Tag Archives: Iraq

Where Soldiers Find Peace

It’s a long way from the dusty battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the crystalline waters of Lake Clark in the mountains of Alaska. But every summer since 2012, hundreds of current and former members of the military and their spouses make their way there through Operation Heal Our Patriots, a ministry of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse.

Many of these veterans arrive at Samaritan Lodge dealing with the aftermath of their service to our nation—wounded in their bodies, minds and spirits. The stress of learning to adjust to civilian life with their families and dealing with new physical limitations caused by injuries puts a strain on military couples. Many of them don’t make it. The ministry began as a way to reach out to these battle-weary soldiers and their spouses and help them refocus on building and maintaining strong marriages. Some couples, on the verge of divorce, find a new love for each other as they spend a week experiencing the natural beauty of Alaska and attending Bible-based marriage enrichment classes. Retired military chaplains are on staff to encourage and pray with attendees. Operation Heal Our Patriot marriage retreats often end with vow renewals for many of the couples, as well as baptisms for those who are either re-dedicating their lives to Jesus Christ or finding Him for the first time.

One couple who found respite during their time in Alaska is Army Staff Sergeant Juan Montealvo and his wife Tanya. A few days before Christmas in 2004, Montealvo was on a mission to deliver school supplies to Iraqi children in Mosul when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded near his vehicle. He survived that and several other explosions during his three combat tours to Iraq, and when he came home for good in 2010, Tanya noticed he wasn’t quite himself. Montealvo was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and went through physical and speech therapy. Tanya became his care-giver, and the strain of adapting to their new normal was something they never prepared themselves to handle.

When Tanya heard about Operation Heal Our Patriots, she believed it was an answer to their prayers and said, “Our souls, our spirits, our minds needed this to reset…I’m ready for a new beginning with my husband, walking along with Jesus.”

The ministry doesn’t end once these families leave Alaska, however. Ongoing outreach helps them to find a church or military chaplain in their local communities so they can develop a strong network of support. Reunions are also held at the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in North Carolina so that participants can make new friendships and renew those they made in the Alaskan wilderness. All of this—including travel to Alaska—is free to the couples and is made possible by donations to Samaritan’s Purse/ Operation Heal Our Patriots.

This ministry is open to all current and former veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. Interested couples can go to the Samaritan’s Purse website to fill out an application. If you’d like to help send these brave American heroes to Lake Clark next summer, please consider making a donation on the website. What better way to say “thank you” to them this Veterans Day?

Wedding vow renewal ceremonies are common during Operation Heal Our Patriot's Alaskan retreats.- Courtesy SamaritansPurse.org

Wedding vow renewal ceremonies are common during Operation Heal Our Patriot’s Alaskan retreats.- Courtesy SamaritansPurse.org

Advertisements

How to Save a Life

Last summer, I posted about the Restoring Unity event held in Birmingham, Alabama in August. At that time, it was announced by conservative commentator Glenn Beck that the humanitarian division of his company Mercury One would begin raising funds to evacuate thousands of Christian and Yazidi families who had been displaced from their homes in the Middle East by ISIS terrorists. The ambitious fundraising goal to raise $10 million by Christmas is called The Nazarene Fund, after the mark (see below) that ISIS paints on the homes and property of Christians living in their path to mark them for death.

Modern day Star of David: The Arabic letter "N" marks Christians for death by ISIS.

Modern day Star of David: The Arabic letter “N” marks Christians for death by ISIS.

Though Beck at the time realized this was a huge goal, that goal was met in about 3 months, and now stands at more than $12 million. Just a week ago, the radio and internet TV mogul traveled with a team to evacuate the first group of 149 families to Slovakia. These Christians originally lived in areas of Iraq and Syria that lost everything they had when ISIS swept through in mid-2014. Most had been professionals with families, homes and businesses. Beck said that when he arrived, he found them living in refugee camps in deplorable conditions—but even so, he told his radio audience earlier this week how full of joy these refugees were and grateful to still be alive.
The Blaze reported donations to The Nazarene Fund came from Beck’s millions of listeners and viewers of his internet programs, with average donations being around $100. The refugees were heavily screened by Peregrine Consultants, in a process that “exceeded present international standards.” Yes, they are being asked questions about their religious beliefs in order to screen out any potential jihadists that seek to infiltrate the refugee population in order to get into western nations.  Beck said they are working with parish priests and pastors on the ground to verify identities and level of commitment to Christianity (i.e. how they came to Christ, how long ago, have they been baptized into the faith).

