Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Love Your Enemies

We had a guest speaker in Sunday school on Sunday, June 30, 2013. I sent e-mails to the parents of the students in the week before, building up suspense of who the mystery guest might be. In those e-mails, I included pictures of him, but mentioned that he's changed a bit since then.


When the students arrived, they found out it was my grandpa. He is now 97, and he is one of my heroes. He had a lesson prepared about his experiences in life (mainly in the Army during World War 2), and how that related to Jesus' teaching about how we need to love our enemies. The Bible lesson was from Matthew 5, from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

As a point of reference, the students were M.E. (girl), E.D. (girl), A.L. (girl) and A.M. (boy). As you may be able to tell from the transcript, A.M. is the youngest and is still learning to read, but that doesn't stop him from being impressively bright and enthusiastic. M.E.'s mom Donna and E.D.'s mom Lori were also there. (Lori normally helps out when I teach Sunday school, and I told parents in the e-mail that they were welcome to come too if they liked, so Donna came.)



~~~

Grandpa:
You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve been a special speaker on any occasion, and when Steven asked me if I would come and be a special speaker, and told me what his assignment was, I was delighted! I was happy that he asked me to be a special speaker. Shall I tell about Steven when he was little? You knew that Steven grew up in the Philippines? My wife and I went to the Philippines to visit the Saukes when they lived there, and Steven—that was in 1981—so I figured Steven was four years old. At first I thought it was five, but it was four years old! I liked to go for a walk. I’ve been a walker, oh, many years, and that’s why I have gotten old. Anyway, I wanted to go for a walk in the Philippines. The Saukes lived one mile from the school where Ron was teaching, and they were down here; the school was up on a hill, and I thought that’s a good walk, to walk up to that school. So I was gonna walk up to that school, and who wanted to walk with me, but this four-year-old! And you know, he made it easier up that hill than I did! He was my friend way back then. As he said, I’ve had a long—I’m 97 years now—old. Another 2½ years and I’m gonna be 100. I’ve had a long life. I’ve had a very interesting life. God has been so good to me, to give me such an interesting life! 
It started out, I was born and raised on a farm in North Dakota, and I had a Christian mother that taught her boys the Bible. Before we went to bed at night, she’d gather us around her, and she’d tell us a Bible story. I was the oldest one, so she’d ask the boys, “What should I tell you about?” Well, the little kids, they wanted the story repeated, but they knew the best! [A student arrived at this point, so there was a little bit of introduction]

Grandpa:
OK! Anyway, we had a Bible camp that developed right close by our place, and at that Bible camp, I made two very important decisions. The first one was that I decided to receive the Lord Jesus into my heart and to receive eternal life like He promised in His Word. When I was ten years old—Anybody here ten? When I was ten years old, I made that most important decision, to accept the Lord as my Savior. I think about five years later, I’m not sure just how long that was, then I made another very important decision. It was very difficult for me to make that decision, because I was very shy. I didn’t like to be around strangers. I only wanted to be around people that I knew real well. But I promised the Lord that second time, that if He wanted me to be something or go someplace, I would say yes. If He wanted me to be a missionary, I would be a missionary, or whatever. Because of those two promises, God has given me a long and a very interesting life. Do you know I’ve had about four or five different careers during that time? I taught school for a while. I’m gonna tell you about the army. I was in the army, American Army during World War 2. I’m gonna get back to that. After the war, I went door to door asking for a job, and a newspaper hired me. For five years, I worked for a newspaper. And after those five years, I had had some experience that led me into – I became a pastor. I went to Canada and served some churches in Canada. Then I came to Montana and served some churches in Montana, and I had the most wonderful time during those years when I was a pastor. Lots of people found the Lord as their Savior in those churches while I was there, and there’s nothing that’s so heartening, makes you feel so good as to help somebody find Jesus as their Savior. After I had been the pastor for these five churches, the church got a nursing home in Port Townsend. (You know where Port Townsend is?) They needed someone to operate that. They were in a crux, and I was challenged to go up there and try to save that situation, and I had ten years as the administrator of that nursing home. I worked with older people, mostly older people, who were in a nursing home, and I had another wonderful time. Then I worked for missions after that. Anyways, I’ve had a very interesting life.
I’ll get back to the army. Steven says our lesson is about loving your enemies. I understand that your lessons this month have been about love this month. Is that correct? We are to love everybody. It’s easy to love somebody that is your friend. How about your enemy? Easy to love your enemy? When I was a soldier in World War 2, who were my enemies?

E.D.:
The Japanese?

Grandpa:
Who?

Me:
The Japanese, she said.

E.D.:
The Japanese.

Grandpa:
Japanese. Japanese, and…the Germans.

A.M.:
I know that. Yeah.

Grandpa:
And you knew that.

A.M.:
I know that stuff.

Grandpa:
Did I love my enemies?

A.M.:
Hmm… No.

Grandpa:
Well, let’s first see what Jesus said about loving your enemies. And I have some verses or parts of verses on little pieces of paper, and they’ve got a number on them, and I’m gonna have you read as I call on you. Read your part, and you pass those around.

Me:
Sure

Grandpa:
You know, I can’t see very well. My eyes have worn out. My hearing is bad, so you have to speak out loud because I’m old.

Me (having finished passing out the slips of paper):
Just the right number!

Grandpa:
Just the right number. OK, who’s got number one?

Me:
Be sure to speak up, everybody!

M.E.:
OK. “I say love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.”

Grandpa:
OK, a word in there: Persecute. What’s it mean to persecute? “Pray for those who persecute you.” Any ideas?

E.D.:
Are not kind

Grandpa:
Unkind?

E.D.:
Uh huh. Are unkind.

Grandpa:
Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t…

Donna:
Are unkind to you. You were right.

Grandpa (to me):
You be my ears for me, will you?

Me:
OK

Grandpa:
What did she say?

Me:
People are unkind to you.

Grandpa:
Unkind, yeah, that’s making it kinda mild. When they persecute you, they do more than being unkind to you.

A.L.:
Bully

Me (repeating so Grandpa could hear it):
Bully

Grandpa:
Yes! And what did they say about… Pray for those…

Me:
And [A.L.] also said they can execute you. [she said it too quietly for the recording to pick it up]

Grandpa:
Can execute, yes, that’s right!

Donna:
Extreme persecution!

Grandpa:
Extreme! OK. Now Jesus said, He had His disciples there. He was giving some teaching, and He says, “I say to you, Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.” Number two.

Donna:
“In that way, you will be acting as true children of our Father in heaven.”

Grandpa:
Thank you for speaking out loud! I heard it. That way, you will be like… Heavenly Father. You know, He loves everybody. John 3:16, the most famous, I think, Bible verse. Who can quote it?

E.D.:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Grandpa:
Good! Good for you! “God so loved the world.” The bad people as well as the good people. How much did He love them?

E.D.:
“That He gave His one and only Son”

Grandpa:
He gave His one and only Son. Right. So if you love your enemies and you pray for those who persecute you, like your Heavenly Father. Number three.

Me:
“For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good.”

Grandpa:
OK. He gives sunlight to the evil and to the good. And number four? What else does He do?

Lori:
“And He sends rain on the just and on the unjust too.”

Grandpa:
OK. When He sends rain, He doesn’t send it just to the good people. He sends rain to the bad people too, and that’s the example that He has given for us. Um, number five.

E.D.:
“If you only love those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that.”

Grandpa:
Yes. If you love only those who are your friends, that’s common. Anybody can love those. Even tax collectors—oh, we’ve gotta talk about tax collectors. What does He mean by these tax collectors?

A.L.:
 Often in biblical times, many people couldn’t afford taxes, and they would come and take most of what they had. I remember there was a story in the Bible of this tax collector, um…

E.D.:
Zacchaeus?

A.L.:
Yeah, Zacchaeus.

Grandpa:
OK. Tax collectors were thought of as very bad people because they would collect money from the people, which they were to pass on to the government, and they’d keep part of it, and maybe they kept more than they should. And so, what was it He said, what did this verse say about the tax collectors?

A.L.:
It said of how many people can love those who can love them back, even the tax collectors who, um, you know, are kinda mean.

Grandpa:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yes. Let’s go on to the next one. Number six.

A.M.:
Me. “If you are kind only to your friends, how you are…”

Me:
“…how are you…”

A.M.:
“…how are you different from anyone else? Even the pag-ans?”

Me:
“…pagans…”

A.M.:
“…pagans do that.”

Grandpa:
OK. I couldn’t hear what you said, so I wonder if you’d repeat it.

A.M.:
Yes, I’ll do it again.

Me:
Say it louder.

A.M.:
OK, a little louder. “If you are kind only to your friends, you are different from anyone else? Even…”

Me:
“…pagans…”

A.M.:
“…pagans do that.”

Me (to Grandpa):
Did you hear that time?

Grandpa:
Even…

Donna:
He said, “pagans do that.”

Grandpa:
Pagans! What are pagans?

A.M.:
Mmm… I have no idea.

Grandpa:
You have no idea.

A.M.:
I’ve heard the word before, but I forget what it means.

