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Faith Lessons from Guantanamo Bay

“Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers dont get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.”
II Timothy 2:3-4

Months ago, we were asked if we’d like to conduct some leadership training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We were honored at the request, but, to be honest, we wondered what ordinary civilians like us could offer the highly-trained military men and women on this 111-year-old naval base. Yet we knew this would be an amazing adventure full of wonderful experiences. What surprised us most, however, were the lessons about faith that awaited us there!

As soon as our feet hit the ground at GTMO, we were whisked into a world where duty, honor, and service seem second-nature to our soldiers. Their work ethic is outstanding, and, as we quickly discovered, it’s pretty much 24/7, 365. Polite, determined, courageous, humble, and loyal are a sampling of adjectives we’d use to describe the military personnel we met at every corner of the base.

Most of all, these soldiers adhere to a collective faith in something far greater than themselves: freedom. This foundation of faith drives their efforts, day in and day out.

What a picture of our spiritual faith, because God is the One who offers us the greatest freedom of all. The Lord wants every man, woman, and child to experience the amazing life He always hoped for them-and then life eternal in Heaven once our mission here on Earth is completed.

Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul used the imagery of a soldier to encourage us in our walk of faith. Soldiering involves sacrifice, and that sometimes includes suffering. The men and women at GTMO could tell you stories about that; we heard many such tales during our visit. They could also share about how they strive each day to make certain their commanding officer is pleased with their service-a great goal for us to remember as followers of Christ.

By the way, the Apostle Paul penned these words in a Roman prison cell after his arrest for sharing about his faith. Yet look at how he felt about that situation:

“So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.”
II Timothy 2:10

Paul understood the core of faith, and he was willing to let go of his own liberty if it offered others enduring freedom- the chance to be saved and live forever with God one day in the future.

This is exactly what faith in something bigger than ourselves will do, as we witnessed during our week at Guantanamo Bay. Faithful soldiers give of themselves. Soldiers are willing to sacrifice and even suffer. But soldiers also firmly believe that freedom is worth sacrificing for-a tremendous lesson of faith for all of us to follow!

Thought of the Month

“… the officer sent some friends to say, ‘Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, “Go,” and they go, or “Come,” and they come. And if I say to my slaves, “Do this,” they do it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I havent seen faith like this in all Israel!'”

Luke 7:6b-9