As a Pastor, I get the wonderful chance to meet so many different people. Each of them have a special place in my heart. They make me a better man by encouraging me to live beyond my means and make Jesus number one in my life.
One such individual, whom I consider another Grandpa was Merton Willette. He served his country in World War II in the U.S. Navy and left with a Lieutenant Junior Grade rank. Before his death in 2012 he had the privilege to take a Military Honour Flight to the WWII Memorial in Washington DC.
He had a beautiful wife who he gracefully took care of for years until her passing around 2003. Having no children, he claimed my parents and my sisters and I as family. Merton was a world traveler. At the age of 95 he took a missions trip to Kenya, Africa preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. From the time his wife went home to be with Jesus to the time he also went home, Merton went on a cruise or missions trip every year for nearly ten years.
Here was a man, who served his country faithfully and after coming to faith in Christ served his God faithfully until his passing. One of my favorite phrases he said was, “God bless you and yours.” Every Sunday, he would ask how I’ve been and if he could pray for me. He would shake my hand, tell me how good of a preacher I was and how good of drummer I was. The funny thing, he didn’t like the drums, in-fact he told me to turn those loud thumping machines down so he could hear the piano.
When I received the call of Merton’s passing, my heart saddened. I knew he was happier, I knew he saw his Saviour.
On our wedding day, my wife and I had a memorial vase for grandparents who’ve passed on. I respectfully placed a single rose for my dear friend Merton.
When I think about the sacrifice he made for our nation and for our God, I couldn’t help but be inspired to do more for the kingdom of God. “Jesus said, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…'” John 14:23
We are called to give up completely to God, every area of our life. My father said to me the other day, “Do we invite Jesus into our lives into our journey? or… Does Jesus invite us into his life, into his journey?” That is a question we all must come to grips with. We are not inviting Jesus into our lives. Christian faith has never been that, it has always been Jesus inviting us into his life. When we turn the tables on our faith like that, there is no telling what God will do in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
When I think about Merton, he didn’t care what other’s thought. He didn’t care that he was well into his nineties while traveling the world, telling people about Jesus. This is our mandate, our calling. In the military there is only one question… ARE YOU ALL IN? My question, are you all in? Are you willing to lay aside everything you know about being a follower of Christ and give up completely to in a hasty and audacious way to our Lord? That is what it means to live with reckless abandon. That ‘s what it means to be all in.
We are called to preach the Gospel. It will provoke, it will upset the status quo, but are we to limit ourselves to what others think or are we willing to go all out and go all in? We are called to have respect for the sacrifice our fallen heroes made for our country. But we are to have a greater respect for the sacrifice Jesus made for us.
What are you willing to do this Memorial Day for your faith in Christ?
J. B. Sisam