Here’s a story I used in last Sunday night’s message. It illustrates two things: The evil of prejudice and the value of being appreciated or welcomed home.
In her book, We Were There, journalist Yvonne Latty tells the stories of African-American veterans who fought in America’s wars. For example, James Tillman was a member of the 92nd Infantry, the only black infantry unit to fight in Europe during World War II. Many of these soldiers were poor and illiterate, but they bested some of Hitler’s finest troops. By the end of the war, 343 soldiers had been killed, over 2000 wounded, and 615 were missing in action.
Tillman was fighting near Genoa when news came that the war was over. “We didn’t move until we saw the German come off the mountains,” he said. “There were thousands of them, and they left all their weapons behind. They were coming in streams over us. They were as happy as we were…. They were jumping in the sand. One big ol’ German grabbed me and picked me up, he was o happy…. he even tried to kiss me.”
But Tillman and his fellow soldiers received different reception when they arrived back in Norfolk. “They didn’t want us to go through the town,” he wrote. “They said it would cause too much traffic, but I knew it was because we were black, and that hurt. We waited there on the docks for two hours with no facilities, and finally the officers said we could walk the five miles to the camp.
“As we walked, people were giving us strange looks, as if we were convicts. We were the first troops home, but no one clapped or cheered. The whole town was white and had we been white, they would have mobbed us, they would have been so happy. But things were so segregated… Later on I saw how people celebrated elsewhere… but not for us.”
The Lord is going to receive us better than we received these soldiers. He knows how to welcome His troops home. He knows how to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” The apostle Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight… Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
PS – Many of the books I like the best are out-of-print. I found this one at a used book sale, but I’ve used www.abebooks.com as a great source for finding hard-to-find books.