I want to share a World War II story with you about Robert, an American soldier who was part of the Normandy invasion forces and the campaign to defeat Hitler.
In a city in France while searching building by building for German soldiers, this young soldier came across a bakery. His love for cherries quickly drew his attention to the cherries on one of the shelves. He sat down his rifle, used his bayonet to open the cherries and kicked back in a chair after thrusting his bayonet into the wooden table. It was not long after that, Robert found the Germans he was looking for, or should I say, they found him. With his bayonet stuck in the tabletop and his rifle out of reach, he had no line of defense, unless he wanted to start a food fight. Robert put his hands up in surrender and decided to plead with God not to let the German soldiers shoot him.
He was concerned about being shot because these missions were not conducive to taking prisoners along. Besides that, Hitler had already given the orders to take no more prisoners. Though he was not exactly a religious man, he promised God he would go to church and raise his children in church in exchange for his life. He now found himself a prisoner of war being moved along with the German soldiers that found him savoring the cherries.
Back in the United States Robert’s wife was told her husband had been killed in action, since there were no known survivors in his outfit, and the Germans did not report him as a prisoner. Presumed a war widow with two small children, devastated and desperate, she gratefully accepted the kindness of those in the community that were willing to help. Among the people who reached out to this family were those who taught them the false teachings of the Book of Mormon.
Twenty one days after his capture, Robert and seven other American soldiers were lined up against the outside wall of a barn where the Germans intended to shoot them. Just then, another German soldier rode in on a motorcycle yelling. The German soldiers all scrambled to get going and left the prisoners there for the fast approaching American army to find. Once again Robert had escaped death. When the war was over and he returned home, Robert kept his word to attend church with his family. The problem was that the church he selected would not bring him any more security for eternal life than if the Germans shot him on sight. Robert could have said that eating the cherries saved his life, and maybe they did. Robert told me this story years after it happened. I grew up in a false religion as part of this deal that was kept with good intentions, because I knew Robert by the name of “Dad.”
When I was a Mormon, I found most Christians were either afraid or unwilling to talk with me about Jesus. When I went door to door and people did try to witness to me, they simply said, “You’re going to hell!” However true this was, it did nothing to help me understand the truth about who Jesus Christ is.
In 1981 I met a man who was not afraid to talk with me. This man told me that, “God loves Mormons too!” He also made me angry by telling me that I was going to get saved because he was praying for me. He even had the audacity to tell me I was going to join his church, and he was the one who would baptize me. This man I owe my spiritual life to was Charles Roesel, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Leesburg, a small town in central Florida. Charles had a vision for me before I had one for myself. One Sunday morning in November of 1981, while visiting First Baptist Church, my life changed forever. I do not remember the message Charles preached, but I say the day I met Jesus was like a cartoon. How was it like a cartoon, you ask? Have you seen the cartoons where a lady bakes a fresh pie and sets in on the window sill? The animators draw the aroma going out and grabbing the attention of another cartoon character. Upon smelling this pleasant aroma the character begins floating through the air following the aroma towards the pie. At the end of the service, Charles came halfway down the stairs that led from the floor to the platform and said, “Every head bowed, every eye closed.” I did not close my eyes or bow my head. I watched as he pleaded for people to come forward to receive Jesus. About that time, he made eye contact with me. Charles smiled at me and closed his eyes in prayer. His prayer was like that sweet aroma of the pie in the cartoon. It was as though I was conscience of nothing around me, but I had to follow the path of that sweet aroma of Charles Roesel’s prayer. I stepped out of that pew and made my way forward to meet Jesus Christ.
A few years later my Dad walked the aisle of that same First Baptist Church, perhaps
following the aroma of Charles’ prayer, (Maybe like a cherry pie?) and gave his heart
to Jesus Christ. That is another story I love to share. Since that day, I have seen
my whole family come to Christ. I pray the bondage of a false Jesus will never return
to my family in generations to come. Dad has since stepped to the other side of eternity
where he perhaps now enjoys fresh cherries with Jesus Christ as he celebrates a promise
that was fulfilled some forty years after his face to face encounter with German
soldiers. I will see him again, and we will enjoy that heavenly cherry pie together.
Thank you Jesus, for your gift of eternal life-
A Story of War, Promises & Redemption
A Story of War, Promises & Redemption
WHERE THE COMPLEXITY OF CHURCH GROWTH
INTERSECTS WITH THE SIMPLICITY OF THE GOSPEL
— Matthew 16:18
…upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
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