This morning I spoke for a few minutes at both services. We are members of a Presbyterian Church, so this kind of testimony is written out. Here's what I said:
Good morning brothers and sisters. If all goes according to the plans the Army has for me as of now--and they could certainly change--the next time we will worship together at Wheatland will be in February of 2010. For those of you who don't know, I am going to Iraq in May after spending the next 2 1/2 months at Fort Sill in Oklahoma then a couple of weeks in Kuwait to acclimate to the rather warm weather in the Middle East.
So I wanted to say goodbye for now and to let you know I will be praying for you as you face the difficult months ahead.
I know, you thought you would be praying for me, and, of course, I welcome your prayers, but really, it is you who are facing the greater danger, while I will be experiencing many blessings that you folks can only wish for.
Because we all agree, or at least if we are members of Christ's Body we have affirmed many times, that the purpose of our lives is to Love God and enjoy Him forever. And we know from the life and words of Our Lord and the Apostles and the greatest saints that have followed in His footsteps, that the surest path to beatitude is through suffering--not to mention poverty, grief, and forsaking the blessings of this world.
Even in the current economic climate you will all still be spending money on things you need, choosing among competing brands and stores, faced with a dizzying array of choices. You have to decide where to eat, when to eat, what to eat. You can quit your job, choose your doctor, sleep in a room with fewer than 10 roommates, choose your wardrobe, make your own schedule, even have Budweiser and Twinkies for breakfast if you really want to.
In fact, a few of you may even be in doubt as to whether your work is valuable or you are doing the right thing with your life.
I, on the other hand, will not be spending time choosing my clothes, my meals, my forty or so roommates, meal times, or what I am eating. While I may have doubts about the wisdom of the US getting into the Iraq war, I have no doubt that someone needs to be there now and I no longer have any choice about being one of those someones. And I have the distinct comfort of having no choice, that I am obeying the Lord simply by following my orders and giving my will to the Army to which I have sworn allegiance.
Of course, I will need your prayers. I will be without my family and they will be without me. I will be lonely and having spent 55 years getting my own way, the months ahead will hurt as the Army crushes some of the rebellion in me which I have not submitted to Our Lord.
But I will pray for you. The most vibrant faith grows in suffering and persecution, and you are full citizens in the one of the most blessed corners of the richest nation in the history of the world. You, my brothers and sisters, have a real and difficult burden to bear. So I hope you will pray for my family and pray that I will accept the blessing that awaits me. And I will pray that your souls thrive amid the most pervasive temptation on this earth.