Chance Meeting Also a Chance for Service

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Two local families are still talking about their meaningful Easter weekend.

This isn’t because of what they planned, but because God guided them towards a different set of plans that were far better than anything they would have imagined.

“It was a total God-thing,” Nan O’Brien said. “He gets all the credit!”

Nan and her husband, John, have lived and raised their family on the same street in Newport for 20 years. Recent circumstances prompted them to rent out their house and enjoy an extended stay in the family home in Laguna Beach. God showed them one of the reasons before they had even unpacked their belongings. Actually, make that five reasons.

Nan and John were strolling down Laguna streets with friends on the Friday before Easter. It was a picture-perfect day and they were discussing their upcoming weekend. While waiting at a signal on Pacific Coast Highway, Nan noticed a group of young men in front of them who were also waiting.

“I could tell by their hair cuts that they were Marines, so I nudged John to say hi to them.” She said.

John retired as a lieutenant colonel after 24 years in the Marine Corps. Seven years were spent active, the rest as a reservist. He was activated in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom and was there for six months.

John asked the young men where they were from, if they were stationed at Camp Pendleton and where they were staying that night.

“I was so surprised at his last question,” Nan said. “It seemed so random.”

“I really asked out of curiosity,” John explained. “They were young Marines and I doubted they could afford any Laguna hotels, so I wondered if one was local or who they knew nearby. But they hadn’t thought anything through. That morning they’d just decided to take a taxi to Laguna and check it out.

“Later, after dinner when we were walking home, we saw them again, and one of them was going into a local hotel. I knew they were going to be shocked at the price and wondered if we should invite them to crash on our floor. Nan was on board, so I asked and I told them our address.”

While walking home, Nan and John picked up a few things at the market in case the Marines took them up on the offer.

“I asked John if he told them our name or phone number, and he said, “No, they’re Marines, if they want to come, they’ll find it,’” Nan said. “We went to bed not knowing if, or when they would come, let alone if they could find it. I laid out toothbrushes just in case. The next morning we saw five sets of shoes lined up outside the guest bedroom door.”

Saturday morning Nan was happy to cook breakfast for them, and described the Marines as very polite, andwell mannered – and very hungry! That morning, Nan’s sister, Leslie Casserly, called to discuss the menu for Easter.

“I told Nan I was going to Costco,” Leslie explained. “I mentioned that I felt like we should have extra people over. I’ve always thought it was great when people open their homes to others. That’s when Nan said we might have five Marines, and she told me what happened. I was so excited! We’re called to be God’s hands and feet, and to share God’s love; we can all do something for someone. I bought plenty more food and candy for the Easter egg hunt.”

Over the course of the weekend, the families got to know the young Marines better, hearing about their families and homes. Three were from Texas, the others from Michigan and Pennsylvania. Leslie’s and the O’Brien’s sons joined them on Saturday, bringing along trunks and T-shirts for the Marines, since they only had the clothes on their back.

Two of the young men went to church with the O’Brien’s on Easter Sunday.

”I said grace at Easter, we stood and held hands, and they joined right in,“John said. “I thanked each of them by name for sacrificing for our country, allowing us to be free and I thanked God for the sacrifice of His Son, allowing us to have a relationship with Him.”

“I would be thrilled if another family reached out to my son if the roles were reversed,” Nan added. “One of them said he couldn’t remember the last time he woke up in a house. I have never done anything like this before. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind to have anybody stay overnight so soon after moving, not even my own family. But God knew, and I’m thankful He did.”

Cindy can be reached at [email protected].



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