These families will be resettled in and around Nitra in central Europe, which is often referred to as the Cradle of Christianity. That seems fitting for them, since the areas they were driven from by ISIS had some of the longest-running Christian churches in the world—churches that were begun by the Apostles themselves.

Johnnie Moore, an author and advocate for these oppressed people, assisted in the evacuation. Moore spoke in Birmingham last summer and at that time shared stories of the atrocities being committed by ISIS against these people. He told The Blaze this rescue mission is just the first of many being planned in the months to come because Christians in the Middle East are “facing an ongoing genocide”.

As these families look forward to a new future in a new country, they won’t be left alone to make the adjustment. Mercury One has agreed to assist the Slovakian government to fund a three-year integration program to include education and training to learn the new language and other services needed as they assimilate into Slovakian society. Needless to say, this chance to begin again without having to live in fear is something the refugees were thankful for. One said, ““It’s something that makes me tremble and makes me very, very thankful, so thank you so very much for doing that.”

Children rescued by The Nazarene Fund, courtesy of Mercury One

Children rescued by The Nazarene Fund, courtesy of Mercury One

Beck has mentioned a number of times over the past few months that he had the names of 12,000 families here in the United States that were committed to taking in families from these areas of the Middle East if and when our government decides to allow them in. As of this writing, the Obama Administration refuses to acknowledge that there is, in fact, genocide of Christians happening right now.

The next time you hear some liberal pundit drone on about how bigoted and insensitive conservatives are, keep in mind the work being done through The Nazarene Fund…and it’s being done by people just like you and me, with lots of help from Above.

Where Soldiers Find Peace

It’s a long way from the dusty battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the crystalline waters of Lake Clark in the mountains of Alaska. But every summer since 2012, hundreds of current and former members of the military and their spouses make their way there through Operation Heal Our Patriots, a ministry of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse.

Many of these veterans arrive at Samaritan Lodge dealing with the aftermath of their service to our nation—wounded in their bodies, minds and spirits. The stress of learning to adjust to civilian life with their families and dealing with new physical limitations caused by injuries puts a strain on military couples. Many of them don’t make it. The ministry began as a way to reach out to these battle-weary soldiers and their spouses and help them refocus on building and maintaining strong marriages. Some couples, on the verge of divorce, find a new love for each other as they spend a week experiencing the natural beauty of Alaska and attending Bible-based marriage enrichment classes. Retired military chaplains are on staff to encourage and pray with attendees. Operation Heal Our Patriot marriage retreats often end with vow renewals for many of the couples, as well as baptisms for those who are either re-dedicating their lives to Jesus Christ or finding Him for the first time.

One couple who found respite during their time in Alaska is Army Staff Sergeant Juan Montealvo and his wife Tanya. A few days before Christmas in 2004, Montealvo was on a mission to deliver school supplies to Iraqi children in Mosul when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded near his vehicle. He survived that and several other explosions during his three combat tours to Iraq, and when he came home for good in 2010, Tanya noticed he wasn’t quite himself. Montealvo was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and went through physical and speech therapy. Tanya became his care-giver, and the strain of adapting to their new normal was something they never prepared themselves to handle.

When Tanya heard about Operation Heal Our Patriots, she believed it was an answer to their prayers and said, “Our souls, our spirits, our minds needed this to reset…I’m ready for a new beginning with my husband, walking along with Jesus.”

The ministry doesn’t end once these families leave Alaska, however. Ongoing outreach helps them to find a church or military chaplain in their local communities so they can develop a strong network of support. Reunions are also held at the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in North Carolina so that participants can make new friendships and renew those they made in the Alaskan wilderness. All of this—including travel to Alaska—is free to the couples and is made possible by donations to Samaritan’s Purse/ Operation Heal Our Patriots.

This ministry is open to all current and former veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. Interested couples can go to the Samaritan’s Purse website to fill out an application. If you’d like to help send these brave American heroes to Lake Clark next summer, please consider making a donation on the website. What better way to say “thank you” to them this Veterans Day?

Wedding vow renewal ceremonies are common during Operation Heal Our Patriot's Alaskan retreats.-  Courtesy SamaritansPurse.org

Wedding vow renewal ceremonies are common during Operation Heal Our Patriot’s Alaskan retreats.- Courtesy SamaritansPurse.org