Lord, Help Me Get One More
Desmond Doss is one of my heroes. He joined the United States Army in April 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He couldn’t stand by while his loved ones went off to war. He was compelled to do something. But he didn’t want to fight, shoot, or kill. In fact, convicted by his religious beliefs, he was a pacifist. So why on earth would a pacifist join the U.S. Army?
To be a medic. To save people.
In the movie Hacksaw Ridge, there is a scene etched into my memory that I can recall flawlessly. In May of 1945, Japanese troops were defending the last barrier preventing a potential allied invasion of their homeland. The United States, at Okinawa, were ferociously attempting to take the Maeda Escarpment, an intimidating rock face that they called “Hacksaw Ridge.” Soldiers would climb up an enormous rope ladder, go to war with the Japanese soldiers, many of them not making it out alive. It was on May 5th that the United States secured the top of the ridge, only to be shocked by a Japanese counterattack. An attack that forced the United States to retreat down the ridge to the bottom.
As less than a third of the soldiers made it down the ridge, there was one soldier that refused to go: Desmond Doss. Without a weapon, he trudged back across the ridge, looking for fallen soldiers. A soldier with no legs, he carried them back to the ridge, lowering him down to the bottom. Another soldier shot in the knee, he dragged to the ridge, lowering him as well. After each rescue he would pray:
“Lord, help me get one more.”
One by one, Desmond Doss rescued 75 men that had been left for dead at the top of Hacksaw Ridge. His relentless courage, his passionate love for his fellow man, and sacrificial perseverance helped the Americans to take Hacksaw Ridge and capture Okinawa. Days later, Doss was severely wounded, ending his time in the United States Army.
Family of God often feels like Hacksaw Ridge. Our neighborhood is littered with people who have been, by every definition of the phrase, left for dead. Rats are picking at their skin, their intestines are spilled out over the ground, people are severely bleeding with several missing limbs. Of course, I don’t mean this literally, but it is often the way that Pastor Hill and I see the neighborhood; a warzone as I have called it before.
One of these injured soldiers was a young man named Jesse. About two and a half years ago he came to Pastor Hill and I in tears with the desire to leave his life of addiction. He had been at war with heroin for the majority of his teenage and adult life. It cost him relationships, friendships, and even seeing his children. But that’s what addiction does. It slowly takes everything, causing one to slowly bleed out on the field, with no hope for rescue.
But Jesse had an out, a hope for rescue. His girlfriend at the time was living in Livonia, where Pastor Hill and I regularly drive for staff meetings. She had a rehab facility set up for Jesse and we would be able to visit with him. She called him, begging him to “come home.” A better life awaited him.
Unfortunately, his addiction had almost completely consumed every ounce of his being. He chose not to take the out, and he became worse. He would lurk around our church building, looking for any spare change he could find. It seemed like every day he was losing more weight, developing more scabs on his face from picking at it (a habit that drug addiction can cause), nodding off at the table where he would routinely sip his coffee. We continued to talk with him, listen to him, clothe him, pray for and with him, and above all, love him. But even then, it was about as hopeless as it could get. Maybe this was one of the soldiers that wouldn’t make it down the ridge.
Jesse stopped coming to Family of God in June of 2020. When people stop coming to our little church, it usually means one of three things: they either moved, became incarcerated, or died. As we continued to pray for him, weren’t sure where he was and had no way of knowing for sure unless we saw his name on a news report. We assumed his addiction had devoured him and spit up his bones.
Until January 25th, 2021. A young man, holding the hand of a beautiful young woman, with teenager close behind them walked through our doors. As he walked closer to Pastor Hill and me, as we looked in his eyes, we finally recognized who this was: it was Jesse. Clean, sober, healthy Jesse.
He proceeded to tell us that he finally took the out in June. He reconnected with his girlfriend (now wife), his fifteen-year-old son, and was even getting custody of his little girl that week. He was elated as he told us about Christmas in their new home, showing us pictures of their families around the Christmas tree. He is working a full-time job and to quote Jesse, “Life is finally good, guys.” He got some coffee, gave hugs to a couple of the people that were there and then came back over to us and said, “We aren’t going to stay, I can’t stay here. But I just wanted to say ‘thank you.’”
I gave him a big hug and told him how proud I was of him. Pastor Hill did the same and with a smile delivered his famous line, “We love you, and we never want to see you in this neighborhood again.” Jesse laughed and confirmed. They started the car, the sweet sound of new beginnings, and they pulled away from the church. Pastor Hill and I smiled, discussed how it was time to get back to work, and then we prayed together:
“Lord, help us get one more.”