A military couple experience healing and hope during their time at Samaritan Lodge Alaska
Who’s on top of the food chain here?
Sergeant Ken and Jessica Lind may have silently asked themselves that question as their floatplane touched down at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park, Alaska. There was one Alaskan brown bear in the water to the left of them, one to the right at the far edge of Naknek Beach, and one lumbering straight to the dock.
Jessica fell out of her seat and busily started taking photos through the plane’s windows. Others in the plane felt the same sense of awe.
Stepping onto the beach, there was no longer anything between them and the bears. They relied on the park rangers and their Samaritan Lodge guides for safety. They saw several more bears that day, but they were never in any real danger—as long as they kept their distance.
Distance is something the Linds think about a lot these days. Specifically, the narrow distance between Ken and death.
A Near-Death Experience
On June 16, 2011, Ken was with the Army’s 20th Special Forces Group in Iraq when his vehicle triggered a vicious projectile IED. The device blew through eight layers of ballistic glass and cracked the ninth and final layer right in front of him. He was less than a half-inch from certain death.
The Linds know God spared Ken’s life. “He shouldn’t have come back,” Jessica said. “God has a plan.”
Ken, a medic, said the night before the attack God warned him in a dream that his convoy would hit an IED. He prayed with his fellow soldiers the morning of the incident. He was praying at the very moment the explosion occurred. Had the IED struck the less protected vehicles behind him, Ken is convinced he would have been using body bags that day.
Though no one else was hurt in the attack, Ken suffered a concussion and his neck was severely injured from the force of the blast. Nonetheless, he stayed with his men another six months until they returned home to Alabama in January 2012.
When Ken came home to Jessica, he was in bad shape. He couldn’t lie in bed because it hurt his neck. He had to sleep in his recliner. Three fingers on his right hand were numb. Pain radiated from his neck down his arm. The only relief he had, Ken says, was to put his chin down on his chest.
Ken’s injury put great strain on the Lind’s relationship in a number of ways. The physical pain was constant. And, because of delays in his incapacitation pay, they ran into financial problems—almost losing their home. Plus, they fought. On top of everything, there was plenty of paperwork and frustrating military bureaucracy.
“I blamed him because he came home broken. He wasn’t the same anymore,” Jessica said.
They already had been disappointed in the lack of support they’d received from relatives and their church during Ken’s deployment. And they were still hurting from the death of a grandson four years ago. It all had taken a toll on their marriage.
Fortunately, about six weeks before coming to Samaritan Lodge Alaska, Ken saw a civilian doctor for surgery on his neck. The surgeon fused three vertebrae (C5, C6, C7) together with two titanium plates. The scar across the front of his neck was still fresh during his stay in Alaska.
The good news is that the pain is now gone. He can hold a cup in his right hand and sleep in his bed.
Great News: God Still Cares
The even better news is that the Samaritan Lodge experience—fishing, bear watching, relaxing, marriage classes, devotions, just spending time alone—helped revive their marriage and encouraged their faith.
“Every moment we’ve been here we’ve been in awe,” Ken said.
Before the retreat, Jessica said, she wasn’t sure their marriage could make it. But the situation seems to have improved.
“I’ve seen a difference since we’ve been here,” she said.
Most of the week the Linds could be seen holding hands, genuinely drawing closer to each other.
“I felt God didn’t care about us any more,” she added. “We’ve been through so much in these past four years. This week really opened up my eyes to see God is still there. It was us who backed up, not Him.”
Though their faith has been severely tested, they have not given up on the Lord’s promises and plan. Thinking of his experiences over the past year or so, Ken paraphrased Matthew 11:28, “Jesus says, ‘Come to Me and I will give you rest.’”
What a summary for the ministry of Operation Heal Our Patriots.