"I will never forget the moment Matt told me he was going to deploy," Jenna said. "It felt like the world had momentarily stopped."
In only a few short months Matt, a captain in the Air Force, and his wife would be separated by more than 7,000 miles. The deployment: Bagram, Afghanistan.
The news, while hard because of the distance, was poorly timed in another way.
“He found out (about his deployment) the day of our first appointment with the fertility specialist.” Jenna went on to say, “We were just starting to make progress in our long and painful journey towards starting a family. All of a sudden, this came to a crashing halt. I could not make sense of any of it in my head.”
Jenna was left with a decision. “I could make the decision to become bitter and angry and still be miserable, or I could come to Lord and praise him despite our circumstances.” Jenna said, “According to God’s promise, the latter would lead to ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.’”
She went on to say that she has wrestled with worry and anxiety for a large part of her life. “If I truly believed God is who he says he is, I would not even hesitate to trust him, no matter what my current circumstance is,” she said.
Part of keeping His promise has been to use the couple’s house church to encourage them during this hard time.
“One of the people who has been by my side and supported me through this entire journey has been Deborah Ruff,” she said. Deborah leads the Beavercreek house church, Big Sur, with her husband Ryan Ruff. “After saying goodbye to Matt at the airport, she met me at the gate with a big hug, Kleenex, and a Starbucks White Mocha,” Jenna said “She knows me so well.”
For Matt, there has been 3 or 4 guys in the house church who have have come along side him. “I was encouraged just by being able to talk-out the situation and pray over it,” Matt said.
After Matt was deployed to Afghanistan, Jenna moved from Dayton temporarily back to her hometown of Minot, North Dakota.
“I did not get to see my family very often so I was thankful for the unique opportunity to spend an extended amount of time with them,” Jenna said, “Some of my greatest prayer warriors are my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.”
Ever since the start of the War in Afghanistan, couples being separated, even couples being separated while trying to start a family, have been a common story across the county. What might be less common is the way Matt and Jenna approached this trial.
“The Lord has been showing me a deeper understanding of Isaiah 55:9,” Jenna said. “‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my way higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ The Lord’s way is and will always be much higher than my way and he “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3: 20).
Jenna started praying that the Lord would use both her and Matt in their situation to bring God glory.
“I specifically prayed that the Lord would use Matt during his deployment to reach those who didn’t know Jesus as their Savior,” she said. “I watched as God answered that prayer request in ways greater than I imagined. I was a counselor at a Bible camp in the nearby area. During that time, the Lord gave me the opportunity to pray with two young girls who asked the Lord to be their Savior. Just a few days later, my husband informed me that he shared the gospel with an Atheist from Armenia. The Lord had been cultivating their relationship for some time and the Armenian noticed a difference in Matt and continued to ask questions about that difference.”
Matt returned from his deployment on December 25, 2013. The best Christmas present Jenna could receive. Matt was then reassigned to Washington DC, where they now currently reside. Though they miss their Apex family, Jenna said she has learned a lot.
"Although my life today looks very different than I had once envisioned, the Lord continues to instill in me the truth that nothing on this earth will ever come close to knowing Him and experiencing His infinite love for me. When I think upon what He did for me on the cross and how undeserving I am of his sacrificial love, it compels me to walk in obedience, trusting Him with His plans for my life," Jenna said.
"A quote from Tim Keller that has spoken to me recently is: 'God gives us what we would have asked for if we knew everything He knows.'"
Author: Nicholas Diak
Photographer: Emily Radcliffe