Service and Sacrifice

By Peter Francis - Malyon College Principal

Ben_Kerckx / Pixabay

On 26th February we had the thrill of seeing 48 of our Malyon students graduating with awards as diverse as Diplomas of Ministry, through to Bachelor’s degrees in Ministry and Theology and Master’s Degrees. It was a fabulous night, as families, friends and church supporters all came together to celebrate the achievements of our students who have invested so much time and energy into the completion of their studies.

Marcaus Muller and Family

Graduation is often an emotional time for graduates and staff alike as we, at Malyon, farewell those into whom we have poured our lives.
As I reflect on this year’s graduating cohort, I cannot help but wonder just how far and wide God will take them and use them as faithful Christians of influence, who will invest their lives in the great mission of God in this world. Many of our graduates will end up serving in churches, as pastors, youth and young adults workers or as theologically grounded worship leaders. Others will continue in their calling towards cross–cultural service in other places around the world. Still others will find their calling in a chaplaincy role, perhaps in a school, or a hospital or even in a prison ministry.

Over recent years we have also had the privilege of investing in the lives of some who have come to us from the armed services, with a clear sense of God’s call to prepare for Military Chaplaincy. Indeed, it has been a delight to see both Marcaus Muller and Haydn Lea returning to the services to take up their roles as Army and Airforce Chaplains respectively. Chaplain Muller says,

“Whilst Malyon prepared me to be a minister of the word, just as importantly it prepared me with a deeper understanding and practical awareness of the reality of caring with a pastoral heart for the needs of the weary and the broken, a preparation especially suited for the ministry of military chaplaincy where most of the needy have little or no foundation of faith.”

As we start the 2018 academic year we have yet another student who has come to us from the Armed Services to be trained and equipped to serve God in this vital ministry.
No doubt with ANZAC Day just around the corner, each of our Service Chaplains will be called upon to lead services of remembrance and thanksgiving for all those who have given their lives in the service of our country, and the defence of the freedoms which we cherish.

For any who have attended the ANZAC Day dawn services, you will be familiar with ‘The Ode’, a poem by the English poet Laurence Binyon, which concludes with the stirring refrain,

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
To which a common exhortation is added, “Lest we forget.”

Many are probably unaware that this final exhortation comes from the famous 1897 poem by Rudyard Kipling entitled ‘Recessional.’ This phrase is the concluding exhortation to four out of the five stanzas of this remarkable poem.

As a child growing up, I was captivated by this line. Having had both of my grandfathers and my father serve in the armed services, I was deeply moved year after year with the ANZAC Day services held in our school. In addition to my fascination with my father’s and grandfather’s war stories, I was always drawn to the remarkable story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick.

On 25th April 1915, around 16,000 Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the shores of what has become known as ANZAC Cove.

The invasion was intended to be a strategic move, designed to neutralize the Turkish bunkers that controlled the passage of the Dardanelles straits.

But things didn’t go according to plan.

As the ANZAC troops landed on the beach, they were immediately confronted with some of the most furious combat imaginable. Within the first 5 days alone, 500 ANZACs had been killed, 2,500 were wounded and around 2,000 were missing. What was planned as a swift operation became a protracted 8–month struggle, in which nearly eleven and a half thousand ANZACs would die.

As the Allied troops dug in, the intensity of the fighting only increased.

During those fearsome days, many men were heard to cry out to God for help. As they lay wounded and dying in the trenches, their moans and cries for help must have been gut–wrenching! But then, for so many, help did come in the form of a man, John Simpson Kirkpatrick. Simpson, as he became affectionately known, found a donkey which had been left wandering around on the peninsula.

As the troops landed at ANZAC Cove, a shipment of donkeys had been dispatched, along with their drivers, with the intention that these animals would serve as water and supply carriers for the troops. The only problem was that the donkey drivers soon fled the scene of the conflict, and the donkeys were left to roam aimlessly amidst the hail of gun–fire and exploding munitions.

Simpson and Donkey_ANZACSimpson commandeered one of these donkeys which he nick-named “Duffy” and began to use him to ferry the sick and wounded from the battle ground in Monash Valley back to the beach, where their wounds could be tended, and evacuation arranged.

Each day, Simpson would report to the field ambulance and go out on his mission of mercy. But on 19th May, 24 days after landing in the middle of this terror, Simpson was tragically shot while trying to save the life of yet another of his comrades.

Well we might say, “Lest we forget!” Lest we forget the incredible sacrifice of one man who gave so much, indeed, ultimately giving his life, for the one sole purpose of saving the lives of others!

Yet, as we also approach Easter time, we cannot help but be reminded of an even greater sacrifice–the one man, who freely gave up his life so that the world through him might be saved.

That man, of course, was our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says to us in Romans 5:7 – 8, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly be prepared to die.” But then Paul drives his point right home to our hearts,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners [while we were living in rebellion towards God], Christ died for us.”

Well we might say, “Lest we forget!”

This is the message that has captivated our hearts here at Malyon. We are utterly convinced that this message lies at the very heart of the mission of God for this world. Our aim is to develop faithful men and women who will be relentlessly committed to taking this message to our desperately needy world.

Peter Francis is the Principal of Malyon Theological College