El Paso: On Friday evening I participated in a going away gathering (I cannot really call it a “party” since the focus of the gathering was one being deployed to Afghanistan with the United States Army). Captain Joe Gonzalez will lead his Stryker company into Afghanistan to hold the fort while the US forces slowly withdraw from this war torn region of the world.
Afghanistan continues to be the “graveyard” of empires as military leader after military leader leave this dysfunctional tribal land scratching their heads and licking their wounds. History has proven time and time again that military force will not change for the long the face of Afghanistan.
Captain Gonzalez over the course of the past two years has become an integral part of the life of our church. Whenever the doors are opened you are sure to find Joe somewhere in the building. He works with our college kids. He coached “Upward Basketball.” He prays with a circle of friends at prayer meeting. He greets at the front door on Sunday mornings. He takes the offering on Sunday night. Just days before his unit deploys under his command he will be singing in our “Living Christmas Tree.” In addition he is our favor “Aggie” who dresses the part each week with his “A&M” shirts and ties. For me personally he has become like the son I never had.
As we gathered at a local Mexican food establishment, the room filled with friends of Joe’s from every generation to every walk of life. It was amazing to see how one life had touched so many people in such a deep way. The spirit in the room was festive, and the noise was deafening. At one point, Joe turned off the Christmas music blasting in the background and got our attention like captain commanding his troops.
We sat “at ease” as Joe scanned the room and thanked one and all for being there. Then his gaze turned toward Afghanistan. Much like Jesus who set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross, Joe’s tone changed as he talked of his deployment. He talked about his anticipation about going to war. He summed it up by saying “This is what we do.” The young men and women in our military do the dirty work of keeping order in the world. They stared down evil eye ball to eye ball. They take up arms for those who cannot defend themselves. They stand the post determined to stop the advance of those who willfully kill and maim the innocent.
Those words, “This is what we do.” Kept running through my mind all night long. I realized much like the warrior king David, God had called this godly young man to take up the “sword” that divinely instituted governments must bear in an evil sinful world often attacked by hateful tyrants and militants.
On Friday night I had a glimpse of courage and honor. Pray for Joe and those under his command. Pray for peace. The hope of the future does not rest in the power of the sword, but rather in the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.