A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


October 10, 2013

The Blessings Are All Mine

     If you have been reading my blog for awhile, then you know that our military is close to my heart, and that I love serving our wounded warriors through a ministry called Angel Chefs.  We go for a 4-5 day stay at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, and provide 3 home-cooked meals a day for the residents of the 4 Fisher Houses on Post.
Me, my mother-in-law serving our soldiers
     Each time I make the trip I come home physically exhausted from 13 hours on my feet, as our little group of 7-8 women chop, sauté, scramble eggs, fry bacon, bake cakes, cook casseroles, make salads and then serve 80 plates of food each meal, every meal, for the entirety of our stay.  Our mornings begin at 6 when we provide breakfasts for some soldiers as they head off to formation; for children headed off to school and whose lives have been disrupted by a sudden move to be close to their wounded parent; or for their wives who are tasked with keeping things together while their loved one is recuperating from the devastating injuries of war.
     And each time, I am blessed to make the most amazing connections with courageous men and women who have been on the front lines, or family members that are now called on for support as their soldier fights to come back from life-changing wounds.  This time was no exception.
      I met brothers Greg and Johnny Hall when I asked if I could join them at their table one day during lunch.  It was my time to take a break from the serving line and grab a bite to eat and get to know some of the people we were serving.  The first thing I noticed about the brothers was their bond.  Greg, the older brother, was Johnny's non-military medical assistant.  He had left his life in the civilian sector to come take care of his brother as he navigated the complexities of the medical system within the vast military complex.  There was no resentment; only devotion and it was inspiring to behold.
Johnny, and his wife, Rachel
     This last June, Johnny had developed blood poisoning from a mysterious source, which resulted in 105-degree fever for five days, and an eventual stroke, coma, loss of brain function, and blindness in his right eye.  But to look at him, you knew that multiple miracles had taken place.  There were no outside signs of the hell he had been through.  In fact, doctors had first told the family that he would not make it, but yet here he was, a mere 3 1/2 months later, talking and smiling and engaging all at the table with his infectious smile.  When I asked Greg how his brother was able to recover so quickly, he simply said, "It was a God thing."  And that opened the door for one of the most positive discussions I've encountered during my many visits to the Fisher Houses.
     We discussed the power of prayer and the existence of angels, and Johnny proudly showed me his magnificent tattoo of the Archangel Michael which graced the entire deltoid/bicep region of his left arm.  In fact, Johnny had several prominent tattoos.  With the damage to the frontal lobe of his brain, he was very talkative and eager to share all of his thoughts.  He confided that while he liked all of his tattoos because they each had special meaning to him, if he could start over he would not get any tattoos at all.  I asked him why, and he replied, "Because God doesn't want me marking up my body."  This boy knew his Scripture! (Leviticus 19:28)
     The brothers continued to tell us how blessed and thankful they were; and then Johnny revealed the biggest reason he was happy to still be alive .... his wife, Rachel, who is also in the Army, is due to deliver their first baby, a daughter, within the next couple of weeks.  Johnny kept repeating that if his family had listened to the doctors and given up hope, he would not be here to meet his new daughter, whose name will be Adalyn.
     It was nice to hear God's name mentioned this trip.  In fact, He seemed to be present more this time, which was a nice change from the absence I have felt in the past.  A visit with an Army chaplain let us know that there seems to be increased interest in Bible studies on Post, and a uniformed officer offered one of the most direct and inspirational blessings before we served one lunch-time meal.  Then there was Terri, a grandmother who was distraught that her injured grandson seemed to be so angry over his burn injuries.  She told us that he had no idea how many people had been praying for his recovery, and that the progress he was making was evidence that God listened.  As tears welled in her eyes, she said, "I'm not crying because I'm sad; I'm crying because I am so thankful!"  
     And there was so much to be thankful for this trip!  My service at the Fisher Houses though Angel Chefs have resulted in relationships that are permanent and ongoing.  Right before I left, our group was surprised with a visit from one of our favorite Fisher House alumni.  I got to spend a short time with Dan and his wife, Ginnette and their beautiful daughters Kaylee and Gracie.  Dan captured our hearts on my first visit to Fort Sam, and we have followed his progress as he went from wheelchair to prosthetic limb to running in races.  He and his family have graduated from Fisher House to their own home, and he is eager to come visit us and join PLW in a hog hunt.  His heartfelt hug told me that Dan is doing just fine.
Ryan and Alana Matayka
     But perhaps the most poignant evidence that God is alive and well within our military family is the story of Sgt. Ed Matayka.  If you remember the post from my first visit, then you will remember Ed.  He had suffered severe injuries from an IED, which resulted in the amputation of both legs.  But Ed is a fighter and was determined that he would return to a normal life.  His amazing sense of humor brightened our days on that first trip, but we hadn't been able to reconnect on any subsequent visits.  This time, when Ed heard the Angel Chefs were at the Fisher Houses, he came by one day at lunch to proudly show off pictures of his twin son and daughter!  He was one proud Papa!  And of course, we loved celebrating the blessings of his children with him!
     But these stories of Johnny, Dan and Ed are just a symbol of the fighting spirit of our military.  Not all the stories have such happy endings as these three.  There is grievous suffering and sadness at the horrific physical price our service men and women pay for the decisions made by our leadership.  (More on that in tomorrow's post).  But for today, I choose to honor their resiliency, their strength and their courage.  They give new meaning to the words "hope" and "fighting spirit".  May God bless them all and allow me to continue to give back in my own small way.

Psalm 16:8    "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."

3 comments:

  1. I LOVE these dispatches for your time with Angel Chefs!! And I am so humbled by you and PLW regularly serving such a great ministry and cause. God bless you both, and God bless our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

    Lots up in my world. I sent you details via email.

    Cheers!

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    1. Thank you for the compliments, but as you know, it's not about us .... it's about these courageous young men and women. We are always humbled by the service they do on our behalf. It is our honor to give back in our small way. And, as you noticed, we brought the nuclear option this time ... PLW's mom!

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    2. :-).
      And God bless PLW's mom, too! Tell her I said congratulations: she certainly seemed to raise a fine young man.

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