Core scripture: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10)
Message: (This blog is a continuation of my post a few weeks ago called “Follow His Voice.”)
His warm smile greeted me. Mike Clark, Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran, was escorted through my door by our assistant principal. I shook his hand and introduced him to my AEWI (homeroom) class. The kids shyly smiled at him, but it took them no time to warm up to Mike.
Mike took control quickly. That military mentality oozed from his every essence, and the kids respectfully listened. I barely had the chance to introduce him before he excitedly jumped into his presentation. I sat back and listened to the rare treat of hearing Mike’s stories. They were thick with detail, wisdom, and heartfelt love to share.
The only thing we could hear was his gravely voice. The man was a machine. From class to class, all throughout the day, we learned how Mike gave back to others through his POW/MIA museum and his help with veterans suffering from PTSD. The kids asked question after question, and the stories we heard—oh, the stories! Here are just a few highlights of the countless tales Mike told:
- His most scary near-death experience? Being blown off a missile launcher by the engine blast from an airplane in the middle of the night and treading water for 9 hours in the ocean before being rescued.
- His best friend? James Stockdale. Google the guy. The Medal of Honor recipient spent nearly eight years in the Hanoi Hilton POW camp.
- Mike served in Desert Storm and a book, The Gulf Between Us, was written about his role in helping locate American POWs. It is going on my summer read list.
- Upon returning from Vietnam, Mike was spit at, cussed out, and even had a protestor smear dog poop on him as he left the bus in San Francisco. Mike said that it is common for Vietnam vets who proudly wear the hat today to nod and say, “Welcome home,” as they pass one another in public. Mike never wore his hat for those first 10 years.
- As a 7th grader Mike told his middle school teacher that he wanted to join the Navy. The teacher laughed at him, saying, “Good luck with that pipe dream!” He ran into that same teacher at a 20-year reunion, dressed in his immaculately pressed Navy white uniform.
- Mike was an extra in the hit movie Top Gun! Remember the bar scene where Maverick sings to his girl? Yep, Mike appeared for a split second, walking behind Tom Cruise. We watched the scene, amused at his cameo appearance.
Mike got a break during my personal plan when I got caught up on e-mail and graded a few assignments. He snagged a coffee at 7-11, the place we met over a month ago, and made a trip home to grab a few newspaper articles for visual aides. Upon his return he confessed he didn’t know he was staying for the entire day. The poor guy thought he was just staying for the morning! Yet he gladly served that afternoon stint, gaining momentum each time he spoke, soaking in every moment with my kids.
I still marvel at my day with Mike. My students got to hear him for 50 minutes each, but me? I got to hear him for the entire day! I could have chatted the guy up until the sun went down, asking more questions and seeking his wisdom. Mike gave back to our students like none other, modeling exactly what they will begin doing tomorrow in their Giving Back presentations.
Be that person this week. Serve with a glad heart. Give back to your students, your family, colleagues, friends, even strangers you meet at 7-11. When you give back, not only are you modeling what Christ did for us, but you are inspiring others to do the same. Make the world curious about your acts of service this week. With every act of kindness, the Lord is glorified.
Challenge: Do you want to give a shout out to Mike? Send him a reply on this blog. He will be reading it, and he would certainly appreciate any words of thanks. The man undoubtedly deserves it.
Other scripture: One of my favorite scripture for soldiers is John 15:13. It states, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Reflect on the meaning of that verse in how it applies not only to our Lord, Jesus Christ, but also to your willing sacrifices you make as a Christian.
Song application: Watch this Three Doors Down video “When I’m Gone.” It epitomizes the welcome home that all Vietnam vets deserved to receive long ago.
Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …
- Praise God for Mike Clark and the golden opportunity my students had in hearing from him.
- Pray that Mike’s stories and wisdom will inspire my students in their presentations this week.
- Pray that you can act out the Lord’s will, giving back to your students consistently, so that they might follow your lead, giving back themselves.
Just for fun: Our church youth group went paintballing at our Winter Retreat on Saturday night. In the last game, I was hit and raised my arms up in surrender, walking slowly toward the rear. Suddenly a barrage of fresh paintballs pelted my neck, back, and legs, causing me to sprint away! Looking back on it, if I were a middle schooler watching my youth leader surrender, I’d probably pelt him, too.
Bonus picture: Mike when he was in the Navy at about 35 years old.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for being the ultimate act of sacrifice in giving back to us on the cross. May we follow your selfless lead, giving back to others, inspiring them to do the same. Amen.