My Musings

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Modern American Hero: A Testimony from the Frontlines of Iraq

Ray Zindell, a Major in the United States Army, is a very close friend of mine. In October of 2007, he returned from a combat tour in Iraq. While there he worked as an avid soul-winner working to care for the soldiers around him and to reach them with the gospel of Christ. He has agreed to share his testimony on this website in an effort to encourage others with the amazing testimony of what God has done in his life while serving our nation overseas. Please leave your comments and feedback to let this American patriot know how you feel about his service and about his testimony.

Here is the question that I asked him that sparked the following testimony, “What is your most memorable experience or series of experiences while you were in Iraq?"

I remember one great moment in my life while I was in Iraq. It is a moment that has changed me completely, and changed my relationship with Christ even more. It involved the death of a United States Army Soldier that I knew through our Bible study in Iraq and it involved the heart of a Christian service member who cared enough to reach out to another Soldier when it was needed most.

I came to know Captain “John,” a friend of mine serving in the United States Air Force. While in Iraq. John had been introduced to me through Lieutenant Commander (P) Mike Chettham and participated in our soul winning ministry in Baghdad (run by Mike Cheetham and I). John became introduced to the blessings of soul winning for the first time through the class. As a result, God put a fire under John and he started experiencing the blessing God had in store for him through sharing the gospel. He would come back every week and tell us all the situations and continued to ask for more advice on approaching people for Christ. It was exciting to see what God had done in His life and the Life of those around Him because of the soul winning class. John soon became a great soul winner.

One of John’s soul winning efforts involved a Soldier with whom John worked with in Baghdad. During their down time together, John would talk to him about his salvation. They would talk about knowing if he was on his way to heaven. Every time John would ask that pointed question, this Soldier replied with, "Hey, I am fine!" or "It’s okay. You believe what you want to believe and I’ll believe what I want to believe."

But after church one Sunday evening he and John were having a cup of coffee. The subject came up again and the Soldier wanted to know how he could be 100% for sure that he was on his way to heaven. He said, "John, you know you can keep talking about this. Why don’t you tell me what you mean by this?" So John had the opportunity to lead him to the Lord, and the Soldier asked Jesus Christ to be his Lord and Savior right there in Baghdad, Iraq. Afterward, the Soldier was so excited. He picked up the phone and he called his wife back in the United States to let her know what happened, and to let her know the great news.

John came back and was just pumped up with the news that Monday evening. I can remember him emailing me and saying, "This is great, just great and wonderful." We rejoiced in what God was doing in Iraq that evening. It was really a great thing that God allowed us to be a part of that all.

Then, Tuesday came. We were getting mortared and rocketed pretty bad that week. More than usual. That Tuesday was particularly heavy as I can recall. The young Soldier that Captain John had led to the Lord that Sunday evening was walking outside the U.S. Embassy building when a number of explosive rockets made their way into the Compound. It was at that moment when the young Soldier went off into eternity from the rocket exploding just feet from the Embassy building itself. Some personnel on the scene tried to help him. One of the soldiers that was there tried to care for his wounds and get him stabilized so they could get him to the hospital. But it was too late.

It was Tuesday night in the middle of our Bible study when we found out that the had been taken home. There were tears of sorrow and pain. John especially was shattered to get the news. But we could proclaim this one thing in that Bible Study that night “It was that he was on his way to heaven.”

Then, John shared the young Soldier’s testimony to the class and in that little white building chapel that night we praised God for his salvation. John's reliance upon God's grace enabled Him to experience the joy of soul winning in the most powerful way, which to him is a huge blessing even today. It was all because a faithful Christian who had a heart for souls that wanted to reach out to the lost for God.

Just to be a part of that...even an indirect part of that, was amazing. But that is not where the story ends.

We went through the memorial service that Wednesday. On Thursday, the young man’s wife called the Chaplain there at the U.S. Embassy. The Chaplain exchanged some words with her and said that it was a good memorial service. The deceased Soldier’s wife said, “I’d like to talk to the man who talked to my husband that Sunday before he died.” So the Chaplain gave her Captain John’s phone number.

John talked to her for quite some time. Before he got off the phone with her he said, "Ma'am, I want to ask you a question and I don’t want to insult you. Are you 100% for sure that you are on your way to heaven or do you have some doubt?"

Now mind you three months ago, Captain John would not have had the courage to say all this. The young lady said, "No. That’s why I called. I want to know the same thing that you told my husband. I want to be able to share in the same joy that my husband shared with me!"

So, Captain John over the phone and across the ocean shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with this young lady, and she, like her husband just days before, received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

Now that it is a memory that I will hold closest to my heart. Had I not taken that step forward...Had I not thrown myself at the service for God and my country then I would not have had the opportunity to share the experience of soul winning with Captain John or meet great men like him or LCDR Mike Cheetham and all the rest.

I glory in that. Just to be a part of that was worth the price of admission. That God would share such joy as that in our lives makes me keep serving Him and my country. It is worth the cost.

Major Ray Zindell

*This is the expressed opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense.

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