Two or three times each year I spend some time working the phone banks at KTIS radio during their sharathon fund raising drives. I like the pace, I’m good at it, and they appreciate the help. I also get to talk to a lot of tremendous people with great hearts and good stories. They could use your help in funding the station, and it’s a great station. They are making huge inroads into the community for Christ, and the music is uplifting and encouraging. Here’s a link if you’d like to donate.
I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and some years “that call” comes the first day. Some years it comes every day. This year, this time, it came Thursday morning. I’ve changed the names to protect identities, and since the listener wanted to share the whole thing on air I don’t feel that I’m violating any confidences. But, to be sure, I’ll change a detail or two about these calls so that they are not quite real, but close enough to understand what I experienced today – and what choked me up so badly that I had to take a moment to gather myself.
I learned long ago that God puts us in certain places at certain times to provide comfort and aid to people that need our help. Sometimes he puts us there to help ourselves. Thursday morning I’d had a series of great calls. I’m going to paint the picture of what led to caller 67 for you.
The first relevant call came from a Claudia, a nurse who was so excited about her new job that she had to tell me all about it: she was going to work at the VA hospital in Minneapolis. I thanked her for serving me, and my fellow vets, and then spent a minute praying with her and blessing her for her role in my life. I asked God to cover her with grace and make sure she was satisfied in her work as an angel of mercy to the disabled.
A few calls later I was talking to Angela, a woman with virtually nothing. I recognized her address as being in a ghetto area. She was making a meager donation to the station, hardly worth the effort in her own opinion. I realized that this was exactly what Christ was talking about in Mark 12:41-44. I knew that this monthly gift was from deep in her heart, all she had to give. I let her know that this was as big a deal to me, and the station, as a $1,000 dollar gift from another sponsoring listener. She was doing her part to spread the word, faithful to God and herself. I thanked her and prayed with her as well. Such a tender heart, such a good heart.
A short time later the call that popped my circuit breakers rolled in to my headset. We were running a dedication to our personal superheroes. The caller, Marion, started out by telling me that “Axle was my superhero, even if he doesn’t fit the description to most people.” She went on to explain that her son Axle was a two-tour veteran of Afghanistan. Heroic so far. And she went on to tell me that Axle had passed away a year before; haunted by his personal demons he’d taken his own life.
Marion talked for a while about how Axle loved God and was a believer, but he was so damaged (her word) by his service that he couldn’t make it another day. In the wake of his death his family was shattered as though an explosion had taken place. Siblings and parents no longer even talked to each other, silence and sadness ruled the home.
I listened and wrote down what she said. I took her donation. And then we prayed. We prayed for Axle, his family, his siblings, his mother, and for some healing to all who have been wounded in war. I encouraged her to seek out a support group and talk to others who had gone through this terrible tragedy. I told her of my loss of friends to suicide in the years following our service, and how I felt the empty void staring at us all from time to time. I let her know that she wasn’t alone, that we were all in this together, and that there was hope for her family.
And that’s why I answer the phones. Because caller 67 needed to talk to a veteran who’d lost friends to suicide. A veteran who knew of the darkness that haunts our dreams. A veteran who loved Marion as though she was his own mother. God put me there today to talk to Marion, Angela, and Claudia. Not to take credit cards, but to pray and encourage. To love and be loved. To share that witness for Jesus that keeps me going when darkness invades the light.
God bless you, Marion. And Axle, Claudia, and Angela. You are in my prayers tonight.