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July 29, 2017

An Interview: From Marine Wife to Minister's Wife

By Annie Garman

Today I want you to meet Kelli O’Day. We met Kelli and her husband, Brian, while they were stationed at Quantico Marine Corps Base. Shortly after Brian returned from his last deployment to Afghanistan, after 10 years in the Marine Corps, he made the decision to leave the Marine Corps for ministry. Many of his colleagues thought he was crazy and tried to talk him out of it, but Brian was confident about what God wanted him to do.

I wanted you to hear from Kelli what it was like to go from a major’s wife to a minister’s wife.

Annie: What has been the hardest part of transitioning from the Marine Corps to the ministry?

Kelli: When Brian told me he was going to get out of the Marine Corps to plant a church I was overcome with fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of my own insecurities and shortcomings. I did not want to be a “pastor’s wife!” I’m afraid to admit that I took way more pride in being a Marine wife than a pastor’s wife.

The first two years of our church plant I was self-centered. I constantly worried about what others thought of me and had pity parties for myself because it was so hard. It was lonely too. But, God was so gentle and patient in showing me the work He had for us to do.

I remember joining Brian as he met with a lady who had visited our church. He couldn’t meet with her alone so he needed me to go with him. I was not thrilled about it because it was interfering with “my” schedule. It was such an eye-opening meeting. We met with this military wife in her living room. Her husband was deployed, and she had 3 kids under the age of 4 with no family around her. She had never had anyone tell her about Jesus. I watched Brian hand her a Bible and patiently and beautifully walk through the gospel with her and answer her many questions. She was so honest and eager.

It was beautiful to watch God save her right there. God was there in that living room! On our way home, I fought back tears and eventually let them out. God was doing a mighty work, and I was missing out because of my own selfishness. I was so encouraged by that meeting that I decided I did not want to miss out on His work. I began to see why God wanted us there and the work He had for us. I also began to lose the chains of being “not enough” and rest in the Lord.

It is okay not to be perfect. I’ve learned to be real with other women and share why I need a Savior. My go-to verse has been 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. His grace is sufficient in my weaknesses.

Annie: What has been the biggest blessing of leaving the military to plant a church?

Kelli: One blessing is that God prepared for ministry through our time in the Marine Corps. During Brian’s three deployments and countless field operations, I grew closer to the Lord and learned to trust and rely on only Him. I learned to be content as my husband was away and to trust in God’s sovereignty. These were all hard lessons with many tears shed, but I’ve now been able to share hope with the ladies in our church as their husbands are deployed.

Brian is gone a lot in ministry, but he is not away as much as he was as an active duty Marine. I am thankful for the lessons God taught me as I see them being used now also.

Annie: Are there any similarities between being a major’s wife and a pastor’s wife?

Kelli: The biggest similarity is probably just being a helpmate to Brian as he leads. His job has changed, but I still find joy in creating a (sometimes) clean and peaceful home he can come home to and rest after a long day of work. We are still around the military and Brian is in the reserves, so in a lot of ways it feels like we are still in.

Annie: What’s the biggest difference between the Marine Corps and ministry?

Kelli: The biggest difference has been the level on which I get to know people. I got to know a few people well in the Marine Corps, but in ministry I get to know people on a heart level. Sometimes that is hard and sometimes that is so beautiful. We have seen the Lord work in so many ways as he has strengthened marriages and softened hard hearts. We didn’t get to see that up close and personal view in the Marine Corps.

Annie: What has God taught you about Himself through this journey?

Kelli: God has taught me more about Him. He is Good. He is Faithful. He knows Best. He is powerful. He loves me. He is forgiving. I could go on and on. I am so ashamed that I didn’t trust that about Him as we made the transition from Marine Corps to ministry, and I am still learning these things in many ways.


Annie Garman

Annie B. Garman is a pastor’s wife and mother to four excitable girls, and author of Unexpected Grace: When Your Child is Born With Half a Heart. She and her family serve at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia where the traffic is thick, but the church planting opportunities abound. Their network of churches is attempting to plant a reproducible gospel-centered church at every Marine Corps base around the world (praetorianproject.org). Her biggest passion is to know Christ and make Him known in whatever situation she finds herself in. Annie shares her thoughts on motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life at anniebgarman.com.


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