Shots in the dark

March 18, 2020

In films and on TV people die quickly, quietly and immediately after being shot. In real life it is different. A heart shot or brain shot will kill quickly but in the heat of battle firing an accurate shot is very difficult.

It was summer 1964, in Borneo, at one of the forward bases. We heard gunshots at around 12:30am. The bullets hit the sandbags and whistled over the compound. The sentries returned fire not knowing where to aim; in the jungle the darkness is thick and black. In the trenches you can’t even see the man next to you. The compound was on a hill with vegetation cut back to give a clear field of fire for 100 yards. But once the terrorists had fired they move quickly to a new position so not even the gun flash would show you where to aim.

By the time we were in the trenches the officer of the day had fired a flare, giving us a couple of minutes of light to look downhill at the thick, dark tree-line. Nothing moved. But we knew they were there. We could only wait, peering into the blackness illuminated at random intervals by a flare. Between flares a shot or two would be fired but by 2am it had gone completely quiet. You strain eyes and ears to see and hear but nothing. If you are not careful your imagination plays tricks on you and you see movement that is not there.

Just before 3am, another flare went up and as it did, we again looked for danger. Suddenly, bullets whistled past me just yards away. Then I heard the GPMG (the General Purpose Machine Gun, which can fire a thousand rounds in a minute) cracking off a burst, and I wondered what they were shooting at.

Discipline kicked in and I fired my own sub machine gun. Immediately after I held down the trigger, ten or twelve bullets exploded into the terrorist’s body. For a moment he disappeared but then, in the dying light of the flare, I saw his boots maybe a yard or two away. The bullets had thrown him on his back and for a second there was silence. Then a groan of pain, a gasp for breath. Another flare shows the terrorist stretched out, his boots facing us, his weapon a few feet away from his outstretched arm.

For about 45 minutes, we listen to his groans of pain, his gasps for breath, the gaps between them getting longer. No one leaves the trench to investigate and the night goes quiet. It is a long wait for the dawn as I fight the urge to be sick in the darkness. Dawn comes and we cautiously check the ground in front of us. A patrol goes down to the tree-line very carefully and disappears into the trees. About fifteen or twenty minutes later they emerge giving the all clear.

We climb out of the trench and examine the dead body. We count eight bullet holes across his rib cage and stomach. With instant medical attention in a first-class hospital he may have survived but that wasn’t available here. He died slowly and painfully, and the groans stay in my head for a long time. At the bottom of the slope, just in front of the tree-line, another terrorist lies dead, his head removed from his body as neatly as if done by a skilled surgeon. He had been kneeling in the arc of fire from the GPMG. We all try to act casually and calmly as if this is an everyday occurrence.

As soon as I can I slip away to the latrine, brushing off congratulations from my fellow soldiers. I’m briefly sick and then dry heave for several minutes as the enormity of what I have done hits me hard. A long serving Sergeant, who has seen action elsewhere, has seen me leave for the latrine. He comes and pats me on the back, says quiet words of encouragement but does not attempt to make me stop heaving. He is calm and understanding, having experienced what I now was experiencing. He tells me this is what I was trained for, praises my reaction and discipline, tells me to get something to eat and drink in the cookhouse, then quietly leaves.

I asked myself some deep, searching questions. What will happen to those two dead terrorists? What will happen to me at the end of my life? I found myself wondering, is there a God

It was ten long years before the urge to know God overwhelmed me. This led me on another journey, another kind of training. I started studying the Bible and going to church became a vital part of my life. I came to understand Christianity and began to experience a peace of mind that I had not experienced before. Even finding peace with my Borneo experiences. I came to find answers to the questions I had asked myself all those years ago.

Sometimes it takes a crisis in our lives to make us face up to and ask the tough questions.  I found the answers by seeking God and starting a relationship with him. I found God was ready for me.  And I believe, when the time is right, he will be ready for you too.

The author has asked to remain anonymous

 info@because.uk.com

Unforgivable?

January 10, 2020

When I woke up on Friday 3rd of January, the world had changed.

This week the repercussions of the US drone assassination of General Qasem Soleimani continue to rumble on. American officials have defended President Trump’s decision to kill the Iranian commander, Iranian leaders have stepped up calls for revenge against the United States. Missiles have been fired in retaliation and, at time of writing, it looks possible that the Ukrainian airline tragedy could now be related to the crisis.

This is a very serious situation and there is speculation that it could escalate into a full blown war. If you were Donald Trump or the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, what would your next move be?

How about forgiveness? That’s a strategy my leader, Jesus Christ, used when standing at an equally dangerous crossroad. When he was being crucified to satisfy the demands of an angry mob, instead of calling on his followers to seek revenge he cried out “Forgive them for they know not what they do”.

It takes courage to forgive. Why is that? Maybe because forgiveness can seem the weakest weapon in our human armoury. Or, perhaps, because it’s the most powerful.

Peter Mill info@because.uk.com

Peter is editor-in-chief at Because

 

Because Magazine March/April 2019

February 22, 2019

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Jesus remembers lest we forget

November 9, 2018

Lest we forget, Jesus remembers.

This the Christian message.

