The Power of OHOP is in Small Beauty

September 15, 2016

by Dana Smith, Communication Manager, Samaritan's Purse Canada

A first hand account from the Operation Heal Our Patriots Canadian Week in Port Alsworth, Alaska.

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You might think that waking up to your second day of a marriage retreat in torrential rain and cold temperatures would be deflating.

But when it comes to Canadian military couples, there is no defeat and no retreat—especially not from a little rain.

In day two of Samaritan’s Purse Operation Heal Our Patriots in Port Alsworth, Alaska, couples were given a variety of activities to choose from to spend time together and spend time in nature. It so happened that I got to tag along with a group of couples who had chosen to hike to Tanalian Falls, a few miles away from Samaritan Lodge.

The clouds have hardly broken their thick grey cast over the region since the couples have arrived, and the rain has been nearly continuous. Everything but the spirits of these couples has been dampened in the last few days. This was true on the soggy hike as well.

It was along this path that the true beauty of the ministry of Operation Heal Our Patriots comes to life, as you listen the participants share their experience so far: “Everyone here has been so kind, so gracious, so helpful. Truly, I’ve been blown away by all of this so far.”

And all that is true. It’s my first time here, and in two days I feel as though I’m among not only dear friends, but family. I think that’s how we all feel.

But it’s more than that. Couples are beginning to see what is most important: for guests to see Christ in those that serve in this unique ministry that aims to strengthen families who have experienced emotional, physical or spiritual impacts from military service. In some cases, these impacts have been taking their toll for decades. You don’t see that here and now, however, even though we all know it lies beneath.

Here we see laughter, comradery, and the anticipation of the adventure that each day holds.


Operation Heal Our Patriots couples enjoyed fishing with one of our staff guides in Alaska.

Back on that soggy path to the Tanalian Falls, one participant talks to the quiet trail guide ahead of him, sharing how his view on Christians and Christianity has changed in this place, not because of anything that anyone that anyone has said. Rather that love seeps through the great love shown in every small detail to show how much everyone here is loved by them, but more importantly loved by God.

When they finally reached the falls, the couples were given the opportunity to fish in the Tanalian River. Only the two who wore hip waders and special boots decided to take the opportunity, and there was a beauty in that moment that even exceed the powerful falls that crashed behind this couple, each getting lessons from our guides patiently teaching them the fine points of fly fishing.­

The husband was first to make a catch, albeit a small one, garnering gentle barbs from his wife a few feet over. As we sat and talked about life in the middle of this raging river, the husband kept looking over at his wife, and every time he could hear her laugh pierce through the sound of the crashing falls, a smile lit up his face and seemed to capture in that small moment the reason everyone is here:

“I’m having a wonderful time here, no doubt this is amazing,” he said, casting his fishing line. “But to see her smile, that’s what makes it all worth it to me.”

Read more about Operation Heal Our Patriots and how the first week of 2016 began with a surprise