Love Restored, Hearts Made New

November 5, 2020 • United States

A veteran and his wife receive healing for their marriage and new life in Jesus Christ through the ministry of Operation Heal Our Patriots.

Nearly every day for several months of his deployment, Army Sergeant Jake Southern’s unit came under enemy fire or were blasted by a roadside bomb.

“It was nonstop, every day. The violence was increasing,” Jake said of the wartime situation in Afghanistan during 2009.

Jake and Susan Southern begin their adventure in Alaska, greeted by Franklin and Jane Graham.

Jake and Susan Southern begin their adventure in Alaska, greeted by Franklin and Jane Graham.

Back at home, his wife Susan was raising their baby boy on her own. The couple had been married less than a year when Jake was sent on the 13-month deployment. His son was just 2 weeks old.

At times, their Skype calls would be interrupted by shouts of “Incoming! Incoming!” followed by gunfire or an explosion. Then the screen would go blank.

Susan often wouldn’t hear from Jake again for weeks. She had no idea if he was alive, injured, or dead. “It was one of the scariest things ever,” she recalled.

Battles on the Homefront

In late 2011, Jake finally returned home. Susan was so grateful to have him back, and she wanted things to feel normal as soon as possible. Instead, the situation soured.

“I was trying to force family. I was trying to make up for lost time,” she said. But Jake had trouble acclimating to life as a civilian and adjusting to his role as a father. “He didn’t know our son,” Susan said.

Jake Southern walks and talks with Operation Heal Our Patriots chaplain Greg Duvall.

Jake Southern walks and talks with Operation Heal Our Patriots chaplain Greg Duvall.

Jake also wrestled with post-traumatic stress from the horror he had witnessed in battle. He desperately tried to reconnect with his wife, but Jake wasn’t the same man Susan had married just two years prior.

“My wife was completely different. I was completely different,” he said. A vicious cycle of bitterness and shame began to characterize their marriage. Jake was plagued by hypervigilance, anxiety, and sleeplessness. He was haunted by feelings of failure and started drinking to cope with his struggles. But he still couldn’t escape the emotional trauma of war and, after years of alcohol abuse, Jake became suicidal.

He sought professional help to get sober, and things slowly began to get better. But the years of turmoil had driven a wedge between him and Susan, and neither of them had a true sense of peace.

A Place of Healing

God saw the couple’s pain, and He brought them to Samaritan Lodge Alaska this July, where they found healing for their marriage and their hearts through the work of our Operation Heal Our Patriots ministry.

“I fell to my knees and bawled,” Susan said, describing her relief when she learned that they were invited
to participate in a week of rest and renewal in the Alaskan wilderness.

This ministry offers a place for couples to reconnect with each other, gain Biblical tools for a healthy marriage, and encounter Jesus Christ.

Southern do the polar plunge into chilly Lake Clark

While at Samaritan Lodge, Jake and Susan Southern did the polar plunge into chilly Lake Clark.

The 2020 summer season was slightly delayed by the COVID-19 crisis, but we put measures in place to help safeguard the health of all visitors and staff who came to Samaritan Lodge. Despite the challenges, it was critical to move forward with this vital ministry to serve veterans who suffer from mental and emotional strain. Jake and Susan were hopeful for what the week in Alaska would bring, but their struggles followed them to Samaritan Lodge.

They fought during the flight to Anchorage and, when their plane landed, Jake and Susan told one of our chaplains that they wanted to return home right away. Thankfully, they chose to continue on to Samaritan Lodge, because God met them there in a powerful way and changed the future of their family.

On their third day in Alaska, both Jake and Susan gave their lives wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ as they spoke with a chaplain and his wife. “When we were saved, even that night I felt peace,” Jake said. “I felt love, knowing that God is for me and not against me.”

Then, on the Friday before they returned home, the Southerns were baptized in Lake Clark as a public proclamation of their faith.

“The power of Christ—if it can save our marriage, it can save anybody’s.”

“The power of Christ—if it can save our marriage, it can save anybody’s,” Jake declared.

“This place has a way of softening hearts, breaking down walls of resentment and anger,” said Susan, who said she was finally able to forgive Jake for the pain he caused. “After spending the week here, I feel like our love is genuinely restored.”

We praise God for what He did—and is doing—in the lives of Jake and Susan.

We praise God for what He did—and is doing—in the lives of Jake and Susan.

Now, supported by our aftercare team, Jake feels confident that the future will be brighter as he and Susan seek direction from God’s Word.

“I don’t have that fear of being alone,” he said. “We have a direction, we have a path, we just have to stay on it.”

The Southerns’ story is just one of many from this year’s Operation Heal Our Patriots summer program in Alaska. We praise God for the amazing things He did (and continues to do) among the 76 couples who participated—31 individuals were saved, 42 were baptized, and 37 couples rededicated their marriages this summer.

Veteran’s Day is next week, Nov. 11. Please keep all our Operation Heal Our Patriots participants—more than 1,200 couples since 2012–in your prayers. Please consider how you might be able to encourage a veteran and their family at this time.

Christmas Catalog
For many military service members returning from deployment, their homecoming is a joyous occasion. They receive a hero's welcome, greeted by waving flags and the smiling faces of their family. But for others who were wounded in battle, that homecoming means waking up in a hospital room, mind swimming with fuzzy memories of gunfire. Their struggles don't stay behind on the battlefield. The war follows them home, bringing posttraumatic stress, vivid flashbacks, and fractured marriages. We believe that God wants to bring healing to these brave men and women, so each year we invite military couples to Samaritan Lodge Alaska for a week of rest and renewal. There, they learn Biblical tools for a healthy marriage, receive counseling from our retired military chaplains, and have the opportunity to reconnect with each other, surrounded by the Alaskan wilderness. Most importantly, many experience the beginning of a new life by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. A gift of $6,000 covers the cost of the weeklong trip for one couple—including transportation, lodging, and activities in Alaska—as well as year-round support after they return home.

Bless the Marriage of a Military Couple

For many military service members returning from deployment, their homecoming is a joyous occasion. They receive a hero’s welcome, greeted by waving flags and the smiling faces of their family. But for others who were wounded in battle, that homecoming means waking up in a hospital room, mind swimming with fuzzy memories of gunfire. Their struggles don’t stay behind on the battlefield. The war follows them home, bringing posttraumatic stress, vivid flashbacks, and fractured marriages. We believe that God wants to bring healing to these brave men and women, so each year we invite military couples to Samaritan Lodge Alaska for a week of rest and renewal. There, they learn Biblical tools for a healthy marriage, receive counseling from our retired military chaplains, and have the opportunity to reconnect with each other, surrounded by the Alaskan wilderness. Most importantly, many experience the beginning of a new life by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. A gift of $6,000 covers the cost of the weeklong trip for one couple—including transportation, lodging, and activities in Alaska—as well as year-round support after they return home.


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