This poignant, uplifting story by Wayne Montgomery left me basking in the glow of a group of soldiers’ selfless act of kindness and compassion. It can be found in We Hear the Christmas Angels, a collection of inspiring true stories compiled by Evelyn Bence.
by Wayne Montgomery
Have you ever had the experience of almost not doing an act of thoughtfulness or charity, only to discover later that without this action on your part a very important experience would not have happened to someone else?
Whenever I am tempted to be lazy or indifferent in this way, I inevitably think back to that Christmas in Korea, in 1951.
It was late afternoon on December 24. After a cold, miserable ride by truck in the snow, I was back at our Command Post. Shedding wet clothing, I relaxed on a cot and dozed off. A young soldier came in and in my sleep-fogged condition I heard him say to the clerk, “I wish I could talk to the Sergeant about this.”
“Go ahead,” I mumbled, “I’m not asleep.”
The soldier then told me about a group of Korean civilians four miles to the north who had been forced to leave their burning village. The group included one woman ready to give birth. His information had come from a Korean boy who said these people badly needed help.
My first inner reaction was, how could we ever find the refugees in this snow? Besides, I was dead tired. Yet something told me we should try.
“Go get Crall, Pringle and Graff,” I said to the clerk. When these soldiers arrived, I told them my plan, and they agreed to accompany me. We gathered together some food and blankets; then I saw the box of Christmas packages in the corner of the office. They were presents sent over from charity organizations in the States. We collected an armful of packages and started out by jeep.
After driving several miles, the snow became so blinding that we decided to approach the village by foot. After what seemed like hours, we came to an abandoned Mission.
The roof was gone, but the walls were intact. We built a fire in the fireplace, wondering what to do next. Graft opened one of the Christmas packages in which he found some small, artificial Christmas trees and candles. These he placed on the mantel of the fireplace.
I knew it made no sense to go on in this blizzard. We finally decided to leave the food, blankets and presents there in the Mission in the hope that some needy people would find them. Then we groped our way back to the Command Post.
In April 1952, I was wounded in action and taken to the hospital at Won Ju. One afternoon while basking in the sun, a Korean boy joined me. He was a talkative lad and I only half listened as he rambled on.
Then he began to tell me a story that literally made me jump from my chair. After he finished, I took the boy to our chaplain; he helped me find an elder of the local Korean church who verified the boy’s story.
“Yes, it was a true miracle, an act of God,” the Korean churchman said. Then he told how on the previous Christmas Eve he was one of a group of Korean civilians who had been wandering about the countryside for days after North Korean soldiers had burned their village. They were nearly starved when they arrived at an old Mission. A pregnant woman in their group was in desperate condition.
“As we approached the Mission, we saw smoke coming from the chimney,” the Korean said. “We feared that North Korean soldiers were there, but decided to go in anyway. To our relief, the Mission was empty. But, lo and behold, there were candles on the mantel, along with little trees! There were blankets and boxes of food and presents! It was a miracle!”
The old man’s eyes filled with tears as he described how they all got down on their knees and thanked God for their deliverance. They made a bed for the pregnant woman and built a little shelter over her. There was plenty of wood to burn and food to eat, and they were comfortable for the first time in weeks. It was Christmas Eve.
“The baby was born on Christmas Day,” the man said. He paused. “The situation couldn’t have been too different from that other Birth years ago.”
On the following morning American soldiers rescued the Koreans, who later became the nucleus of a Christian church in the village where I was recuperating.
You just never know when you have a special role to play in one of God’s miracles.
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