Last week I received this letter from James, an elder here whose reserve unit got called to active duty in Afghanistan. James had already been to Iraq twice, and had hoped that he would not be called up again. But so he has, and he is counting this not just as a call from Uncle Sam, but from the Lord. So he is plying his physician talents, but also seeking every opportunity to minister in the name of Christ.
I found his letter so inspiring that I asked him if I could share it, and he said yes. So here it is.
It has been a month since leaving home for Afghanistan. It is no use to bore you with news about being homesick and missing Dodie and family. That goes with the turf.
I work in the outpatient clinic here at Bagram Air Field in Northeast Afghanistan. The command has not assigned me to the ER; neither do I expect them to. This is a very nice one-story concrete hospital building (in Iraq we had doublewide trailers) with an excellent staff.
The sadness is the horrific injuries brought to the hospital by helicopter. The military’s strategy is obvious. They try to serve the Afghan people by consistently showing up and trying to build goodwill with the people. This strategy makes our troops very vulnerable to ambushes, IED’s and land mines. Please pray for President Obama and our leadership to have wisdom on how to handle this war.
I had a young Air Force woman (36 yrs/old) that I was out-processing today for return to her home station. As I listened to her story about going home and planning to run a marathon in Alaska, I discovered she was a nurse on a FAST team (forward advanced surgical team). Then my focus changed because I knew she had been in some heart breaking situations. We get their patients in our ER after they do the initial stabilization surgery down range. All I could think was, ‘she is just like our daughters’. I started to communicate with her about being aware of how hard her tour must have been, and the tears began to flow. She reduced me to tears as well. All you could do is just hold her and let her sob. This war has not made her heart hard because she already knew the Christ who can bring hope out of despair, light out of darkness and life out of death.
Last night I accompanied a group from this hospital and stood outside a cargo plane as 100 troops loaded a coffin on a plane for home. The Chaplain talked about Psalm 23 and 24, and then everyone walked on the plane in groups of five, saluted the coffin, then knelt beside it and had a moment to pray for the family back home. Life is far bigger and harder than I can handle. He who holds the Universe together by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3) is gentle enough to hold the broken hearts too and bring healing.
On being here, when I consider home, I feel an urgency to take the influence of Christ from within our churches out into our communities and city. We need to utilize the opportunities that we have in America to love and serve the poor and the broken. If we do not intervene with God’s love, then the farther a culture gets away from the influence of Christ, then the uglier it gets. Selfishness only does damage. It seems worldwide that if a culture is not influenced by Jesus Christ, then fear is used to control and power is used to oppress. Let us not waste our lives on ourselves.
Because war strips the veneer off and so many of these soldiers hearts are wide open, probably 6-8 times a day I am communicating with soldiers about their fears, their relationship wounds, or their hopes in life. I get to talk to army rangers, jet pilots, infantry and support staff and the truths of the Gospel are mesmerizing. One of my favorite statements to build from is, “American Christianity has dumbed-down God. Most define Christianity in terms of behavior modification. Most of us try to put God in a box with formulas so we can control Him and then get what we want. If He really made the Universe, can we control Him? Either Jesus is who He says He is or He is schizophrenic. The doorway to intimacy with the God of the Universe is through a relationship built on trust”. Because they live in a military culture, they understand trust. Please pray as these soldiers let me into their hearts, that I plant the truths of Christ such that they follow Him. I pray for grace to care more about their souls rather than to impress them.
John writes in 1st John, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all”. Let us live in this truth. Jesus bless you, James
Afghanistan seems very far away. But we all have our call to active duty, and frequently with assignments to places we would not have chosen. It’s no more random for us than it is for James. So let’s be in prayer for him, and for our own eyes to recognize the ministry possibilities God has opened for us on active duty.