These were the words stuck in my head as I awoke this morning. The night before had been spent driving back home from our meeting in another state. Typical for deputation. Our speaker for the night had been a man with the best of his seventies behind him. Yet while he spoke his white hair and age lined face showed a man impassioned with the gospel. His aged body yielded and gave way to a purpose that overflowed him. He was challenging hearers with the cause of world evangelism, with holding the rope for missionaries going overseas. Giving to missions wasn’t just doing without your money here in the States, but sealing it in an envelop and saying “Go! Do your work!”
The presentation was over and the service was dismissed. I stood in the back and thanked folks for praying for us. I passed out prayer cards and handshakes while the speaker’s wife made her way by. She gushed with excitement for us. They too had served as missionaries. They were in Papua New Guinea serving “the most wonderful people in the most beautiful place”. If this couple had been younger, I don’t think we would have had the chance to meet. Their abled body days were to be spent among new converts in a far off land.
As we were leaving, I finally spoke with the pastor. “He’s quite a fellow. You know God really used them on the field.” He told me a few stories he had heard. Things we would all love to say about ourselves some day but in the moment would be terrified to live through. It ended with the speaker sitting in jail for his mission work having suffered robberies and physical attack. An official from the consulate came by. “I’ve got you 24 hours to get your affairs in order. Then you’re out of the country. It’s the best I can do.”
I told him I couldn’t imagine going through some of these ordeals. “Being a Marine in Vietnam probably helped”, was his reply. Then he told me one last story. Bro. Sorrels had been a platoon leader with no more than 19 soldiers and orders to hold a hilltop at all cost. The sunset gave in to darkness and they could hear the enemy permeating the hillside. The noise level told them they were more than out numbered. He radioed HQ. There would be no winning this fight. His orders came back in two words. “Fix bayonets.” This would be the worst kind of fighting. Close quarters, hand to hand, very dirty. Each man fixing his bayonet made a distinct metal clasp. There would be no hiding their intention from the enemy. The reply came back from the hillside with a piercing metal clasp of their own. The sound trailed down the mountain like dominos. It was at least a regiment. They sat all night waiting to be over taken in multiplied numbers beyond their own.
Finally the morning broke. The sunlight revealing what every man prayed for. The enemy had gone. The best they could gather, the proposition of engaging a foe who had already resigned themselves to fighting down to worst means necessary was more than they were willing to chance.
It all made sense. Seeing a man filled with passion and purpose even into the twilight of his years compelling others to the cause of missions. He had learned years before the power of resigning himself to “fix bayonets”. He would spend all of himself without reservation. His life seems to sit as a challenge. What means have we resigned ourselves to and what point are we not willing to go beyond? May God grant us the courage to fix bayonets!