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The legend of the ANZACs that began in WW1, has continued throughout the years. In fact, words like mateship, loyalty and sacrifice are now synonymous with our service men and women.
However, as we remember those who have served our country in times of war and conflict, let us not forget those who cared for and served them.
One such man was Salvation Army Red Shield Representative and unofficial Padre to the Rats of Tobruk, Arthur McIlveen.
In May 1941, Arthur McIlveen responded to a faint voice calling from the darkness, “Aqua! Aqua!” McIlveen recalled, “I crawled forward in the dark and found a wounded Italian soldier and offered him my water-bottle. Instead of taking a drink, the wounded Italian rolled over and held the water-bottle to the lips of his wounded comrade. Then he took a single sip for himself – knowing the shortage of water in the desert – and handed the water-bottle back to me and said, “Grazie.” I thought to myself, “Australians aren’t the only ones to have cobbers!””1
This was not the only time that McIlveen showed care and concern for not only those in his own brigade, but even for those seen as the ‘enemy’.
Well-known for playing his gramophone, with records held together by all kinds of adhesives, it is said McIlveen played his records to German and Italian prisoners with as much feeling as he did for his mates.1
To care for your friends – that’s mateship. But to care for your enemies – that takes compassion.
During one failed attack in 1941, 55 of McIlveen’s own battalion were killed. ‘Padre Mac’, as he was known, wrote, “I knew all these men personally and tried hard to be a faithful witness to Jesus.”1
And that was the key to his love and compassion for both his friends and ‘enemies’.
Like ‘Padre Mac’, the person who gave you this flyer cares for you enough to be the same faithful witness to Jesus that McIlveen was to his men.
What is that message?
Just like the men and women who have served in our military, you and I cannot claim to be good.2 Although we might think of ourselves as a good person when compared to someone like Hitler, when compared to God, and his perfect law, we fall far short.3 Try this little test and see for yourself.
1. Have you ever told a lie?
2. Have you ever stolen anything, regardless of its value?
3. Have you ever used God’s name in vain?
4. Have you ever hated anyone? The Bible says whoever hates his brother is a murderer.4
If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, then God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, murderer-at-heart. You would be guilty when you face God on Judgement Day. The Bible says the ‘wages of sin is death’5, which is why you and I deserve hell.
However, the Bible also says that God, Who is rich in mercy, loved you so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to suffer and die on a cross in our place, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.6 Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death.7
To all who repent (turn from their sin) and put their trust in Christ’s death and resurrection, God will grant the gift of everlasting life.8
This is what McIlveen dedicated his life to sharing. I ask you to consider it today. You may not have tomorrow.
1. Lindsay Cox, Cuppa Tea, Digger?, Melbourne: Salvo Publishing, 2020, Extract; 2. Romans 3:10; 3. Romans 3:23; 4. 1 John 3:15; 5. Romans 6:23; 6. John 3:16; 7. 2 Corinthians 5:21; 8. Acts 3:19.