In March, 2006, I spent nearly an hour walking in Belleau Wood, a 200 acre tract behind the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery about 50 miles east of Paris, France, accompanied by Kathy as well as the preacher for the Eglise du Christ in Paris, Roland Mohsen. Seeing the World War I cemetery, chapel, and memorial was exciting for me, given not just my love for history but my special interest in “The Great War.” It was in those woods that the U.S. Marines made their first big impression on the whole world. At a 1923 ceremony for an American battle monument there at Belleau Wood, the Army General who led the Marines in the decisive battle against the Germans, James G. Harbord, said this: “”Now and then, a veteran … will come here to live again the brave days of that distant June. Here will be raised the altars of patriotism; here will be renewed the vows of sacrifice and consecration to country. Hither will come our countrymen in hours of depression, and even of failure, and take new courage from this shrine of great deeds” (Kozaryn, Linda. “Marines’ First Crucible: Belleau Wood.” 6/18/98. Armed Forces Press Service).
The Marines won a hard-fought victory, at great price requiring such persistence. The memorial erected on that ground has been an inspiration for countless soldiers as well as those from many nations who have stood at that spot. Now, almost 100 years after the battle, memories have faded and fewer go to that spot for inspiration despite the predictions of General Harbond.
For the last several days, I’ve been mentally devouring the sermonic masterpieces of men like V.P. Black, Franklin Camp, Roy Lanier, Bobby Duncan, Wendell Winkler, and others at a great audio site called preachersvault.com. Most of the men on that site have transitioned from time to eternity. My heroes have always been preachers, and I appreciate the depth of understanding and motivational value found in listening. I recall the incredible blessing of attending the 1988 Faulkner University Lectureship, where brother Winkler invited men who at that time were 65 years old and older. Only 18 years old, I sat with my dad, who was also in attendance, to hear Camp, Black, Hugo McCord, Winfred Clark, Rex Turner, Sr., Bob Hare, Leroy Brownlow, George DeHoff, Basil Overton, and many others. Over a quarter-century later, I still revel in the memories of those lessons.
Military memorials may begin to fade with time, but the value of good Bible teaching only grows with the passage of time. There is great reward in taking the time to sit at the feet of seasoned students of Scripture, drawing from their deep wells of knowledge. These opportunities are not just relegated to days gone by and various media selections. Try prepared, studied Bible class teachers, guest speakers, and local preachers. Those of us in those positions need to be challenged to go deeper and make truth live more powerfully. Those of us who hear need to value this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). Won’t you reserve a few spots in your heart for heroes whose weapon is the sword of the Spirit?