Put on Your Gospel Boots
About the Guest
When a military member goes to war, a family goes to war. Today on the broadcast, Major General (Ret) Bob Dees of Campus Crusade's Military Ministry remembers when he first began to love soldiers and their families. Hear what the Military Ministry is doing to keep military families strong.
When a military member goes to war, a family goes to war.
Put on Your Gospel Boots
[shot fired, woman cries]
Allied forces could not have been aware of what was happening in Eindhoven, but they were committed to the liberation of the Dutch people and in September of 1944, they launched Operation Market Garden.
[old-time radio announcer]
Announcer: Part of the greatest airborne army the world has ever known – a 285-mile-long sky train crosses the English Channel and seizes strategic points in Holland. Among them, Arnum, where one heroic group was trapped. The Eimhagen Bridge over one arm of the Rhine and this objective at Eindhoven.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 25th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and today we'll learn the story of the father whose life was spared because the allies arrived just in time on a particular September day in 1944.
Announcer: British and Americans rolled through Eindhoven where the Dutch give them a rousing welcome.
[cheers, march music]
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I guess I ought to say, "Ten-Hut!" You've got the boots in here.
Dennis: Boots on the table.
Bob: What is the deal with the boots?
Dennis: Over the years, I've been given a few awards that I really like. I like this award. It was given to me by General Bob Dees of the military ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, and he actually mounted, on a plaque, a set of military boots.
Bob: Combat boots, right?
Dennis: That's right, and he just wanted to say thanks for FamilyLife's partnership with the military ministry, and then he went on to tell a story that our listeners are going to get a chance to hear, and it has to do with a pair of boots on the ground, and I want to tell you, you will not want to miss this, because the military is in the news.
We don't hear enough good stories like this one for us to be reminded that our military does, indeed, save lives. They save people, real people, who have real legacies, and you're going to hear a wonderful story about how these boots on the ground saved the lives of a little girl's daddy.
Bob: One of the huge challenges that military families are facing today is the challenge to marriage and FamilyLife together with the military ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ is – well, we're putting together a response to try to strengthen marriages both for those who are in active duty and those who are coming home from active duty and re-engaging on the home front.
Dennis: That's right, and the home front is the one that suffers the most when these soldiers come back to their spouses and to their families. What we've done is team up with General Dees and his staff to offer small group Bible studies, training to military personnel, and we have some long-term plans, Bob, to hopefully be a solution and a help to the military as their military families are under an attack of their own.
General Bob Dees, as I mentioned, is the national director of the military ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. He attended Westpoint and graduated in 1972 and had a distinguished career for more than 31 years. He received two stars and is really becoming a very good friends of FamilyLife, and I just want our listeners to know who support FamilyLife – the Legacy Partners, those who are family champions, who support our ministry.
When you give to the mission of FamilyLife, you make it possible for us to forge partnerships like we've done with the military ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ to be able to offer all kinds of training and resources that help military marriages and families.
Bob: And some of our listeners are aware of the fact that when you make a donation this month, that donation is being double up to a total of $475,000, and we're nearing the end of the month and, at this point, I don't think that we have reached that total amount yet. So we're hoping to hear from folks in the next few days who will go online or call us, make a donation of any amount. Your donation is going to be doubled on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $475,000, and we've just got a couple of days left, so can we ask you today to consider making a donation, again, either online at FamilyLife.com or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY and helping to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: That's right, and when you do give, you're helping us do battle on behalf of families both in the military and outside, and I'd just like to say we need you to stand with us. This is a great time for this ministry. We have some exciting plans for the future, but we need fuel for the tanks. We need the Air Force here on FamilyLife Today to continue strong so that we can influence more and more families across the country.
Bob: General Dees was in our offices not long ago and spoke to our staff, and we thought with Memorial Day on Monday, we ought to play for our listener what General Dees shared with our staff. So here, from that recent staff meeting, is General Bob Dees.
GEN. DEES: [from audiotape.] I often ask myself, and I want to make it sort of a teaching point for the day – when did I start loving soldiers? I noticed it sometimes along the way as a leader that sometime I started loving soldiers. It went from a head knowledge to a heart knowledge to a passion to a calling for soldiers. And I don't know when it was. Maybe it was when I saw that first soldier drown trying to save the life of another soldier. "No greater has a man than to give his life for another."
Or when I saw a helicopter pilot that crashed, and he bled to death. And as I reflect back on that, now I recognize how our Lord Jesus Christ bled to death on our behalf. Or may I started loving soldiers when I saw a young veteran just out of Iraq whose life had been snuffed away – not for sure, but somewhere it went from my head to my heart to a passion to a calling to take care of soldiers.
