FORT POLK — A fresh start: That’s what the turn of the calendar from the old year to the new personifies.

Whether your change is quiet and private or passionate and rambunctious, it’s about putting forth an effort and dedication that focuses your energy in the year to come. That’s what the Protestant Women of the Chapel celebrated Jan. 9 at the group’s kick off held at the Main Post Chapel.

Women participated in prayer, worship, a get-to-know-you icebreaker game, information about spring classes and more.

Melissa Brown, guest speaker for the event, welcomed participants to PWOC.

Brown said often spouses find themselves in difficult places, such as deployments.

“I want to encourage you to stay focused, because the storms of life have a way of blinding you to your faith. Whatever your desire has been to go deeper with God, this is your opportunity. These Bible studies can help you become more of who you were always meant to be. I want you to leave your old self in 2017 because today is a new beginning,” said Brown.

Brown said she believes God is trying to pull the women of PWOC to the forefront of their faith.

“January is the season for listening because what you hear from God will hopefully direct your steps as you go into the fellowship hall to sign up for classes that will guide your year. Listen for the deeper place that God is calling you to, so that you can truly maximize being at Fort Polk and getting the lessons that are meant for you. This new year isn’t about resolutions, but a spiritual revolution that begins in your hearts,” said Brown.

The PWOC classes Brown referenced are Bible studies that focus on the different aspects of faith. There are 10 classes available including titles such as, “The Power of Positive Mom,” “Seamless,” “Amazed and Confused” and more.

Tricia Thomas said she became a PWOC member because she feels the organization is the best way to forge a connection with fellow military spouses, as well as faith. Thomas signed up for two classes because she said she wanted to learn more about the Bible.

“The classes are helpful because they have a way of relating to what everyone is going through. They strengthen and help develop a deeper faith and relationship with God,” she said.

Beth Wieman said being a part of PWOC keeps you accountable to your faith. “It’s also nice to have a foundation where you know that you can give your burdens to God and he’s got your back,” she said.

Tab Smith said PWOC creates a community. “It can be lonely here, especially when your spouse is training or deployed. It helps to have a support system,” Smith, PWOC president, said. “Small groups, like the classes we offer, are the backbone of our organization. They help us get to know one another and the things we are struggling with.”

Smith said if you couldn’t attend the kick off, you can still sign up for classes. “There are several classes that you can jump into later and not feel like you’ve missed anything,” she said.

The most important thing to get out of PWOC, said Smith, is the knowledge that you aren’t alone.

“As spouses, we sometimes feel pressured to be upbeat all the time. People tell us things like, ‘put on our big girl britches’ or to ‘suck it up, buttercup.’ We almost become trained to not talk about how hard this really is. PWOC gives you a fresh perspective in your journey that says it’s OK to tell people that military life can be hard,” said Smith.

One of the things Smith likes about Fort Polk is that it’s a great place to make lasting friendships. “I feel PWOC provides the perfect setting to encourage friendships while refocusing our faith under Christ because we have the common denominator of our beliefs to help those relationships grow,” she said.

Another way PWOC provides those moments of faith, friendship and support is their Hearts At Home program — a meal based-ministry held the first Friday of each month.

“We provide a meal that spouses don’t have to cook and give them a small break from the kids so they can have adult conversations. After the meal is complete, there is an optional time of worship,” said Smith.

Michele Hall, PWOC Heart at Home chair, said she thinks the program combats the loneliness spouses of deployed Soldiers and those training for long periods of time can experience.

“This is my sixth official deployment. Though they have all been different, they are, in many ways, the same. These meals help PWOC members bond and allow me to help mentor young spouses going through this for the first time. I’ve been there, so they ask me a lot of questions and I tell them that what they are feeling is normal,” said Hall. “In the end, PWOC is a community of faith that gets you through the tough times with reconciliation, support and a focus on God.”

For more information on PWOC email pwocfortpolk@gmail.com.