Today, I had the opportunity to attend a National Prayer Luncheon with my husband. The guest speaker was Lt. Clebe McClary, USMC (ret.). What an amazing testimony!
As a young marine leiutenant, newly married McClary was shipped off to Vietnam as a platoon leader. Their plane landed in a hot zone, and within hours, 3 bombs/grenades exploded near or on top of McClary. Each one literally blew off a different body part. The first took off his left arm. The second he tried to block with his right hand, and it severely mangled his right hand, blew out his left eye, and exploded both ear drums. The third blew up on top of his legs, leaving them severely mangled. Concerned only for his comrades, he didn’t realize the extent of the damage done to his body at first. God protected him, though, and he was able to get out of the crater where he had been left to die, surrounded by dying comrades. After 2 1/2 years in the hospital, and almost 40 surgeries, he was left with one badly mangled right arm and hand, one leg, one eye, and a host of other physical issues. He was told he would never walk again, and due to lodged shrapnel, he could lose his other eye at any time. He was also left with an absolutely amazing faith in Christ, and has learned how to rise above his circumstances to help others. My first glimpse of him was seeing him walk past our table, standing straight and tall, just as any decorated Marine would.
The real irony of this story, though, is that the shocker came, not in his injuries or his personal story, but in the events that occurred around this luncheon. You see, this man had volunteered his service to his country and left his new bride to go fight a terrible battle in defense of his nation and its freedoms. His battle didn’t end when he left the battlefield. In fact, his personal battle was just beginning, as he struggled to overcome his physical challenges resulting from the injuries he sustained. He had to overcome the emotional challenges of what he saw and experienced that day on the battlefield, as well as the emotional challenges of re-building a life with barely half of the body he had once known. Yet, with the help of his Lord God, he did overcome. He not only overcame, but he became an incredible motivational speaker, able to see humor in his situation (he actually had the audience rolling in laughter at a “story” of how he lost that eye), and using his personal blessings to help other wounded soldiers today. Sadly, though, there are people who cannot appreciate all that he has been through. Instead, shortly after this luncheon was booked, a lawsuit was filed against the base hosting the luncheon because the guest speaker they had invited was a “fundamentalist Christian.” Even though the historical and nationally recognized “National Prayer Luncheon” is officially sponsored by non-demonational base chapels, and it is a voluntary, ticketed event, because this year’s speaker was a professing Christian (and not ashamed to proclaim it, I might add–and certainly with good reason!), a group desperately tried to stop the event from happening. The lawsuit, officially filed by–get this–the “Military Religious Freedom Foundation” actually made it to the courts, so we didn’t know if we would even be able to attend until the last minute. I praise God that the judge was wise enough in her decision to see that this event was exactly the type of freedom that Lt. McClary and every other soldier actively fights for–a freedom to gather together, without fear of retribution, to worship or testify in a peaceful manner, and to express what we personally believe in–and she ruled in favor of the defendants because she said she could find no legal basis for the suit. OH, thank you, Lord!! I cannot imagine what an insult any other ruling would have been to Lt. McClary, every soldier fighting today, and every Christian in our nation today.
I have to admit, it was a unique experience, sitting among this group of people today, who came from different religious backgrounds. Because the National Prayer Luncheon is a non-demonational, as “politically-correct-as-possible” event, the opening ceremony included a Muslim reading a passage from the Q’ran (in Arabic), a Rabbi reading a passage from the Hebrew testament (in Hebrew), a Christian reading from the Biblical New Testament, and another leader reading a Buddhist prayer. It was strange, sitting there, hearing all these beliefs being given equal opportunity to present themselves, so that all major beliefs were given equal recognition. At the same time, though, I knew the risk that had been posed to the freedom of practicing Christianity, and I was thankful that we have the freedom here to sit together, Muslim and Jew, Christian and Buddhist, in total peace. While everyone heard parts of the Q’ran, the Hebrew testaments, and the Buddhists prayer, everyone also heard the gospel and the story of Christ’s mercy and grace. It was a good example of the religious freedom that these soldiers have fought so valiantly for. You’d think a foundation calling itself the “Military Religious Freedom Foundation” would completely embrace an event like this. Instead, they are appealing the judge’s decision in order to continue the lawsuit, even though the event has already occurred and the lawsuit is completely contradictory to the principles they claim to stand for.
We must pray fervently that God will continue opening doors such as these. As Christians, we cannot let our guard down for even a moment! We must be active in our quest to acknowlege appreciated decisions. And we must continue to praise God, through any and all adversity, for every blessing that He bestowes on us–whether it is full use of our eyes and limbs, or simply the ability to gather together.