So much of what is cool about Wild at Heart is the ministry that spins off of what Wild at Heart does. In the spirit of that, I want to tell a story about Paul Lavelle, who attended a Wild at Heart Boot Camp some 15 years ago—as an unbeliever, skeptical of Christianity. (As a matter of fact, Paul showed bias against believers in his career in the Air Force.) He only came to make good on a promise to a friend, and he committed to stay for just half of the event. As he was literally getting up to leave, the film clip being played on stage stopped Paul in his tracks—it was an echo of his personal story.
The remainder of the boot camp brought Christ into Paul’s life, and his transformation began. Paul had just retired from a disciplined and successful career in the USAF that ended at the Pentagon. Because Paul had moved to Colorado Springs, we were able to get acquainted, and we at Wild at Heart were so intrigued by the transformation of his heart that we asked him to come and help fulfill resources at our Outpost. Paul’s transformation was at such a fast pace that he became part of our team and came to boot camps as part of the team.
I recall one boot camp where I partnered with Paul to pray for men stuck in their seats following the wound session. That’s where we discovered that Paul has an anointed gift of intercessory prayer and hearing the Holy Spirit. I vividly remember how, as we approached men—many weeping, but our not knowing anything about them—Paul would hear from the Holy Spirit and make a very specific statement about their story that would astound not only the man we were praying for but me as well. This happened time and time again.
Over the various boot camps we did here in the U.S. and overseas, Paul’s presence began to attract military veterans as well as those currently serving. I remember a group of former Navy SEALs who had lost several of their peer SEALs on a mission in South America years before and were still dealing with the trauma. They came seeking healing. In addition to what they received at boot camp, Paul spoke deeply into these men, praying for them one-on-one, bringing Jesus in the place of their need. As Paul continued to interact with veterans and military men, word began to spread among this group about our boot camps and Paul’s connection with these men because of his own military background.
For two years, Paul served with Wild at Heart in our resource department. But what became obvious was his giftedness in relating to men who are serving or have served in the military. We all saw that Paul’s staying at Wild at Heart would impose a limitation on his gifting, and so we urged him to step into what he was called to do. In obedience to God, he did just that, birthing what has grown into the most effective ministry dealing with PTSD in all branches of the service. Operation Restored Warrior (ORW) has rescued thousands of men who otherwise would likely have ended their lives from the deep depression of PTSD. Tannah and I recently attended the tenth anniversary of ORW, where I met many of the men rescued by Jesus through Paul and his team. Every man I spoke with would say they owe their life to Paul, as suicide was their next and final remedy in search of relief.
Paul and his team do an intensive every month where they pour into the stories of six attendees for five days. ORW has engaged over 1600 men, either veterans or active military, through their Drop Zone. As we have all heard from various sources, between 20 and 25 of these PTSD veterans are ending their lives every day; Paul has labored tirelessly to rescue these men from the darkness of suicide. The urgency is similar to watching a burning building full of men, and you can only save a handful.
Paul is a true hero of the Kingdom, and we are honored to have played a part in Paul’s spiritual journey. This is one of the great stories of Wild at Heart!