The final piece of the 63 year old story

consolidated_pby-5aFor those of you waiting on a response to my initial question one week ago, please be patient.  We will pick up the conversation on the Bible’s call for humility next Monday.

Today is my final entry about finding my late uncle’s roommate from WW II.  Please indulge me these last few thoughts.

For several weeks, from August 9 until early October, my uncle and I were trying to work out our schedules to meet Bob in his home in New York.  Our schedules finally synchronized and the plan was in effect.

After preaching three times on Sunday morning, October 19, my uncle and I rendezvoused at his farm in Knoxville.  From there we drove to Staunton, Virginia, in his recreational vehicle.  We spent the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Now there is a first for me.

The next day we drive all day to Baldwin, New York.  After supper we check into a hotel near Bob’s residence.  No Wal-Mart parking lot this night.  We want a good night’s sleep for the big day to come on Tuesday.

During breakfast Tuesday morning Uncle Luke is anxious.  Bob Lee is anxious as well.  He’s already called to see if we made it into town safely.

Thankfully I turned on the video camera as we pulled into his driveway.  We walked up the steps, rang the doorbell and waited.  In just a moment or two Bob Lee appears at his front door.

The introduction to one another was emotional.  Neither man spoke a word.  All they could do was embrace one another and cry.  I videoed the moment and cried as well.

From the first minute in his house we knew we were welcomed.  We spent the first several hours telling each other’s story.  Bob was just as interested in us as we were in him.  Yet we were there to hear his story.  He recounted as much as he could recall.

Bob was such a gracious host.  We spent two days and two nights with him.  Three of his kids came over the first night to eat dinner with us.  They were great people, just like their father and father-in-law.

Bob is a born-again believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He worked for the Lutheran Church most of his adult life.  He is also an accomplished author and musician.   Additionally, Bob is a movie producer.

In 1967 his documentary on race relations, A Time for Burning, was nominated for an Academy Award.  This is an incredible man.  We watched the documentary together our last night at his house.  The Documentary Channel plans to re-broadcast his production sometime in the future.  I will let you know when it is aired.

If you would like to know more about Bob Lee, check out his webpage at http://www.realworldcomm.com.
The conversation was stimulating.  The fellowship was invigorating.  The visit was beyond memorable; it was life-altering.

I asked Bob how he could remember my uncle after 63 years, and only after knowing him for 21 days.  This is where the story comes together.

Cecil is burned into Bob’s memory due to a poignant moment they shared 24 hours before he was killed.  This is the way Bob recalled that moment in the book Squadron 13 and the Big Flying Boats (Hellgate Press), edited by Mary Bracho:

When the kamikaze threat became intolerable, smoke boats were used to lay a blanket of protective fog over the entire harbor.  That preventive action worked, but it also exacted a painful price.  The crew of one of our planes on a night flight returned to discover that they couldn’t come home.  They couldn’t see land for all the lingering smoke in the early morning.
It would have been disastrous to try to come in through the fog for a blind landing with hundreds of ships underneath.  They had to crash land in the open sea outside the narrow gateway to Kerama Retto.  Not all survived.  Several days later the body of Ens. Cecil Henley of Knoxville, Tennessee, washed up on shore.  We joined the chaplain in a small boat and helped carry our friend to a gravesite on one of the safe islands that was not still occupied by the enemy.
The poignant funeral rite for a rommmate remind a couple of us that, several days earlier, we had stood side-by-side with Cecil at another religious occasion he had shared with us aboard ship at a chapel communion service.  With us he had heard the chaplain’s words we were hearing again – words of love, faith, sacrifice and hope!

And now, you know the story.

One final note: please pray for my friend Bob Lee.  He is battling cancer for the second time in his life.  His spirit is strong.  Pray for his strength to increase as he undergoes chemotherapy.


4 Responses to “The final piece of the 63 year old story”

  1. 1 Lee
    November 14, 2008 at 7:54 am

    The bonds of Christian fellowship are not easily broken, and are established even is as little as a single encounter with another believer who longs for what we will all share in eternity: the communion of the saints, the eternal community of those who are devoted followers of Christ.

    In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes the phenomenon that left such an impression on Bob Lee:

    “It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to father visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing. They remember, as the Psalmist did, how they went ‘with the multitude. . .to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that hept holyday’ (Ps. 42:4). But they remain alone in far countries, a scattered seed according to God’s will. yet what is denied them as an actual experience they seize upon more fervently in faith. . .

    “The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body, in the sacrament the believer receives the Lord Christ in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfect fellowship of God’s spiritual-physical creatures. The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother. The prisoner, the sick person, the Christians in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. Visitor and visited in loneliness recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body; they receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility and joy. They receive each other’s benedictions as the benediction of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!”

    Bonhoeffer wrote the above while sharing fellowship with other spiritual leaders in hiding from the Nazi regime in Germany, never knowing at what moment their “life together” would end, but sure it was eminent and likely would end by their violent deaths. Such was the setting Bob Lee and your uncle shared in their brief encounter that resulted in a bond whose value never faded even after these long years.

    May we not take for granted the gift we have in each other at CrossPoint. May we not take it for granted due to its abundance and ease. May we learn from the testimonies of those who have gone before us, treasuring in our hearts the gifts they are calling us to recognize as holy and precious, worthy of lifting them up as sacred and using them according to their value. May we seek the same bonds between each other that Bob Lee shared with your uncle, the bonds that last an eternity.

    Thanks for the testimony, Ryan. Peace be with you, brother.

  2. 2 pastorron7
    November 14, 2008 at 9:44 am

    After reading the essays and about your trip with uncle Luke, I wondered if you had (Or could find) a picture of your uncle for those of us who now feel a connection to our freedom through him? Thank you for your encouragement. I was deeply moved by the essay about Gold Star mothers too…

  3. 3 Beth Hendrix
    November 15, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    We have never met but I visit your blog often because of the link from Pastorron7, who I credit with bringing me closer to God than anyone else ever has. I loved the story of your Uncle Luke; which demonstrates love of family and Christian brothers so clearly. Couldn’t wait to read the next installment and am a little sad that it is over. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. November 17, 2008 at 8:17 am

    The Lord bless you, Beth. Thanks for reading.

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