Military couples are connecting with God and each other through Operation Heal Our Patriots
The Marine, wounded by roadside bombs in Afghanistan in 2011, thought baptism would work. But when he talked to Operation Heal Our Patriots staff, he realized baptism was only a symbol of the believer’s life-changing relationship with the Lord. So, he backed up and started at the beginning, praying to receive Jesus Christ and then resting in the assurance that God “will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19b, ESV). That Monday night he slept soundly for the first time in years.
“My sin is gone. A load has been lifted. I feel like a new man,” Jeremiah kept repeating throughout the week.
On Friday, Jeremiah and his wife, Janice, already a believer, were baptized together and rededicated their marriage—all while waist deep in the take-your-breath-away waters of Lake Clark.
In fact, the Marcums were one of three couples baptized on July 12 as part of Operation Heal Our Patriots, the Samaritan’s Purse program that ministers to wounded and injured military personnel and their spouses. So far, there have been a total of 25 salvations, 28 baptisms, and seven marriage rededication ceremonies this summer.
Each week, as many as 10 qualified couples—usually a mix of active-duty and retired personnel—are flown to our wilderness retreat on the sandy shores of pristine Lake Clark. Through outdoor adventures, biblically based marriage resiliency classes, and daily devotions, husbands and wives make cherished memories together, discover perspective-changing insights on their relationship, and receive spiritual nurture.
During the Fourth of July week, veterans got a chance to meet U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who visited nearby Lake Clark National Park along with them.
“The sacrifices they’ve made defending our freedom are real and inspiring,” Murkowski said. “We can never thank them enough for giving so much for our country.”
The volunteers and staff, which includes Chaplain Fisher and Chaplain Daniel Stephens—both retired Navy chaplains, are creating a special atmosphere of Christian service and care. It’s noticeable from the hardy welcome patriots receive when their plane touches down in Port Alsworth to the world-class meals served just right to the smiling hospitality of those who maintain the grounds and cabins. Mark Lang, program manager, and his wife, Sandy, facilities manager, keep everything running smoothly.
“I felt like a red carpet was laid out for me. I felt like a queen,” said Kristiana Keeler, whose husband, Sergeant Jeremy Keeler, USA (Ret.), was injured while serving in Afghanistan.
Rooted in daily prayer, the team strives to point guests to Jesus Christ, the Great Physician and Good Shepherd. As part of the retreat’s final day, everyone comes together for a joint worship service. Later the same day, military couples are prayed over and presented brand-new Bibles signed by those who ministered to them during their stay in Alaska.
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV). This Christian love is exactly what couples are finding when they participate in Operation Heal Our Patriots, according to Chaplain Fisher. He recently wrote, “Our vets and spouses see it, feel it, experience it here, and want it for themselves, their children, and their families.”
Please continue to pray for staff, volunteers, and guests over the coming nine weeks. Pray also for the continued spiritual growth and encouragement of those who have already participated this year.