Week 3 of Operation Heal Our Patriots ends in celebration as couples renew their vows
The third week of the Operation Heal Our Patriots summer season closed June 20 with five couples rededicating their marriages and two combat veterans being baptized under the waters of Alaska’s Lake Clark.Support Operation Heal Our PatriotsRetired Army Sergeant First Class Gabe Burkman, who was wounded in Afghanistan when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device, accepted Christ 14 years ago. But he came to Samaritan Lodge Alaska, trying to determine where God is leading him now. He realized his first step was to follow Jesus in baptism.
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Patrick Thompson trusted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior during the week and was also baptized last Friday. Patrick suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his combat service during the war on terror.
“Through our message in the classroom and through individual spiritual counseling, he [Patrick] realized his need for a Savior,” said Chaplain Jim Fisher. “He knew he needed Jesus to transform him and his marriage.”
Patrick and his wife Christine, as well as Gabe and his wife Lisa Marie, were among the five couples who renewed their marriage vows.
Chaplain Fisher noted the entire group was unusually focused on finding tools and techniques to help their marriages.
“This group did not come here to fish [though they did do that]; they came to work on their marriages and find healing,” he said.
Volunteers Pray and Do Their Part
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers play a crucial role in creating an environment conducive to military couples finding the healing in Christ that they need. Whether they’re working on construction projects, helping in the kitchen, or doing the housecleaning, volunteer staff members go about their duties prayerfully throughout the day.“We might not be in combat or anything like that, but we have a job to do, and we’re going to do the best we can for the glory of God,” said Vaughn Ticknor, a volunteer from Helena, Montana. He served in Port Alsworth alongside his 16-year-old son Jacob from May 22 to June 20. They spent many hours building a four-bed staff bunkhouse.
Above all, volunteers keep in mind the need to point others to Jesus.
“I have yet to meet anybody who is part of Samaritan’s Purse that is not on fire for God to reach out to people, whether they’re hurting in a tornado or they’re hurting from an injury serving our country,” said Vaughn, who has served with Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief teams in four states since 2012.
Vaughn and his wife Dana have 12 children, ranging in age from 2 to 24. Their oldest, Greg, is currently serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. While working with Operation Heal Our Patriots, a project he’s followed since its inception three years ago, Vaughn perhaps thought of Greg just a little bit more.
“It makes me wonder where he’s at, what he’s doing, how his day is going, how he’s relating with his guys, is he keeping his Christian testimony,” he said. “As a father, I think about things like that.”
Though he misses his son and looks forward to spending time with him again soon, he’s not worried about him.
“My wife and I have tried to quit praying for safety for our children. We basically pray that God will use them in a mighty way regardless of what the situation is,” Vaughn said. “[Greg’s] life is in Christ’s hands. He gave his life to Christ many years ago. We’re not worried about that.”Having a chance to witness the baptisms and marriage renewal ceremonies on Fridays was especially encouraging for Vaughn and Jacob while they served in America’s last frontier. They also got to be a part of the enthusiastic crowd that waves American flags and personally welcomes the military couples to Port Alsworth each Sunday.
“When I started seeing people in this small, unique community coming out of the woodwork to support these guys, I started thinking, ‘You know, there’s hope for America,’” Vaughn said.
“When they [the couples] walked away, you feel rejuvenated,” he added. “We’re going to do our little bit for these guys.”
Operation Heal Our Patriots, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, serves wounded military personnel and their spouses by offering marriage enrichment, physical refreshment, and the encouragement that comes only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each week for 15 weeks this summer a group of 10 couples is scheduled to be flown in to Port Alsworth, Alaska, to participate. Please pray for them and for all staff and volunteers involved with this project.