A Warrior’s Diary: Part 1 – 7/1/2017

This piece begins a fictional serial, based on experiences I’ve had, coupled with speculation about what might be happening ‘behind the scenes’ – in the spiritual realm.  Those elements are purely speculative, of course, but represent hopefulness on my part.  (My thanks to the imaginative novels of Randy Alcorn and Frank Peretti for some of the ideas penned here.) You should not view the main character, Steve, as ‘me’, but if you know me, you might suppose that he’s a guy I might get along with quite well.

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This time has been refreshing, joyful, a time to celebrate, a time to reacquaint with my fellow warriors, a time to revel in the very presence of my Master.  Yet my desire burns within me once more, as it has so many times in the past.  I yearn for service in the battle below.  I and my compatriots sense that the time is short, and I most certainly want to be in engaged when the conflict reaches its climax.

This last assignment was precious, oh so very precious.  What a privilege to serve this precious saint, called by many of his countrymen, ‘The Gentle One.’  Yes, gentle in demeanor, soft-spoken and compassionate in sharing the Good News with those who would hear, but . . . the heart of a lion!  With courage and determination rivaling the best of my clan, he kept me very busy, because my Master led him into much danger, and the Adversary fought hard to end The Gentle One’s service prematurely, before he had finished his course.

mountain trail in Tibet

mountain trail in Tibet

Our battles led us from his little village in Qinghai province into the western provinces, across the Tibetan and Nepalese borders, even into Kashmir and India.  The Gospel took hold in village after village, small house churches growing and spreading their joy, new converts walking the mountain trails and wading streams to spread the Good News yet farther.  The Gentle One’s own children hiked eastward, over the mountains into the heart of his land’s tyranny, giving their lives while still in their prime, but not before many repented, even Party leaders, becoming witnesses of Elohim’s grace to others.

Opposition was fierce, of course.  I and my clan had to be diligent as the Enemy’s troops employed every trick possible, at times trying to distract and entice a misstep on a steep mountain trail, at other times working openly to stir up Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist or even Communist leaders to harass, to persecute, or to arrest . . . even to brazenly attempt open murder.  The Gentle One’s prayers, and the prayers of his many brothers and sisters, filled us with our Master’s strength, until my charge finished his good fight . . . finished brutally by knives of hatred, just outside a small home, after winning his very last convert, a widowed mother.

As we were saying our farewells, just moments ago, a portal opened nearby, a ‘portal of rejoicing.’  This dear saint and I, along with several of his new found family, along with others of my clan, rejoiced to see that reborn mother use the Bible the old evangelist had given her to explain the story of redemption to her oldest daughter, whose heart also broke in repentance and faith . . . and another child entered the Kingdom.

house church in China

house church in China

I left him in his good company, among those who greeted him at his homecoming.  I then reported to my Commander.  Magnus’ expression was unreadable, his demeanor all business, as usual.

“Well, Janus, are you ready for your next assignment?”

“Yes, Commander.  My spirit is well refreshed.  Such great victories for our Master in the East!  I am eager to engage.  The time must be short, indeed!”

“That, of course, is not for us to know . . . yet I share your anticipation.  But there must be more souls to rescue before the Wrath of the Lamb is visited on the realm below.”

“Please, sir, end my suspense.  Where shall I serve?”

“All right, Janus, your assignment is to be Guardian to an aged saint by the name of Steve Bukowski.”

“That sounds Polish . . . Polish American?”

“Yes, Steve resides in a town outside the American city of Chicago.”

Distress overwhelmed me at this news.  “Commander, have I offended?  Please, tell me what I’ve done to warrant demotion?  Was The Gentle One’s death premature after all?  Did I fail to protect him?”

“No, by no means!  Your service was exemplary.  Did not our Master encourage you with His appreciation?”

“Well . . . yes, yes, I’m sorry to react so quickly.  But America . . . America is a backwater in this war.  Nothing seems to be happening there.  Our work in Asia is so . . . so glorious!  I was hoping . . . Commander, why did you choose this assignment for me?”

Magnus paused, then simply explained, “Your assignment is from Elohim . . . directly.”

This was . . . if not unprecedented, at least very unusual.  “Yes, Commander.  I abase myself.  You need explain no more . . . unless you wish to . . .”

My Commander laughed and said, “I wish I had more to tell you, yet I have but little more guidance.”

Magnus went on to detail the logistics of my assignment, including the point that Steve’s existing Guardian, Kamilo, would transition to detached service in the Chicago area.  I have served with Kamilo a couple of times before, but it has been several centuries since we spent much time together.  As my meeting concluded, I assured my Commander that I would give my assignment all of my devotion and energy.  He smiled, assuring me that he had utter confidence in me.

