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Divine encounters

By Bob Koscak

We were the first American combat troops to enter Vietnam in the spring of 1965. I had been raised in a church, but as we sailed from Hawaii toward Vietnam all my religious upbringing collapsed. I would have believed in anything if someone had been there to tell me a better way. But there was nothing and no one.

I knew I was lost. I felt empty and hopeless. I was likely going into action and had no hope for the future even if I survived. It would be another four years before I met our Lord. That encounter has changed my life.

I was a corpsman (medic) with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, from 1963 to 1965. I ended up being sent back to the States as a “short-timer” before the ammo was passed out. But I am now a member of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines Association, and often wear a cap proudly signifying that involvement (often to my wife’s chagrin since it is quite crusty).

Recently, I was eating breakfast at a motel when the lady cleaning tables saw my cap and asked me if I had been in the Marines. I answered, “Yes.” With her face turning pale, she said her son was a Marine infantryman in Iraq and she was very concerned since she hadn’t heard from him for a few weeks.

“If I had to be in Iraq,” I told her, “I’d want to be with a Marine infantry unit.” She dropped her cleaning rag and looked at me with a shocked expression.

“I say that for two reasons,” I continued. “First, Marine infantry are well trained and know what their job is. They know how to deal with any attack. And second, they don’t leave anyone behind or on their own. Your son will not be abandoned and left somewhere; other Marines will always respond and help their fellow Marines.”

We talked some more and she took a closer look at my cap. Surprised, she said her son was also in the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and in Kilo Company — my old unit!

My mind shot back to when I needed God in my life but couldn’t find Him. I remembered being on that ship in the spring of 1965. I didn’t want this lady in the motel or her son in Iraq to be hopeless.

She asked, “Who are you and why are you here today?” I told her I was an Assemblies of God minister and appointed U.S. missionary involved in Native American ministry. She asked me if I would write to her son in Iraq. I said I would.

As we parted we shook hands and she said, “I need a hug.” As we hugged in the lobby of the motel, she cried in my arms and I prayed for her son. I prayed for God to protect him, reveal himself to him and bring him and his fellow Marines back home safe.

As I was leaving I said to the woman, “You realize our meeting here was ordained by God, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do,” she said. There were still tears in her eyes.

I wrote to her son and have continued to pray for him.

I wonder how many times in the lives of His followers God ordains encounters with someone who is hurting. Maybe the link is as simple as an old Marine cap. In any case, we need to be ready to step out with God’s love and comfort.

BOB KOSCAK is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and appointed missionary to Native Americans.

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