- Photo by Glenna Bettis -
I was invited to speak to the recipients of the Purple Heart Medal (for wounds suffered in combat) at the Legends Ranch last week. My experience at the Billy Ray Parnell Purple Heart Hunt was one of the most moving experiences of my life. It was a remarkable week, capped off with a service of worship, during which we honored the vets.
Early in the hunt, my friend Skipper Bettis (pictured above) was asked by one of the Purple Heart recipients, "Why do you do this special hunt for us? Is it out of guilt that we went to war and were injured and you weren't?" During the closing service (a ten-year-tradition that wraps the vets' hunt) Skipper responded with one of the most eloquent, heart-felt answers I've ever heard. Here's what Skipper said, as I remember it:
"No. That's not it. That's not the guilt I carry. The guilt I feel regards all those years I spent in God's creation, hunting and enjoying the great outdoors with my friend who went to war more than 30 years ago. In all those trips, during all that time we enjoyed those experiences, I never presented the Gospel to him. I never talked with him about the salvation Jesus Christ wanted for him. I failed to offer him an opportunity to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior. Of course, I don't know what his relationship was with Jesus when he died, but the guilt I feel is the guilt I bear because I failed to offer him Christ. So, I don't want to fail you now. I don't want to end this hunt without offering you men Christ."
Skipper then presented a short and gracious invitation. He explained the sacrifice Jesus gave when he laid his life down on the cross and died for our sins, rose from the grave and paid-in-full the price of our salvation. He testified and then offered those gathered the very thing he is determined to offer his friends for the rest of his days - an opportunity to receive amazing grace and a life with Jesus Christ.
I was honored to be there, serving Christ beside Skipper's family, guides and staff. It was one of the finest moments I've shared with a brother.
2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.