Blog 111 - image Metra trainMoments later I entered Earth’s atmosphere, conscious of the watchful gaze of the Adversary’s scouts.  They are quite vigilant to track the comings and goings of my clan.  I met Kamilo for our handoff on top of Steve Bukowski’s commuter train on its way into the city.  Kamilo was in a hurry, having just been informed that his service was needed on the city’s South side, so our meeting was short.  He promised to give me more background when things got a little quieter, hopefully in the early morning hours of the coming days.

I entered the passenger car to find Steve scrunched into a window seat.  The car was packed with commuters, although Steve wasn’t working for a paycheck anymore.  The old fellow’s carry bag rested on his lap, looking a bit heavy for his modest frame.  He was not impressive to look at, but I’ve had enough experience to know that appearances count for little.

Examining him closely, I can sense fatigue from a night of little sleep.  I would learn that he suffered considerable stress and nearly sleepless nights in anticipation of his forays into the city.  He looks worried, even nervous.  Yet his face has a determined expression on it as he silently prays, prayers forwarded on to me to inform my responsibility to protect him in his work, and to guide him to those who respond to the Spirit’s drawing.

The train stops and Steve moves with the alacrity of a much younger man, bounding down the passenger car’s stairs, walking quickly, weaving rapidly through the terminal’s crowds to get to the street.  The fatigue is gone.  His prayers are for safety, for energy, for wisdom, for boldness, and for the Spirit to work in hearts.

Immediately outside the terminal on the busy sidewalk, Steve picks out a Hispanic lady, offers her a tract, smiles, and says, “Good morning!  Here’s a free gift.”  When she takes it, he says, “God bless you,” and moves east along Madison Street.  Along the way to his first destination, Chicago’s Daley Center, Steve is able to give tracts to at least 30 people, targeting mostly laborers, but an occasional ‘suit,’ although ‘suits’ rarely accept, usually pretending that the old fellow does not even exist.

Ogilvie Station

Ogilvie Station

I see my first sign of the enemy while waiting for the light to change at Clark and Dearborn.  The corner directly across the street, the northwest corner of the block occupied by the Daley Center, is Steve’s objective, to catch the multitudes of people headed toward the courthouse in the early morning.  The demon avoids getting too close to me, leery of my sword gleaming in the sunshine, but simply zips in and out of a taxicab in the traffic moving south on Clark, a hundred yards north of us.  What mischief . . . ?

The light changes, with Steve eager to be first across the street, anxious to plant himself on the opposite sidewalk to offer tracts to the gaggle of pedestrians that will follow him across.  The traffic heading south on Clark screeches to a halt, except . . . that taxicab runs the red light . . . Steve has already stepped off the curb . . . I grab his shoulder and whisper a strong impression:  “WAIT!!”

The old fellow freezes, sees the cab race by just a few feet in front of him . . . trembling, Steve looks heavenward, says aloud, “Thank you, Lord!”, then quickly takes his next step, now in the midst of the pedestrians crossing the street.

The next couple of hours go by quickly.  I’m advised to guide Steve in making sure that particular individuals . . . even suits . . . are offered a tract.  He’s able to get several people to stop and talk.  It’s clear that it’s easier to give tracts to, or to engage in conversation with the poor rather than the rich, the plain rather than the lovely, the black or Hispanic rather than the white.  Steve goes after everyone he can, but when he has to choose one over another, he prioritizes by his experience.

One encounter is notable.  I see my brother-in-arms Kamilo once again, guiding in our direction a black fellow in his late twenties.  Ah, this is why Kamilo raced off to the South side.  This encounter was planned by Elohim.  I see several enemy warriors circling us, but Kamilo brandishes his sword boldly, and we are sure that we can keep the enemy at bay for the next few minutes . . . precious minutes.

Daley Center

Daley Center

Steve:  “Good morning!  Here’s a free gift – something to stimulate your mind!”

Kamilo gives me a quick brief and I observe that Leon hesitates, then stops as he accepts the tract.  So Steve presses on . . .

Steve:  “It’s a story about the big issues – life, death, Heaven, Hell.  Do you ever think about those things?”

Leon:  “Uh, sure . . . yeah, all the time.”

Steve:  “So here’s the big question:  If today is your last day on Earth, and you die, where will you be after that?”

Leon:  “Uh, I . . . don’t know.  Heaven, I hope.  But my life is so messed up now . . .”

Steve:  “What’s going on?”

Leon opens up about his busted marriage, his drunkenness, his little girl whom he never gets to see anymore.  Steve shows him much sympathy and compassion, but works to get past the surface issues.

Steve:  “What are you doing to make it right?  What’s your plan?”

Leon:  “Got no plan.  Theresa’s better off without me . . . It hurts, man.”

Steve:  “What if you could make it right?  The first thing is that you’ve got even bigger problems than you told me.  You’ve got to fix those first.”

Leon:  “What’re you talkin’ about?”

