by Rod Janz
My friend Dale (not his real name) was a Marine during the Vietnam war. Today the battle continues for Dale. I’m not always too sure what to think of Dale’s stories because they are usually about conspiracies, spiritual warfare, the sad state of the church, and the end of the world. One thing I do know about Dale is, inspite of his quirkiness, he loves God. Even as we sweat it out at the gym he is often moved to tears as he talks about his relationship with God. Today as we worked out he told me an incredible story about a time when he had to be rescued out of the jungle in Vietnam.
He and five of his buddies were surrounded and seemingly outnumbered by an invisible, yet very real enemy. It was night time and Dale was painted in black grease paint, so the enemy couldn’t see him. Every noise was intensified by his fear as he thought it might be someone closing in to kill him.
Lynden B. Johnson, the President of the United States at the time, was in Vietnam. Somehow, he heard about this small group of outnumbered Marines pinned down in the jungle and ordered two helicopters to go and see if they couldn’t get them out of this precarious situation. The main problem for the helicopters was trying to see where Dale and his buddies were hiding. The Marines would have to use something reflective to catch the attention of the helicopter pilots. The problem with this was that to avoid detection by the enemy the Marines avoided wearing, or carrying, anything with them that might reflect light in case it gave them away. Another obvious problem for the helicopters was the possibility of getting shot down during the rescue.
Off in the distance Dale and one of his fellow Marines thought they heard a helicopter. “Naw” they whispered to each other, “just wishful thinking.” Sure enough, as the helicopter got closer there was no mistaking the sound, but how would the helicopter ever see them?
Suddenly, one of the Marines reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter. He lit it and held it high in the air. Normally, the other Marines would have jumped on the guy and made him put it out. This time they just sat and watched. If they stayed where they were, they were going to die. They were pretty sure they were outnumbered and couldn’t fight their way out of this one. If the chopper landed they would probably get shot and die as they tried to get into it. If they managed to get into the helicopter alive, they would probably get shot down. They had nothing to lose, so they just watched the Marine with his lighter and sat dumbfounded by the situation. Other than the Marine holding his lighter in the air, no one moved until Dale shook hands with his buddy as if to say goodbye, possibly forever.
Miraculously, the helicopter saw the light. Miraculously, the Marines got into the helicopter without being shot. Miraculously, the helicopter took off out of the jungle and didn’t get shot down. Mission accomplished.
Dale was barely a believer when this happened, but as he climbed into the helicopter and sat on the floor he says a silly little song he learnt as a kid in Sunday School came to mind: “this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…” Ever since Dale’s rescue, his light has become increasingly brighter and many people have been saved and delivered from an enemy that Dale believes is just as real as the one that was hiding in the jungle waiting for the opportunity to kill him in Vietnam.
I like Dale. I only see him at the gym and he is definitely a light to me and to the people he comes in contact with while he works out. In the midst of a dark world, he reminds me that I’m called to shine the light of Christ so that others might be rescued from darkness.