And then the same is with families. I'm not for sure when it was – was when I, as a young officer, handed that first flag to the grieving widow? And when I said "Your grateful nation thanks you for your selfless service." When was it?
But somewhere it went from the head to the heart to the passionate calling to help take care of military families, because they are really the backbone of these military people that are sent, in every way, around our world.
These are perilous times. If you look at the enemy within, the cultural erosion in our country has been perilous. Our moral fabric of our country is bad frayed. Spiritual infrastructure is an element of national power just as transportation and energy and the military and the socio and economic sectors. Spiritual infrastructure is critically important, and our spiritual infrastructure is sadly weakened in this country. We've got to strengthen it if we're going to be strong internally, and if we're going to be strong externally, and the external threat is significant.
You take the combination of radical Islamic fundamentalism plus weapons of mass destruction and new technologies unprecedented plus state-sponsored terrorism, directly and indirectly, using surrogates and directly it is a potent, perfect storm that is on our doorstep.
And for all of us, there are perilous times ahead, I would offer, and if we're going to minimize that, if we're going to work it responsibly as a Christian body in the churches, the citizens, the communities, the Christians, the churches, if we're going to work it responsibly, we've got to go back to our first of Jesus Christ, we've got to put on those Gospel boots, and we've got to work hard to strengthening of our moral infrastructure.
Let me just tell one story – I think Dennis has related some of this to you, and it has to do with a profound experience I had in 1994. We were in Holland, and in 1994 my wife was on the ground in a muddy drop zone. In 1944, that was a bloody drop zone. She was on a muddy drop zone in 1994, because it was the 50th year commemoration Operation Market Garden. The biggest airborne operation in all history – bigger than Normandy, even.
Three airborne operations – 101st Airborne Division, 82nd Airborne Division, British 1st Airborne Division, trying to clear up and airhead line that an armored car would go through, and then they would flank the Nazis to the north. Some of you may know about that, commemorated in Cornelius Ryan's movie, "A Bridge Too Far," and book and so forth.
Well, the operation went down in September of 1944, and so here we are, 50 years later, we're getting ready to jump. She was on the ground, I was in a bumpy Dutch C130, and I was a big sick at my stomach, you know, we'd been bumping around, the weather was rough, and you have heavy equipment on your back, and so we're going along and then, all of a sudden, you hear "Get ready! Get ready!" and you know the time – you know, when they say "Get ready" there's an expression in the Army that says "Threat clears a man's head," and you are very clear-headed when you're getting ready to go out the door of an airplane.
So "Get ready! Outboard personnel stand up! Inboard personnel stand up! Hook up!" Now it's getting real serious when you're hooking up. You know something is going to happen. "Hook up! Check static lines, check equipment! All okay, Jumpmaster! All okay! All okay! All okay! All okay, Jumpmaster! One minute! Stand in the door!" and you're standing in the door and, again, you have a pretty clear head, okay? And you're getting ready to say "Go! Go! Go!" then you jump out of the airplane and, all of sudden, you hear this roar of engines, you hear the blast, you hear the sharp jerk, and it's your parachute opening for which you give great thanks, okay?
And then you hear the ever-distant roar of the airplane engines, and all of a sudden there's a period of silence, and you have a moment of reflection before you're getting ready to hit the ground, and in this moment of reflection for me, at least, 50 years after this actual event, I was thinking about those veterans floating down, getting shot at, people being wounded. You could here the cries of travail right and left. And then, all of a sudden, I came out of that reverie, thankful for their sacrifice 50 years earlier. I came out of that reverie because I knew I was getting ready to hit the ground, and it was going to be ugly if I didn't do something smart.
So I landed, and I was gathering my 'chute, strong winds, you know, you have to wrestle it, and this Dutch lady came up, and as she came up to me, it was amazing. She was elderly, she just came up, and she got down on her knee, and she grabbed me, and she started crying, and she wouldn't let go. I mean, I literally couldn't get – so we had somebody get a translator because we couldn't understand what she was saying.
And she came, and she told the story that the Germans were killing five fathers a day in the town of Einhoven. That was an Evil Empire. You know, we talk about Evil Empires, that was an Evil Empire, and righteous people on the earth had to stand up and do something, they had to stand up to be counted. The military had to stand up to be counted against that evil empire.
