When the general met the king

Voices of Religion

Posted: Friday, August 19, 2005

More than 30 years have passed since I met the general — an unforgettable meeting that took place as the result of answering a classified ad.

We had just moved into a new home, our first with a formal dining room, and were looking for a china cabinet. Since we couldn’t afford a new one, we searched the classifieds and called about one we hoped would be within our budget.

“My husband is ill and we’re getting ready to move to Chicago to be near his doctor,” said the woman who answered my call.

Shortly after listening to a brief description of the cabinet, Pauline and I were on our way to see it, still not sure of the price.

In less than an hour, we found ourselves standing before the object of our search, at ease in conversation with the charming owner and surprised at how reasonably the cabinet of our dreams — well, Pauline’s dreams — was priced. During our conversation, I glanced at a framed certificate on the wall next to me that said, “Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

“Has a member of your family served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff?” I asked.

At that moment, a distinguished-looking man stepped into the room who, having heard my question, answered it.

“Yes,” he said. “I was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Cuban missile crisis, serving under President Kennedy.”

We quickly agreed to buy the china cabinet at the owner’s haggle-free price and soon the general and I were taking measurements of the cabinet and my Chrysler station wagon to see if the two were compatible. At the same time, I was taking other measurements.

Knowing the general was entering the battle of his life, I began asking questions about his relationship with God.

We talked openly, man to man, about God’s great offer of eternal life through faith alone. He was gracious and pleased to talk, but when we headed home, I was uneasy about the general’s preparation for his coming war with cancer and what might follow, so uneasy that I returned later to talk again.

Months later, I was invited to be the speaker for a conference at a church near Chicago. While there, I decided to visit the general, so I arranged to be away from the church for a day to travel to the military hospital where he was being treated.

When I entered the general’s hospital room, I found him very thin but smiling, sitting on the edge of his bed with intravenous tubes in his arm coming down from bottles suspended from a portable carrier. He told me how a missionary-turned-chaplain had been visiting him regularly, praying with him and ministering to him.

“Are you sure now that you will go to heaven?” I asked.

“Yes, I am sure!” he replied, emphatically.

Then he stood up, placed one hand on his rolling portable intravenous bottle carrier, walked straight to me and threw his arms around me, saying, “You have no idea what it means to me that you have come.”

The general had reached the pinnacle of his profession, having sat among the most powerful people in the world as they maneuvered their nation through a serious crisis, but the most important day of his life was when, by faith, he met the King.

And the most important thing each believer can do is introduce others to the King. After all, we’re members of his cabinet.

Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich. He has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.

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