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This episode originally aired in 2019 after Kristy Graham returned from Operation Heal Our Patriots in Alaska. This week-long marriage retreat brings spiritual refreshment, physical renewal, and marriage enrichment to military veterans and their spouses. As we celebrate our freedom as Americans, we want to introduce you to military veterans and their spouses who have selflessly served our country.
Learn more about Operation Heal Our Patriots
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Operation Heal Our Patriots is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that is especially close to Kristy Graham’s heart. Her husband, Edward, served 16 years in the U.S. Army so she knows military life firsthand. In this episode, Kristy takes listeners back to one of her favorite episodes, which was recorded while she was at Samaritan Lodge Alaska in 2019.
At Operation Heal Our Patriots, couples have the opportunity to get away from the normal pressures of life, reconnect, explore the Alaskan wilderness, and participate in Biblically-based marriage enrichment classes. This ministry of Samaritan’s Purse was developed to strengthen marriages.
Samaritan’s Purse gives thanks to God that through this program we have welcomed more than 1,400 military couples to Alaska since 2012, and hundreds of participants have accepted Christ as their Savior while in Alaska. In the first four weeks of the 2022 season, 25 individuals made decisions to follow Jesus, 21 were baptized in Lake Clark, and 23 couples chose to rededicate their marriages to God and each other.
Kristy Graham shares the life-changing story of Tony and Amy Payne, one of the many couples impacted by Operation Heal Our Patriots. The Paynes met in a tattoo shop. Shortly after they got married, Tony felt led to join the military. Tony was critically injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) during one of his deployments. When he returned home, his marriage hit an all-time low. Out of desperation, Tony turned to God’s Word and accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. Tony followed faithfully after Jesus and prayed regularly for Amy to experience God’s love in the same way. It wasn’t until they came to Alaska that Amy understood what it meant to follow Jesus. Tony’s prayers were answered when Amy committed her life to God. At the end of the week at Samaritan Lodge Alaska, she was baptized in the icy waters of Lake Clark.
Another couple whose marriage was restored was JP and Crystal Lane. JP joined the army when he was 22 and was deployed to Afghanistan. In 2011, he was wounded by an IED. He sustained 26 injuries and went through 28 surgeries. JP and Crystal knew that it was a miracle from God that he survived. They spent their time and energy sharing JP’s testimony with others, but at the end of the day they had little left for one another.
“I enjoy one hundred percent inspiring people with the testimony that God has given us and what I’ve been through,” JP said. “But we would be so drained so much that when we were home we didn’t care about inspiring each other and it was breaking us apart.”
It wasn’t until JP and Crystal came to Alaska that they truly refocused their marriage on one another and centered their lives around Christ. Operation Heal Our Patriots gave them space for restoration.
Kristy then had an insightful conversation about the role of the caregiver with Lieutenant General VanAntwerp, a loyal volunteer with Operation Heal Our Patriots since 2012. He emphasized the importance of family and the healing that happens when couples communicate openly. He encourages couples to draw the line in the sand, promising to commit to their marriages.
Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, explained to Kristy that the program started when he recognized the need for marriage enrichment for military couples.
“When we first started, I wasn’t prepared for the results we would see spiritually,” Graham said. “Every week people get saved. Every week people are baptized. Every week couples renew their marriages.”
As the 2022 season continues, we pray that many more lives will be changed for eternity.