The Vietnam Moving Wall was recently in my area. Hundreds of individuals visited this monument in a period of 3 days. Several civilian and veteran volunteers assisted visitors as they searched for the names of those who died in that war. Wayne was one of those Vietnam veteran volunteers. He is also a long-time friend of mine who started taking me fishing when I was a teenager. We have many stories to tell of days past when fishing was a great part of our lives. For over 30 years now we have remained friends and see each other nearly every week in church. Wayne is not normally an out-front kind of guy. He prefers to do the grunt-work of any mission. He will get dirty, wet, and even take the brunt of criticism in order to keep it off others. He is the type of guy every leader needs – and bunches just like him. You can imagine then how I was somewhat taken back when his wife told me how that she had never heard him talk and interact so much as he had during those 3 days as he volunteered at the Wall; how that he was in constant conversation with people that he hardly knew. Now don’t get me wrong, Wayne is very articulate but he just prefers to do it without getting in front of people. But here, he was intermingling like he was running for governor! Not Wayne! Yes Wayne.
As I thought about this, it was easy to see why. He had been in battle with others who had also been in battle. Some had lost their lives, others had survived with scars, some had made mistakes along the way, and all had given something. And while none were perfect, each was proud of his faithfulness to his/her country. And while others may not fully understand, appreciate, or accept each soldier, the ones who fought together could. They knew they could gather at such a place as the Wall and find friends.
I really want churches to be this way. I want us to quit magnifying the failures of every soldier and appreciate the years they have served in the battle. Instead of washing our hands of those who have slipped, I want us to get them the help they need to get back in the fight. I want a Christian veteran’s hospital instead of a Christian veteran’s waste management center. Instead of drawing attention to every skirmish that went awry or every mistake that was made in the heat of the battle, I want us to see each other as men and women who at least stepped up to serve when others were too afraid to. I want us to realize that Sundays need to be times when the soldier can come knowing that a refuge awaits. We need to get out of our holy huddles where only singing, preaching, and praying happens, and spend more time encouraging each other in honest, sincere, and compassionate conversation through fellowship. After all, it is the only thing we cannot do alone. We can sing, worship, pray, praise, and learn without a soul being present, but we cannot encourage, share, fellowship, bind up, and listen without our fellow soldiers. The Bible says this is the real reason we are to not forsake coming together. I will stand and serve at this kind of wall. My desire is that all Christians and churches will do the same.