A Marine and his wife, among others, commit their lives and marriages to Christ during Week 8 of Operation Heal Our Patriots
Soon after Marine Sergeant Mike Ossner arrived at Samaritan Lodge Alaska he found a good stick to replace his cane. It was driftwood gnawed on one end by a beaver.
Before week’s end, Chaplain James “Chaps” Fisher had imprinted the Operation Heal Our Patriots logo on it with a hot brand. Mike carved out a date, July 21, 2016, and also a Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11.
If you’d known Mike before he traveled to Alaska, you’d be puzzled by those additions.
Mike had not come to Alaska expecting much beyond the basics—maybe a chance to get away with his wife Angela and to see the state where he’d always dreamed of living.
“I said, ‘Don’t cancel that trip,’” Mike recounted telling Angela when severe back pain sent him to the emergency room earlier this month. “My dream had always been to come up here. I wanted to come see how beautiful it is up here.”
Mike and Angela attended Week 8 of Operation Heal Our Patriots at the recommendation of a Marine Corps chaplain. As the result of two deployments to Iraq, Mike suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and degenerative disk disease that regularly sabotages his mobility and often creates intolerable pain.
“He’s been in chronic pain for years,” Angela said.
Mike has also experienced ongoing doubt about Christ after seeing so many casualties on deployment.
“It gets kind of old telling the same story but from a therapist point of view it helps you I guess. What I’ve seen basically made me lose my faith even more in Christianity,” Mike said, remembering an incident in which he had to wait for days with the remains of two Army soldiers who’d been caught in a vehicle fire. Most devastating was when he lost his friend and Marine Corps mentor to an IED. “When I heard ‘Echo Five Romeo is down,’ my heart sank.”
He spent years as an agnostic. He studied other religions, he studied no religion, and he found himself sinking deeper into anger and aggression.
New Life in Christ
Mike brought those questions and emotions with him to Samaritan Lodge Alaska, unashamedly approaching chaplains throughout the week with his skepticism. Angela had accepted Christ earlier in the week, but Mike just wasn’t ready. Then one afternoon while his wife was away hiking at a waterfall, he sat down by the fire and struck up a conversation with Franklin Graham.
“It wasn’t anything I said,” the President of Samaritan’s Purse said. “It was the Holy Spirit. He [Mike] was just ready.”
Mike had specifically been the subject of much prayer in the camp before receiving Christ on Thursday of last week.
Angela heard about Mike’s salvation from him when she returned from her hike. “I’ve been wanting to have Jesus back in my heart for a while,” she said, “That we both now have Jesus and are going to be baptized? I just am really really excited about the future.”
During the fireside farewell chat on Friday, Mike addressed our staff and the other military couples. “I was probably the person that you guys were praying for the most,” he said. He then cited the verse in Jeremiah that he’d chiseled on his walking stick: “I can’t thank you enough. God really does have a plan for me.”One staff member added a keen observation: “While you’ve been whittling on that stick, God has been whittling on your heart.”
In addition to Mike and Angela, four more people received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior during the week. On Friday, six couples, including the Ossners, rededicated their marriages to God and each other. Seven participants, Mike and Angela among them, were also baptized in Lake Clark.
Please pray for Week 8 couples as they integrate back into everyday life. Pray that they will rely on God each day for strength. Pray also for the coming weeks’ couples as they arrive at Samaritan Lodge Alaska and begin their week of marriage enrichment.