Steve:  “Everything you told me – that’s sin in your life.  You’ve hurt your wife and your baby girl, but more than that, you’ve offended God.  You’re one heartbeat from Hell and I don’t want you to go to Hell, man.  God wants to forgive you and he wants your wife to have a godly husband and your daughter to have a godly daddy.  You’ve got to repent, trust Christ, and get right with God.  THEN AND ONLY THEN . . . you can get God’s help to make things right with your family.  He’ll help you.  Don’t you want God’s help?”

Leon:  “Sure . . . yeah, sure, but how?”

Steve proceeds to go through the law with Leon, showing him what his sins really are in God’s sight, explaining judgment and Hell, then shares the Gospel with the young man, finally concluding with . . .

Steve:  “. . . Look, Leon, your part is simple – repent, turn from your sins, trust the Lord Jesus Christ.  He’ll give you a new heart, a new spirit.  Life changes.  You follow Him – His way!  Then you’ve got grounds to pray for your marriage, your family.  And then you’ve got something to show your wife and daughter.  Then you can teach them to know the Lord, too.  So what’re you gonna do?”

Leon:  “Uh, man, I know you’re right.  I’ve gotta think about this.”

Steve hands him some more assorted tracts, and shows him the phone number and web site printed on each one.  (The old fellow built a web site to give people a place to follow up.  I’ll have to review that material this evening.)  Then he exhorts Leon to call him, but mostly exhorts him to repent and trust Elohim today, no delay.  Leon is clearly under conviction as he walks away.  Steve prays briefly for the young fellow, then turns to get eye contact with the next pedestrian . . .

Steve:  “Good morning!  Here’s a free gift – something to stimulate your mind!”

Kamilo gives me a thumbs up as he departs, sticking close to Leon, determined to fend off the enemy as the Spirit works on the man’s heart.  Later on, on the train ride home, I’m given a portal into Steve’s thoughts as he thinks about his encounter with that lost soul, wondering whether he did his part well enough, fighting discouragement while hoping that he hears back from him, but offering one more prayer, asking his Lord to ‘stay on Leon’s trail.’

. . . In the months to follow I would learn from Kamilo, now assigned to Leon full time, that the Spirit brought other events and witnesses of Gospel truth into the young man’s life, finally provoking conviction whereby he cried out for forgiveness and mercy, leaving the broad road to destruction to walk the narrow path of righteousness and life . . . the path of a saved man, born again to serve the Master.  Leon – sadly – never thought to call Steve, which would have been of great encouragement, but they will meet again at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb . . . along with the rest of Leon’s family, who embraced the new man he became, AND embraced the Savior for their own . . . 

State Street

State Street

Through the rest of the day, Steve moves to various locations, ‘hot corners’ with busy pedestrian traffic, especially the corners of State and Madison, one of the historically busiest intersections in the world.  One notable encounter . . . An elderly lady responds with enthusiasm to Steve’s opening line, quickly identifying herself as a fellow believer in the Lord Jesus.  It’s clear to me that Steve’s discernment is quite mature, recognizing promptly in her signs of the new birth.  With others who claim conversion, I’ve noticed, he presses them for evidence.  America, apparently, is filled with churchgoers who are unregenerate.

But this Christian lady is both encouraged by and an encouragement to the old man.  He asks her if she would commit to handing out some tracts while she goes about her business downtown.  She eagerly accepts a stack of 75 tracts as she departs and, as she walks up State Street, begins to pass them out.  Seeing this lifts my charge’s spirit joyfully as he watches for a few moments, before he turns to smile at the pair of suits approaching . . . deciding to try a variation.

Steve:  “Good afternoon, gentlemen!  I have a free gift for you, designed for intellectuals.  Do you qualify?”

Hah!  That worked.  It won’t always, I’ll learn, but at least those two have a chance they would never otherwise have.

. . . As the sun sets, Steve walks slowly back to Ogilvie terminal, emptying his bag, once filled with 2,000 tracts, by the time he enters the station.  Folding himself into a single seat in the upper deck of the passenger car, he shows his exhaustion . . . but also contentment.  Reviewing the events of the day, he concludes that about a dozen of the people he talked to showed ‘traction’ – some visible indications of conviction.  I hear him ask the Lord whether he has done well, fighting discouragement again, but always concludes with a prayer that the Master use the tracts, use his witness, and work hard to save souls . . . whether or not Steve sees results himself.

The old man has seen evidence of several conversions over the years, but this is a different world from what I’ve recently experienced in Asia.  I’m sure that Steve Bukowski would be amazed to experience just a fraction of what The Gentle One saw in his life.  But he will have his own stories to tell in the ages to come.  I see now why I have this assignment.  This part of the harvest field is a far different challenge and the Master’s laborers have quite different obstacles.  I will have to learn fast to protect this servant and to encourage his faithfulness.

. . . . . To be continued . . . . .

  • drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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