Leave no one behind.
Our country is said to look after its own. The Latin phrase nemo resideo means “leave no one behind.” Some say it is as old as warfare itself. Stories the world over can be heard of platoons who are trained – and practice – coming back with everyone, whether dead or alive. If you have to carry a fellow soldier’s gear so he can make it back, you do it. If you have to help carry a weaker partner, you do it. Whatever it takes – you work as a team so no one is left behind.
The Marine Corps’ Personnel Retrieval and Processing Company is the team charged with retrieving the remains of fallen service members from the battlefield. Their rescue force is critical to finding and saving lost soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines.
Another battlefield without loss
There are others who serve on a different battlefield. This battlefield concerns the souls of men. My Uncle Simon never signed up for military service. He served, instead, as a deacon in my home church. He pursued a life of service to others in his spiritual care.
Uncle Simon spent battlefield time on his knees.
We knew him as a peaceful man. Uncle Simon made a practice of returning good for evil. He helped those afflicted or in trouble. As a decaon, he arranged for assistance for widows. He and Aunt Verda visited many folks in the hospital and their neighborhood. When there was a crisis, you would find them there.
Simon was also concerned about folks who didn’t know Jesus. Sometimes he asked his neighbors if he and Verda could come to their house to watch the Billy Graham crusades on television. The reason was two-fold: Simon didn’t own a television, and the neighbors didn’t go to church. If Simon visited in their home to watch the crusade, his neighbors watched with him and had the opportunity to hear the gospel even though they didn’t go to church.
The heart of the deacon.
Simon received no income for his role as deacon, and he provided for his family by farming. If you stopped in to visit, you could find him in his barn milking his cows or out in the field on the tractor. Sometimes he’d be repairing equipment or visiting with neighbors. At the end of a work day, he’d come in for supper and lead his family in prayer. I’m told that his mealtime prayer always ended the same way, just as his prayers in church.
Every Sunday morning at the end of his devotional time in the pulpit, he concluded with a prayer. I can’t tell you much about his prayer except for one thing: the last phrase. As a child, I know I heard this prayer when I wasn’t paying attention. As a teenager, I started paying attention and knew we were at the end of the prayer when I heard: “And finally when Thou art finished with us here, receive us all home to Thyself, without the loss of one.” When you listen to a man pray, you learn what’s in his heart.
That prayer was Simon’s heart.
Bringing souls Home.
While those serving in our country’s military are concerned about bringing their comrade back (hopefully alive), Uncle Simon’s prayers were for the souls of his family and congregation. His focus was not so much on the present as on the future and our final destination.
He shared his heart as he prayed for wisdom, guidance, protection and safety. Deftly putting the final touches on the package, he closed the flaps, sealed it, and added a bow on top.
When all is said and done, he was saying, we want to come Home to You. And when we come, he pleaded, we don’t want to leave anyone behind. Don’t let there be a loss of any one soul.
More important than their body, Uncle Simon cared for the souls of people. For his church, his descendants and for those not yet born, he prayed. All he wanted, when his life was over, was to go home to be with Jesus. How often he’d mention that he would love to be here when that trumpet sounds! Yet more importantly, he wanted no one left behind.
That is why he prayed that all of us would be received – without the loss of one.
Our military trains its men to think as a unit – so no one is left behind. They are trained to do whatever it takes to save and protect their own.
As children of God, perhaps we should adopt that practice – to do whatever it takes so that we can say, “We are Home, without the loss of one.”
Like incense before the throne of God, our prayers ascend – leaving fragrance after we are gone. Our prayers remain present before His throne. I think my uncle Simon’s prayers are still before the Lord.
Until then, maybe it’s time we continue that prayer of his.
“Finally, when You are done with us here, receive us all home to Yourself, without the loss of one.”
Please, God, let not one of us be left behind. Let us all come Home to You – without the loss of one.