She told the story, five fathers a day, her father had been apprehended on a day in September 1944. He was to be shot at noon. The 101st Airborne Division landed at 10:00 that morning. Her father's life was spared. She was not even born yet. She was subsequently born, and you can imagine the profound engagement. I was the first person she could grab. She just was expressing her profound thanks for the life of her father.
And so that said a lot to me. But the next sequel to this, I think, is even more important. Think about the soldiers. Think about those soldiers. They were also sick at their stomach, some of them were wounded when they landed, they'd been shot at and so forth. And what did they do? When they landed, they just started putting one boot in front of another, one boot in front of another, and by those small acts of obedience, those small acts of selfless service, they saved a father's life just by what they were doing. They saved a father's life. They liberated the nation of Holland from an evil empire, and then they started to free up a whole continent of Europe from an evil empire.
Okay, so let's go back to that jump story. If you're in that jump story, the next sequel to this – think of yourself as a Christian warrior, a Christian airborne warrior – small acts of obedience, step-by-step, selfless service, step-by-step, acts of spiritual discipline, and you jump into people's lives in situations in various ways, and when you land, just because of who you are and the sweet aroma of Jesus Christ lived out through your life, you inherently, automatically, lives start being changed. Fathers and mothers and families are changed and transformed. Whole continents and whole nations are changed for Jesus Christ.
And so that's how it relates to us, I think, because how beautiful are the feet of those who wear those Gospel boots and one boot in front of the other, share that Gospel of Jesus Christ on behalf of the lost.
So let me show you a picture worth 1,000 words. Let's show this.
[Glenn Miller, "In the Mood"]
Man: Not far from here, just east a number of miles is the town of North Platte, Nebraska. Anybody know North Platte, Nebraska? You've been there. North Platte's out there. You've got to want to go to North Platte.
[airplanes, machine gun fire]
In 1941, it was a town of 12,000 people. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, the 12,000 people of this Union Pacific railroad called North Platte. Ten days later there was a train coming through. It was National Guard troops. The word went out it was Nebraska National Guard troops and so some folks baked cookies and stuff and went down to the train, and they went down to give them some cookies, and they looked in the windows, and they looked in the windows.
It wasn't Nebraska guys, they couldn't find any of their own. It happened to be Kansas. But they stood there with the cookies and the cakes and stuff and finally one young woman by the name of Raye Wilson, a drugstore clerk, said "Well, I'm not keeping my cookies, I'm not taking my cookies home." She stepped up and gave them to one of the young men, and then everybody gave their stuff.
Immediately after that, when they started moving Army troops through, and sailors and stuff, Raye Wilson organized some women, and they decided they were going to meet the trains that came through North Platte, Nebraska. Bob Green, a journalist from the Chicago Tribune has written about this in a book called "Once Upon a Town."
And they started to meet the trains, and over the next four-and-a-half years, they organized, mostly women, 55,000 women, and they met every train that came in. Sometimes up to 32 trains a day. And the Union Pacific railway gave the restaurant to them, and they dubbed it "the North Platte Canteen," and they got 10 minutes to get off the train.
These guys would jump off the train, run in there, and there would be wall-to-wall tables with sandwiches and cakes and pies. One woman said, "My job during the war was to make 10 angel food cakes from scratch with turkey eggs every week in the back of that train station." Everything was rationed. People had to give it out of their own goods. Only $5 came from the government, and it was a check from Franklin Roosevelt, said, "I heard you're doing some good things out there," and he sent five bucks.
The people of these towns, like yours, all over that area, came there during the course of the war. I mean, these guys would jump out of the train, run in there, and there would be hot coffee, there would be doughnuts, there would be pheasant sandwiches in season, and I said this at the Nebraska Governor's Prayer Breakfast, and the Senator came to me afterwards and said, "Sometimes out of season."
They get back on the train, and they'd go off, many never to return. During the course of the war, 6 million United States servicemen and women came through North Platte, Nebraska, and every single train was met. And the story would go something like this – a guy would say, "I graduated from Brooklyn High School, never been out of New York City. I went down and signed up on Monday. They put me on a train going West. I rode for three days and nights, sitting up, eating k-rations and not taking a shower, and somebody in the middle of the night said, "North Platte, Nebraska, next stop."
I'd never heard of North Platte, Nebraska. I jumped off the train, ran into a place, and I saw girls who looked like my sisters and my cousins and women who looked like my aunts and my mom, and they had all this food, and they just – they gave it to us, and when we left, they hugged us, and they said, "Sailor, we're praying for you. God bless you," and we'd get back on the train scared out of our minds, not knowing where we were going, not knowing if we'd ever come back, but when we went into that place for 10 minutes, something went away.