Jesus, who remembers unknown soldiers everywhere and knows their names and their life stories, sacrificed himself for them and for all of us. Irrespective of our background, race or faith, Jesus died and rose for us; for every soldier slain in some foreign field, no matter which side he or she was on; for all civilians caught up in known or unknown conflicts; for everyone, whether we live in war or in peace.

Let’s be thankful and remember this weekend.

Above all, let’s not forget that Jesus remembers.

Therein is our hope.

james.henderson@gracecom.church

 

Will it end?

September 28, 2018

November of this year is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War — the war some hoped would be “the war to end all wars”. It would have been great had it been so, but it was too idealistic a dream.

Since H G Wells coined the phrase, there have been well over 120 conflicts which we could call wars, including the Second “World” War. Only this week news has come out about the civil war in the Sudan, which has been ongoing since 2013. It’s estimated that approximately 400,000 have been killed so far, and chances are the number is higher.

I wonder that we think when we hear of news like this. It’s far away, and it doesn’t really affect us. Do we shake our head in disbelief, and then don’t give it a second thought? What about the victims involved? Will they be missed? Have they become just statistics that will soon be forgotten by most of us? Is the essence of who these people were lost forever?

How can we respond to such questions? Christianity proclaims that the only hope for the dead is Jesus Christ. In other words, there is hope for everyone who has died and will die, be it in warfare or not. Jesus himself was crucified for us, and he rose from the dead three days later so that all of us might live again. No one is forgotten by him.

That’s the Christian message. And it is his life that will end all wars.

Turn to Jesus and live.

james.henderson@gracecom.church

Does it have to be war?

April 13, 2018

It’s no surprise that world leaders are talking war once again.

Why do I say this? It’s because Jesus Christ said that there’d always be wars and rumours of wars. It’s part of our human condition.

But when will it all end? Does it have to be this way?

In the UK there are protests to say that the current call to arms is undemocratic. If only the people could be heard, then their collective will would prevent involvement in war.

According to the Bible, what will end war forever is not the will of the people, but the will of God. We’ll be fighting and ready to fight right up until the last moment, even as Jesus returns to stop the nonsense and to rescue us from ourselves. Jesus will come to usher in God’s eternal peace, and there’ll be no more war, but when? God only knows, said Jesus.

Christians everywhere are praying fervently for Christ’s return, and we can understand why.

In the meantime, let’s do whatever we can do for peace.

james.henderson@gracecom.church

Because Magazine April 2018

March 22, 2018

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Because Magazine April 2018

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Can Peace be Next?

April 7, 2017

In the lead-up to holy seasons for Christians, Jews and Hindus, we have had a very unholy week on the world scene. What with the images of chemical warfare in Syria, the tension over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, and the launch of US cruise missiles against the Assad régime, one wonders, what next?

Take a sharp intake of breath because it’s not over yet. Who knows what will happen? What the world needs is to be holy, not unholy. What does “holy” mean? In the Christian Bible, “holy” is used often to describe being set apart to receive the blessing of peace that only God can give.

Christians believe that this is the reason why Christ suffered, died and rose from the dead – so that all people would be included in God’s holy peace. It’s ironic that through Christ we are set apart for peace, and yet all we seem to do is practise war and aggression.

As we see all these events happening around us, perhaps we should take peace with us wherever we go and whatever we do.

Therefore, I suggest that what is next for us personally is to be holy, to bring God’s peace into our own lives.

It begins by accepting the sacrifice of Christ.

james.henderson@gracecom.church

Still time to remember

November 10, 2016

village-garden-of-remembranceIt’s still time to remember,

Perhaps, during this momentous week in world politics, it’s even more fitting that we remember how precious were the lives of those men and women who died in warfare throughout humanity’s long history. When I wear the red poppy, it’s not just in remembrance of those who gave their lives in service to their country during the First World War, but it’s also a protest against the futility of war. More importantly, it’s a statement of hope – a certain hope that everyone who has died and who will die, be it in warfare or not, is not lost forever.

There is hope, not just because we remember, but above all because God remembers. That’s why he sent his Son, Jesus, to us. Jesus came to die that we might live beyond death because God remembers us.

No matter what turmoil the world is in, no matter how unsettled the political scene may seem, no matter what wars happen next, no matter how hopeless things appear, nothing can separate us from that hope which God gives us in Christ Jesus.

There is hope because God remembers each and every one of us.

Let’s remember.

james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk

My Peace I leave with You

May 22, 2015

© Buurserstraat386 | Dreamstime.com - War In Syria PhotoSurely we need peace in the world today.

What with the heightened tensions in the Middle East, the instability in Africa in places like Burundi, and the violence that is reported around us, the world seems a less safe place day by day.

This week Christians celebrate the Spirit of peace. The celebrations are called Pentecost, referring to the Greek word for “fifty”. It’s about an event that occurred 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead. Before he died Jesus had told his followers that he would leave his peace with them. How would he do this? After all, shortly after he said this, he was led away to be crucified so that we would come together and be reconciled to God.

What God did was to send the Spirit of Jesus into our lives at Pentecost. This Holy Spirit brings with him the peace of God, which is greater than anything we can possibly imagine. The problem for us is that, when we ignore the Spirit, we ignore the peace of God and war ensues.

How much we human beings need that peace!

Take the chance to go to church this weekend and celebrate Pentecost, and let the Spirit of peace affect your life.

Wherever we are, let’s “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3 ESV UK).

james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk