After reading Donna Wasson’s amazing eye-opening article about her grandfather, I felt inspired to tell a brief story about my own grandfather whose name was Faris. After my birth, I was blessed to carry on his name as my middle name, as he was an amazing Christian man for as long as I knew him until he sadly passed away in my early 20’s in 2003. He was the best “Papaw” (as we use to call him) and it was a very sad day for my family to lose him, but it was also good to know he had gone to meet the Lord and his wife Margie in God’s Kingdom. I could probably write a whole interesting biography on this man, however there is one little story I’d like to share in particular about his own encounter with Jesus Christ while he was alive…
It was during World War 2 my grandfather served to go fight the Germans, as many of our grandfather’s once did, and he use to tell us a very true story about the time he was hunkering down in a fox hole with bullets relentlessly whizzing over and around him and his fellow soldiers and a moment came over him where he felt like he we simply going to die. Now, before I go on, know that my grandfather was never really a storyteller. He didn’t make things up for the sake of it, but the true stories he told were amazing. He was a truthful, kind, fun and gentle man who loved his family, playing the acoustic guitar, and fishing, and he taught me when to yank up the ole’ fishin’ pole just in time to set the hook into the mouth of whatever soon-to-be lunch we’d be fishing for at the lake! This was years after the war when he’d spend his summers with his family, grandkids and friends after retiring from his ice-cream job driving around in his refrigerated van serving the children cold snacks on those hot days in his later years.
So anyway, he was in the war and just to clarify, a foxhole is basically a trench, a small hole dug in the ground during a war or military attack which is used by a small group of soldiers as a base for firing at the enemy and is a kind of shelter from enemy fire. It was 1944 in Germany (I confirmed this with his son – my uncle) and it was nearing the end of the war when my grandfather was down in that cold dirty old trench, gripping his rifle tight and was obviously terrified like the rest of his comrades when he says he suddenly he looked up into the sky and began to pray… Time stops. I am now picturing all of this in slow motion as if it were almost a movie. Now remember, we’ve always believed him 100% because of the person he was. I’ve raised various questions to him throughout the years during my life and his story never wavered. Every time he told it, it was the same experience exactly as he remembered it. Now, from that trench, he stared into the sky that day, with dirt flying in his face and terror around him as he and his friends were being shot at endlessly from the barrage of a Nazi offensive by Hitler’s army. As he looked up, he noticed the clouds began to do something rather odd. He described a distinct sudden parting of these clouds and what he witnessed was a figure materializing through the opening cloud-curtain and this figure was sitting on some type of seat and that figure turned around (almost like in a swivel chair he’d say) and looked down, pointing directly at him. Grandpa would mimic this pointed-finger gesture every time with his crooked elbow arm and said he immediately knew this figure was Jesus Christ. He said this figure had a long flowing white robe as he sat there staring down at him. Jesus said to him in plain, clear-as-day English; “Son, you’re going home.” And that was that. His story was always so sincere and his eyes were full of truth and awe as he spoke about it. Just as quickly as the vision had presented itself and unfolded before him on that field, time sped up again as the jarring sounds of exploding gunpowder quickly snapped him back to the horrible reality, though I imagine he’d almost have a euphoric-like ease after experiencing such an awesome thing.
The calming eye of the storm had passed, but what an experience. It wasn’t long after this encounter with God, my grandfather fell on his rifle and broke his arm and had to be brought back to the States to a hospital. If Christ said or showed anything else to my grandfather that day, he never told us about it. He lived through that battle, and the war, and did come back home to Hamilton, Ohio, and lived to be a good old ripe age of 82. Ever since he broke that arm, it was never the same. He’d always have a funny crook to it when he’d point his hand out, and you could tell it had been broken and not reset properly. I’m sure this was a lifelong reminder to him of God’s awesome power and what he did for him that day. This kind of reminds me of Jacob’s cripple!
“Son, you’re going home.” Enough said, right? When Jesus says something, I think it’s safe to believe that He means it. It must have been a phenomenal reassurance to a terrified man being bombarded by an advancing enemy with your ears ringing and your friends dying around you. What else can you do but surrender to God? Nothing about this story he’d tell ever left us with any doubt that this was a literal vision from God to one of his humbled servants. I don’t think God had any problem revealing himself to my grandfather that day because He knew his faith was already solid and did not require any proof anyway, though I am positive it would have been more reassuring to hear God’s plan was to send him home! He wasn’t asleep or knocked out, and it wasn’t a dream. If he says it happened, I believe him, but that’s up for you to decide. I wonder how many other Christian soldiers saw God that day (or even today) and lived to tell about it or keep it to themselves. Grandpa told us though, and he did go home just as God told him he would.
Grandpa went on to take care of his soldier friend Virgil’s wife after he died in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, as they were both from the same city and had been friends for some time and both lost someone they cared about. My grandfather consoled her before they went on to eventually get married and live a long, happy life together right up until she took her last breath in the late 1980’s. They brought two souls into the world after their marriage; my mom and her brother. Margie’s death hurt Grandpa more than any war or bullet could. I remember him very sad a lot when I was a child after her passing but somehow he managed to pull through and lived another 15+ years without her. After lung cancer took her life, he quit the smokes cold-turkey and never touched them again, which no doubt increased his lifespan!
What happened on that battlefield was divine in my opinion. Jesus didn’t say; “… you’re COMING home.” That might imply he was about to die and go to Heaven and anyone probably would have stood up and gone out shooting in the blaze of glory! No, he said GOING and He meant it to mean he was going to live through that war, and he did, and the rest is history.
God is real my friends, and he will help you through your wars and trials too, even when the enemy’s bullets are flying past you from every direction, threatening your very life. Never lose sight of that, even when it feels hopeless and you’re hiding down in your own foxhole in a moment of weakness or fear. Whatever your war is, whatever battle, whether physical, mental or spiritual, remember one of the first passages my mother made me memorize at an early age; “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my personal family story.