treat vets like they are a pitiful group. Nothing like “hey, you are in trouble, and we need to help you do this and this.”

He lets them know, “You are strong. You are powerful. You have done great things, and you are going to continue to do great things. I understand you are going through some issues right now, but you still have to serve again. Your community needs you.” 

The community, especially if you look at young black men, fatherless boys, things like from all different races and backgrounds need leadership in their life to help them become better men. Numerous vets are in a bad situation because of PTSD. They have pushed their families away, and they are so down on themselves. Being in a position to help other people with their issues, puts the vets in a position where they feel empowered. They really want to help out. They end up going back toward their own families. 

Serving

The community feels they want to help veterans too. He hears often, “I didn’t serve (in the military), but I want to help.” He tells them, “I know you didn’t serve, but it is your time to serve the veterans who need you.” 
The veterans want to serve the community and the community wants to serve the veterans. There is this beautiful thing working in itself with service going both ways. Everyone is serving one another, and I feel this is how it should be. I feel God wants it to work like this. 

People ask how they can repay Jon for helping them. He said I don’t want to be repaid. I want you to help the next guy who needs it. Help him to take care of the next guy. 

Success Is …

Jon’s definition of success, “When I get guys who were almost at the point of suicide, who have lost everything, and then they are back with their families and helping the community with other guys again. That is success to me. That lets me know what I am doing I am on the right track.” 

We Are Community

Questions for Jon, “What do you want others to gain from you working the farm for vets?”

“Bringing our community together in ever aspect is my biggest goal. I don’t want the people on the east side, the west side, the north side, or the south side to look at each other like aliens. I want them to believe we are a community. We represent one of the best communities on the planet. This is us
We might have differences of opinion, different backgrounds, different types of things, but guess what, “I love You, because you are my neighbor.”

I know it is idealistic to think everyone will get along, but I know that they won’t.
 

At the end, the people define who they want to be, and how they want to be treated. I am not going to make this determination for you, before I get to know you. My thing is just appreciate this moment we are in right now.

When people come to the farm, to push the reset button. Stop thinking about what is causing them stress. Get here. Relax. Enjoy the moment. This is a resource place for people to utilize from Church groups to biker groups. Any type of organization that needs a place  to neutralize their senses, and get closer to this earth and closer to who they are as people.”

Jon’s Favorite Part

Last question for Jon, “What is your favorite part about what you do at the farm?

“I raise pigs, and I love raising pigs. I love creating new breeds and competing with other pork producers in the country. We have this small inter-rivalry. 
Getting some of the kids from the colleges, young people here who are working, and talking them about life and adulthood. Especially kids from the inner city children. Helping them to look at life differently, and seeing the spark in their eye like, ‘Wow! This is an option I never thought of.’ Giving them something new to try, and putting a new wrinkle on their brain. Man, it is a huge impact. 

Comfort Farms, Middle Georgia Christian Voice, Jon Jackson, Serving, To Serve or Be Served

I put them in leadership positions they are not expecting, and I hold them accountable. They get a taste what it was like to be in combat with me. They have kids who want to come back and have more. These are the kids we are planting seeds with now, and so they can be really productive human beings in life. That is my greatest joy. 

My own children have the ability to grow up around this, and be exposed to this. It fills me with love seeing people from all different kinds of socio-economic backgrounds come and enjoy the same peace. I just love working with people, and changing attitudes about a lot of things. I know it is multi-layered and multi-dimensional.”

To Serve Or Be Served?

Comfort Farms serves our community by helping young men and seasoned vets see they have an important place in our culture and community. It is refreshing to see someone working diligently to help others no matter the race or religion. We have common ground desiring to please God, join Him in heaven one day, and bring as many others with us as possible.  

Jon Jackson and Comfort Farms embodies the verse below. We are all called to serve. Ask God how He wants You to serve Him!

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, 
but to serve, and to give his life
as a ransom for many.~ Matthew 20:28 NIV ~

Joyce Glass was born and raised a Georgia girl in Marietta, Ga. She has lived in almost every corner of the state, but Middle Ga by far is her favorite. Her creative path turned to writing in 2010 when she felt called to write by God. After taking four years to write her first book, she wanted to find a simpler way to help other writers start and complete their books. She became The Write Coach in 2016 when people began turning to her for help. Currently, she hosts the podcast, The Write Hour ~ Nonfiction Tips From The Write Coach, and helps her clients birth their books. However, she missed writing about her faith. Middle Georgia Christian Voice is the perfect combination of her gift of writing, her passion for sharing the love of God, and connecting with the community. She and Elaina are excited to be a light and voice for Christ in Middle Georgia!

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