I’ve officially visited 9 airports in less than 8 days on two different trips on 3 different coasts. Needless to say, without a MacBook Pro, blogging is a bit inhibited. (Though the WordPress iPhone App is certainly handy, it’s not as functional as my iMac).
Things finished up at “Radikal for Jesus” in Longuyon, France just smashingly, with guest speaker Ricardo Solano of Mexico taking the final Sunday morning service and yours truly closing out the weekend Sunday night. Building memories with youth from around the world is truly one of the jewels that I will take into paradise with me, as it is one of my desires to present nations to the Lord on the Last Day.
After a day of personal ministry to some of my dear friends who are going through a difficult situation, my father and I took a day off and hit the road with my French-bro Manu. It’s not often I get a chance to sight-see while abroad, but this was an expedition I’ve been waiting to do with my dad for over a decade.
Normandy was our direction, and Omaha Beach, our destination.
To say it’s a historically significant locale would be an understatement. Abounding with monuments, museums, and restaurants like “The D-Day Hotel,” one gets the impression that the boys that laid their lives down nearly 65 years ago would never have imagined we’d be dining on the beach they bled over. But as I waxed melodramatic, my dad–son of a WWII Marine Corps Col.–spoke aptly as he ate his steak: “They’re saying, ‘you better dig in boys; this one’s on us’.”
After wandering the sands of Omaha Beach, we drove up to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. I can honestly say it’s one of the three most sobering locations I have ever been to on the planet, paired with both Pearl Harbor and Auschwitz.
The biggest surprise, however, was receiving the honor of a lifetime. While walking the hushed pathways through the manicured gardens, a strong American voice behind me asked, “So where are you boys from?”
Without so much as turning around I said, “New York.” It’s not often you here a strong US accent in France, so meeting a fellow American at this memorial seemed likely.
“Well, would you both like to retire the colors?”
As my dad and I turned around, we both realized we were standing face-to-face with the head curator for the national cemetery. I think a “yes” came out of my mouth, but I really don’t remember. In fact, I think I was floating up the rest of the walkway, turning up to the two flagpoles with thousands of crosses now in view; and further, my knees weak as we stood for the lowering of the flags with the color guard to the playing of taps.
Both my dad and I wept as we folded the two flags, the entire cemetery now freezing at attention, watching two pastors from New York retiring the colors.
I thought of my grandfather and his first landing on numerous Pacific Theater islands.
I thought of the over 4,000 men that gave their lives on D-Day.
I thought of the freedom my children so richly enjoy.
And I thought of the privilege it is to be an American, truly blessed by the Living God.
But more than that, I thought of the anointing that I felt on the grounds. An unexplainable presence of the Lord that, in fact, caught me completely off guard. Only later would I learn the reason.
The pastors who live in the north of France consider Omaha Beach their nation’s greatest revival. “I don’t understand,” I said to Pastor Vincent Fernandez. He went on to explain a little known fact about the Normandy Invasion. In an unprecedented move not replicated in any other moment in the war, the clergy on board the incoming ships–cross denominational, and without regard to theological bias–insisted that each young man give their heart to Christ, knowing that their deaths were imminent. Not only was there a mass conversion of thousands of young allied forces soldiers on those shores, but the cemetery stands as what the French pastors believe is a cemetery of Christian martyrs, dying for the cause of freedom, and that of Jesus Christ. It was a story I had never heard as an American, but is fairly common among believing Christians in that region. And it is a story I will never forget. ch: