Message of Love
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV).
When the planes carrying 10 Canadian wounded military veterans and their spouses arrived at Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Heal Our Patriots ministry lodge in Alaska, it was pouring rain. As the Canadians stepped down onto the gravel runway, they were also hit by an icy wind.
Although almost no one would want to be outside in such harsh conditions, along the edge of the runway stood about 60 Operation Heal Our Patriots staff, volunteers, and local residents. Each waved a small Canadian or U.S. flag while offering the Canadians a handshake and welcoming smile.
“I was almost in tears when we arrived and I saw that,” said Chris Carpenter, a Canadian Forces warrant officer from Ottawa. “It was so beautiful.”
“It’s something we’ll remember forever,” added Jenn Rombough, wife of Master Seaman Sandy Graham from Shannonville, ON. “The love is so amazing here. When you walk off the plane, it’s tangible. No one could leave here without feeling totally blessed by the care they received. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my entire life.”
The message of love that began on the runway continued when each couple was escorted to their own warm and tastefully decorated cabin. Then, throughout everyone’s week in Alaska, came one carefully prepared meal after another, plus mid-afternoon snacks and nighttime made-to-order milk shakes.
Chris and Paula's marriage was strengthened after participating in Operation Heal Our Patriots.
The professional guides also played their part in expressing love and care by offering a steady dose of training and encouragement while taking the guests on kayaking, fishing, and hiking trips.
The volunteer housekeeping staff also expressed love in several ways. They meticulously cleaned each room while being careful not to move any of the guests’ personal belongings in the way commercial hotel staff often do. Some military veterans have brain injuries that can leave them anxious if they’re unable to find items exactly where they left them, explained housekeeping supervisor Rosa Petrucelli.
She noted her team also prays each day for the guests in each cabin, and leaves behind candies and cards with encouraging messages, including: “All things are possible with God.”
“It’s the care and quality that goes into everything here,” said military veteran Paula Carpenter who, like her husband Chris, is a warrant officer based in Ottawa. “You feel the love from it.”
“Samaritan’s Purse—you’ve taken love to an entirely new level,” added retired Master Corporal Brett Olmstead of Courtenay, BC. “I thank you from the very bottom of my soul. I now have a totally different outlook on love and on Jesus Christ.”
Click here to learn more about Operation Heal Our Patriots
Fred Weiss, Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s executive director, said Operation Heal Our Patriots is intent on honoring and cherishing military veterans for the sacrifices they and their families make.
“We appreciate our military service people,” he said. “They’re out there looking after us, protecting us, making our country a safe place, and that has its honor. There’s also the other side where there are difficulties. Sometimes there are wounds that are physical and can be seen, but often, there are injuries that are not visible, and many of our wounded veterans suffer from these kinds of injuries.
“That brings along a number of challenges for their families—things that they get to talk about here and address as couples. We want to see them healthy and happy. We want them to draw closer to each other, but we also want them to draw closer to the Lord.”
More than 500 U.S. military couples have been guests at the Samaritan Lodge in southern Alaska since Operation Heal Our Patriots began in 2013. In September 2015, with the financial and prayer support of Canadian donors, the first wounded veterans and their spouses from Canada participated in this unique ministry. The Canadians were hosted during the last week of the lodge’s summer season.
“I now have a totally different outlook on love and on Jesus Christ.”
In one of his final devotional messages to Operation Heal Our Patriots staff and volunteers before the 2015 season ended, retired U.S. military chaplain Dan Stephens reminded them that many of their military guests have had little or no exposure to Christianity before coming there, and what exposure they have had might have been negative—leaving them feeling judged or rejected.
The many expressions of love they experience when interacting with the Christian staff and volunteers of Operation Heal Our Patriots often gives the guests a new, exciting vision of what faith in Christ can be.
“You’re walking testimonies,” Dan told staff and volunteers. “Your love and compassion for the Lord is very visible. Thank you.”
When the 10 wounded veterans and their spouses returned to the gravel runway for their flights back to Canada, there was another long line of staff, volunteers, and local residents to wish them goodbye. This time, the sun was shining and rather than handshakes, the farewells included lots of hugs and tears.
Ways you can help
Prayer is the most important gift you can give. Please keep these specific requests in your prayers:
Ask God to protect our military personnel serving overseas.
Pray for those service members who have been injured or wounded.
Pray for the ministry of Operation Heal Our Patriots.
You can help bring a military couple to Samaritan Lodge Alaska for a life-changing retreat they desperately need and provide ongoing follow-up care for years to come. Your gift helps provide these husbands and wives the spiritual refreshment, physical renewal, and marriage enrichment they critically need. Donate Here