Grandpa:
Even the pagans do that. Pagans people who, um, how do you say, Steven? What’s a pagan? (laugh)

Donna:
They worship another god

Grandpa:
Yes

Me:
They don’t believe in Jesus

Grandpa:
OK, “Even the pagans do that,” Jesus said. And then number seven:

A.L.:
“But you are perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Grandpa:
OK, be perfect. There it means if you are Christians and follow through… At this point, now I’m not perfect, but I expect that there’s going to be a day when I’m in heaven, and all my sins are forgiven, all my bad things that I may have thought are going to be forgotten, and I’m going to be perfect. Is there any questions about any of our scripture that we’ve had? [pause, nobody had any] 
Then let me get back to the army. Was I right or wrong when I was drafted into the army to become a soldier?

A.L.:
Um, it kind of goes both ways. You were right to be protecting your country and loving those in it, but it’s also wrong to, well, fight the Japanese and Germans because even though they’re your enemies, you should love them also.

Grandpa:
I didn’t hear all of it, but what I heard, I liked.

A.L.:
Sorry.

Grandpa:
You know, when God called me into the army, I feel it was God who called me to a special mission field. Do you know the American Army is a mission field? I’ll tell you it’s a mission field. It was a tremendous culture shock for me when I went in there. When I had grown up in North Dakota on that farm, I can’t remember that I ever saw a person that was drunk! They didn’t do that over there. I went in the army, wow! It was terrible. And I feel that God wanted me to be in the army as a witness for Him. I can’t say that I was a good witness during those years, but I did make an impression on some people, I’m sure. So that’s how I feel about being called in. Now how does it work? How can you love your enemies? [pause, no answer] You know, during those years, God spared me from, I never had to shoot anybody. I never was actually involved in any warfare. We did a lot of practicing and all that kind of thing in training, but God spared me from participating in any actual combat. So that’s one thing. And I should tell you how I got spared. When I went to the South Pacific, I was in the 164th Infantry. I was one of the infantrymen, which are the ones who carry guns and who go out on patrols and try to find the enemy and put them out of the way. That’s what the infantry does. When we got to the South Pacific, we had been there only a month or so, and, well, maybe I should tell you, actually twice I was spared, because we were assigned to defend the island of New Caledonia, and the American Navy base was on New Caledonia, and we were supposed to protect that island from the Japanese who would come and try to attack our navy base. And we heard one morning that the Japanese Navy was coming down the Coral Sea, and they were coming directly towards that army base, toward that navy base. And we were assigned to get in our foxholes and watch for any enemy, watch for airplanes and whatnot, and we went in our foxholes, and it was dark when we got there, and it got light. We didn’t see anything, and about nine to ten o’clock, we got the word. Admiral Halsey had sneaked out around behind, and they defeated the Japanese Army in the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Battle of the Coral Sea was really the first victory that the Americans had over the Japanese in the South Pacific. If they had attacked our island, we wouldn’t have had a chance because we were just a few. I had a foxhole here, and a hundred yards down was the next one. And we were – yes?

E.D.:
What’s a foxhole?

Me:
“What’s a foxhole?”

Grandpa:
A foxhole. Oh! You dig a hole in the ground, and then you get down in there, and that’s where you hide where the enemy can’t see you. They call it a foxhole.

A.M.:
I figured that that was what you were gonna say. That’s what I figured.

Grandpa:
So I was spared when we were in New Caledonia. And then, biggest thing of all, a little while later, they brought in some Air Force officers who were establishing a headquarters there in the area, right next to the navy base, because the Navy and the Air Force had to work together against the Japanese, and they brought these high-ranking officers in there who found a place in which to operate. They had a staff that was gonna come. Oh, whenever they could, they would come by water. Of course, the Air Force officers, they came in by air, but the staff was coming in by water, and it would be a while before they’d get there. So these officers, when they went to work, they started writing these telegrams and letters and things that they needed to do, they needed someone who could type who could do the secretarial work for them. And we had three army regiments on the island – 164th, 182nd, 132nd, and they asked for one person from each one of those units to come and do secretarial work. And of all things, I was chosen from the 164th Infantry. Out of a thousand people, out of a thousand men, I got chosen. That’s a miracle. I think God must have had a hand in that, because as I worked with General Harmon and his staff, I didn’t even carry a gun. I was doing secretarial work for him. I think it was about two or three weeks after I got transferred into this unit with General Harmon that an order came down for the Army to send a unit up into Guadalcanal to relieve the Marines, who had been fighting desperately, and the 164th Infantry was chosen to do so. I would have been a part of that. And then I saw a little bit later a list of those, the people who had been killed and wounded on a certain day. I saw the list, the names of people who had been killed. It was my unit, of which I had been a part. They were the ones who I had lived with, and even back in training in, we trained in Louisiana. I guess you’d call them my friends. They weren’t godly people, but it hurt to see that, and I learned that they had been on a patrol and ran into a trap that the Japanese had set, and that’s why they were killed and wounded in that battle. God spared me. During that time, I never saw a Japanese, one of the enemy Japanese. They weren’t brought up to the headquarters. They had some in, ah, (what do you call it?) not concentration camp, but jail anyway. They were in jail, but they didn’t bring them up. I never saw one, and did I hate them? I hated what they were doing. I didn’t hate them. In due time – Am I taking too much time?

