From attempted suicide to baptism in Christ
Samaritan’s Purse offers Christ’s compassion to hurting veterans
THE JOY OF being baptized to new life in Christ
and the despair of an attempted suicide – Lisa
and Chris Harding have experienced both.
“We’ve officially accepted the Lord into our
lives,” said Lisa after she and Chris underwent
a baptismal ceremony in Lake Clark, near
Samaritan Lodge in Alaska.
The Hardings and nine other married
couples involved in the Canadian military
were invited to the lodge to participate in
Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Heal Our
Through OHOP, Samaritan’s Purse has
hosted more than 500 wounded U.S. military
veterans and their spouses in Alaska for
a week of relaxation, recreation, marital
enrichment and counselling, and spiritual
This year for the first time, thanks to
Canadian donations, a week was set aside
for Canadians who have suffered physical or
emotional wounds as a result of their service
Contrast the Hardings’ joyous baptism in
Alaska with a horrible night in November 2009
at their home in Morinville, Alta. Back then,
Chris had become so traumatized by his seven
months in Afghanistan that he wanted to die.
Lisa discovered Chris on a chair in the garage,
seconds from hanging himself with a rope.
“I screamed and started fighting with Chris,
trying to get him safely down,” Lisa recalled.
“I was fighting for Chris’ life.” She convinced
him to return to their house, but remained
terrified that he might try again to kill himself.
Chris’ military career had come to a sad
end 19 months earlier after an exhausting
deployment to Afghanistan in 2007. Chris
remembers a river of blood and body parts
flying through the air when a Taliban bomb
blew up a Canadian armoured vehicle.
“That’s what really did me in,” Chris said.
Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), Chris was voluntarily released
from the military in 2008. “I was angry all the
time,” he said. “You get this adrenaline rush
[from battle] that’s so high, and you stay there
for so long that you can’t get back down.
You’re always ready to fight.”
A 2012 car accident, which left Chris
unable to work full-time ever again,
should’ve made things worse. But Chris and
Lisa say their marriage began to strengthen
after the accident. His nominal Christian
faith became very real. So when Lisa learned
about OHOP, she was thrilled to have Chris’
support in applying and even more thrilled
to be selected.
Their stay at Samaritan Lodge included a
cabin for each couple, kayaking and salmon-fishing excursions, a floatplane trip to view
grizzly bears, and workshops led by retired
“We’re having time to spend with each
other, time to spend with other people having
problems, and knowing we’re not the only
ones with issues and difficulties,” said Chris.
OHOP chaplains continue to maintain contact
with Chris, Lisa and the other nine Canadian
couples. –JEFF ADAMS
Lisa and Chris Harding, a Canadian combat veteran, enjoying their week at Samaritan Lodge, Alaska.