We got back on the train, and we went on, and in the middle of the night in France, with mortars coming down and there was a lull in the fighting, a voice would come out of the darkness saying, "Wouldn't it be great to be back in North Platte for five minutes?" Because love chases away fear, and when Bob Green interviewed these guys, they'd start crying – 85-year-old guys start crying.
He'd say, "What are you crying for?" He said, "Because, here I was, an 18-year-old kid, scared to death, and I went into that place, and for five minutes in the middle of the night in a place I'd never been to with people I'd never met going to a place I didn't know, somebody loved me and was kind to me."
I told this story in Denver a couple of years ago at the 60th anniversary of Youth for Christ Campus Life. A young woman came up to me the next morning and said, "When you were telling that story I thought about my grandpa. My grandpa was in the Navy, and he lived in Pennsylvania, and I wondered, did he go through North Platte, Nebraska?"
She said, "My grandpa is 90 years old in the nursing home, and he has dementia. He doesn't remember us most of the time, but I called him, and I said, 'Grandpa, this is Jennifer.' And I said, 'Grandpa, does the name North Platte, Nebraska, meaning anything to you?'
And he said 'North Platte, Nebraska,' instantly he was lucid. 'You bet it does.' He said, 'I went in there, and they gave me doughnuts and sandwiches and coffee, and they shined my shoes. You bet I remember North Platte, Nebraska.'"
What is it, 60 years after the fact, that brings a 90-year-old man out of dementia? When you're scared, and you're 18, and you're going off to war, and on the way somebody loves you and is kind to you.
["In the Mood]
Gen. Dees: [from audiotape.] When you're scared, and you're 18, and somebody loves you, that's the difference that we can make in people's lives that we love them. As I look at this, I think, "Okay, what's my takeaway?" There's all sorts of things you could take away. I think of that drugstore clerk, Raye Wilson.
Raye Wilson was not a CEO of a company, she was not a person of prominence, she was a drugstore clerk of moral courage, and they stood there with their cookies, and then she said, simply, "Well, I'm not taking my cookies home. I'm not taking my cookies home," and she demonstrated moral courage, and she led the charge for 55,000 women over four-and-a-half years. How powerful is that?
And so for our own team, Military Ministry for FamilyLife Today, my message is, we cannot take our cookies home. God has given us a great ministry, God has given us stewardship of people's lives and of families, and at such a time as this, and we've got to work together. While the day is short, we've got to work together. We cannot take our cookies home, because the families of America, the families of the world, the families of the military truly need us.
Bob: Well, again, that is General Robert Dees, the leader of the Military Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ speaking recently at a staff meeting here at FamilyLife, and with Memorial Day now being celebrated this weekend, that's a great reminder.
Dennis: It really is, and, as he closed there, I thought, you know, it's a privilege that we haven't take our cookies home. We are expending ourselves on behalf of military marriages and families trying to make a difference and trying to be a part of the solution. And being known by what we're for as a ministry not by what we're against and, again, I just want to remind you, as a listener, this month we've had friends of the ministry offer a matching grant where your gift can be matched up to $475,000, and I don't think we've reached that amount yet.
If you haven't given, or even if you have, maybe it's time for a second gift. We need your help. We need you to stand with us so that we can keep serving the spiritual ingredients up to a group of people that have been challenged by war, and war is hard on marriages and families. So I invite you – will you stand by us so we can stand with the military? And, if you do, I want to say thanks in advance. We greatly appreciate you.
Bob: And let me say to those listeners who either are military families or who may know someone who is in a military family, we have some resources available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website at FamilyLife.com, and if you click that red "Go" button that you see in the middle of the screen, it will take you to an area of the site where you can find out about some Homebuilders studies, small group studies that we've put together for military couples to go through, and a brand-new book that is available for women who are married to men in the military. It's called "Loving Your Military Man," written by Bea Fishback and published by us here at FamilyLife.
All the information you need about these resources, you'll find on our website at FamilyLife.com. If you click the red button you see in the middle of the screen that says "Go," that will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about these resources.
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have sent to you whatever resources you request. Again, our phone number is 1-800-FLTODAY, and our website is FamilyLife.com.
And, with that, I want to say I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you can be back with us next Monday, on Memorial Day, when we're going to have a conversation with General Robert Dees about what FamilyLife and the Military Ministry are doing together to help strengthen military marriages and families. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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