Me:
No, you’re good.

Grandpa:
In due time, I went back to the States, and I was reassigned, and the war was still going on over in Europe, and I was assigned to a unit that was training to go to Europe to fight against the Germans. When they were trained, then I went with them over to Europe. We got right close to what was going on, but I say that Hitler heard that we were coming, so he gave up. That’s not true, but anyway, we had been there a very short time, and then we got the news that they gave up over in Germany, and I was in the Army of Occupation for a little while before we got home. I want to tell you about that time I was in the Army of Occupation. We were waiting to come back home, and while we were in a certain place in Karlsruhe, Germany, we were billeted in a building that had been spared. Germany was in terrible condition at that time. You know, it had been bombed, and you could drive through a town, and you wouldn’t be able to go through at all because it was all rubble. But the Army had brought their bulldozers in and cleared the way to make a road through town. There were a few towns that had been spared, but many of them were really bad. In this town where we were, in Karlsruhe, by far, most of the buildings had been damaged. But this particular one had been, oh, it was pretty good yet, and we had pretty good condition there, and we had some German girls that came in to do the cleaning. They would do our laundry for us. We didn’t have to give them any money. All they wanted was some soap so that they could wash some of their own clothes, with their clothes, because they couldn’t buy soap. So if we sent some soap with them, then they would do it for nothing. Well, one girl took my laundry home, and she brought it back, and she had it ironed, and, oh, she’d done such a beautiful job. I was delighted, and I thought she should be rewarded for it. I looked around my room, and I found a candy bar, and I think it was a package of…it was something else too, which I gave to her. She took that home to her mother. Her mother was so impressed with this kind American who had rewarded her, that she gave a special invitation for me to come and visit them in their home, which I did. I went there, and we had to climb steps, and we finally got way up in an attic where they were living, and we tried to understand each other. She, German, me, English, and so it was a little difficult to understand each other. But you know, with motions and what… I had in my billfold some pictures of my wife, particularly my wife. I had some for others too, and so I was showing them that this was my wife. So they got their albums out, pictures, and they showed me the house where they had lived in, and now it was smashed. There wasn’t any house there at all, and now they had moved up into somebody’s attic, where they were making an existence. They couldn’t buy food. There was nothing in the stores. They just had, it seemed to me that, how in the world can they make it? I was trying to find out about the family. There was no man around there, and I found out that the father in the home was a prisoner of war in England. They had a little baby there. I don’t know how that had happened. One of the girls had evidently become pregnant and had a baby. I felt so sorry for those people. I loved them! They had been our enemy. God gives you the ability to love your enemies. 
Now I’ve kinda relayed something of my background and what had happened to me. I’ve had a wonderful life, and I say it’s because of those two decisions that I made. Now, young people, nobody’s told me anything about any of you. I don’t know if you have made those decisions yet, but I would urge you to do so. Accept the Lord as your Savior if you have not done so, and give your life to Him. Romans 12, if I turn in the Bible. Two verses that have been very special to me is Romans 12:1, to “present your bodies” to the Lord. That means to give your bodies to the Lord. The next verse says, “And let God transform you into what He wants you to be.” I needed that transformation. I was so shy, but God did something for me, and I think I’m done.
[A few minutes later…]
Can I tell you about some of Steven’s, what he sometimes does? I had a dream. He had told me about this class. In my dream, I had prepared a lesson for third graders, and I was all prepared, and we came to the classroom, and the kids started coming, and I thought they looked pretty big for third grade. Turned out they were seventh graders! The lesson that I had prepared in no way fit seventh graders! Steven, I wouldn’t have asked him to do something like, but for Sunday school, ohhh… (laughter)
[and later…]
Heavenly Father, I thank You that I’ve had the privilege here to be in this room with these young people. O Lord, I pray Your blessing upon each one of them. Here are young lives. Life lays before them. I pray, Father, that they will yield to Your will and follow as You would lead them, and make them a blessing during their lives. I just commend them to You. Bless their future lessons as Steve presents them for the class. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
If you want a special speaker again, I’d consider it!

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