The young man and his wife sat near the back of University Park Church of Christ last Sunday. As the pastor, Jim Powell, extended an invitation to the congregation to respond to his sermon, the couple made their way forward and sat in the front row.

The young man's father, Warren Fussell, also came forward on behalf of his son. He had urged his son to come back to the church, because he believed his son needed God now more than ever.

"I stand before you this morning happy and sad," the elder Fussell said. "Sad because my son is going to Saudi Arabia, and at the same time I am happy because he has come back to the Lord." The church erupted with one big "Amen!"

Keith, 28, and his wife Ida, 29, sat in the front row supporting each other as the elder Fussell, a computer analyst for the Navy, continued. "I am happy for two reasons. His wife also wants to become a member of the Church of Christ, and she has also received orders to go to Turkey."

Keith and Ida Fussell, stationed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, have been married for five years and have several things in common: They have the same classification as Army Field medics, they are sergeants, and they now have orders to go to the Mideast.

Although both grew up in religious homes, they strayed from the church after they joined the military. Keith Fussell said he first started practicing religion in 1974 or 1975. "I was baptized, and we were going to church every time the church doors opened up," he said.

But in January 1981, during the beginning of his military service, he began to succumb to the temptations of a combat arms unit.

"In the field unit, where you have a lot of language {and} a lot of drinking, you don't find too many personnel going to church . . . . Also, you don't have too many opportunites to go to church."

Ida Fussell had a similar story. "I read the Bible, but a lot of times I did it because my parents made me. We really didn't think about what we were reading," she said. That changed when she later started rereading the Bible with her husband, she said.

Shortly after Warren Fussell learned his son was going overseas, he sought out the leaders of his church for their counsel.

"I told them my son was coming back to the Lord, and I said the thing that made him come back was him going to Saudi Arabia, and I asked them what they thought about it."

Fussell said the elders of his church responded, "There's nothing wrong if it was Saudi Arabia that got him back. But now that he's back, we've got to keep him."

The Fussells are struggling with a lot of things these days: their past behavior, their concern about fighting, even dying, overseas, how as Christians they could try to shoot human beings.

Keith Fussell says he knows that getting his life back in spiritual order won't be easy. "We go to the field 30 to 45 days at a time, sometimes two months and during that time you don't have too many religious people around you," he said.

Although she knows she will be separated from her husband for at least one year because of her special assignment in Sinop, Turkey, Ida Fussell said, "I believe that God will take care of things . . . . I feel if I just keep praying and believing in Him, my husband will come back safe and so will the rest of them."

Ida said she was glad her husband came back to God and was putting everthing behind him. "I wanted to be by his side; I should have been there a long time ago.

"Sometimes it takes a crisis for certain people to get their lives together."

Keith Fussell worries a bit about practicing religion in a Moslem country. "They were saying they were not allowing the American personnel to practice their Catholic or Protestant religions down there."

He chuckled and said, "Knowing these hard-headed Americans and these brothers I dealt with, they are going to get a few of the fellows together and we are going to hold our own session.

In combat, he said, "Whether they are Christian or not, they are still going to come over to hear the Word and they are going to want to pray."

He went on, "I am going to definitely pray every day, all day, every chance I get."