The following humorous story is reportedly true, shared by a man on his way to war:
“During the Persian Gulf War, I was assigned to go to Saudi Arabia. As I was saying good-bye to my family, my three-year-old son, Christopher, was holding on to my leg and pleading with me not to leave. ‘No, Daddy, please don’t go!’ he kept repeating.
“We were beginning to make a scene when my wife, desperate to calm him, said, ‘Let Daddy go and I’ll take you to get a pizza.’
“Immediately, Christopher loosened his death grip, stepped back and in a calm voice said, ‘Bye, Daddy.’” *
Although that story is sweet and funny, war isn’t. It never is. Yet we still can find moments of light in terrible darkness, and reasons for hope.
My husband’s mother recently sent me a video about the North Platte Canteen in Nebraska. I’d never heard about this special place.
According to a site detailing the story, the North Platte Canteen encouraged more than six million servicemen and women who traveled through Nebraska via train during World War II. Volunteers, led by Rae Wilson, prepared and served sandwiches, coffee, cookies, cakes, and other homemade goodies during quick troop stops there.
A similar canteen operated during World War I ~ an operation associated with the American Red Cross for 18 months in the Union Pacific freight house in North Platte ~ serving about 113,190 men. Many of these “Sammy Girls” served in the 1940s canteen as well.
Many other smaller canteens operated in Omaha, Norfolk, and McCook (where troop trains also paused), but the North Platte Canteen was a dramatic, patriotic outpouring of regular American citizens to give encouragement and sustenance to US troops on their way to war.
(Rae Wilson, left, organizer of the North Butte Canteen. Photo, Lincoln County Historical Museum)
Rae Wilson (age 26), wrote a letter to the North Platte Bulletin, sparking interest for her idea to give small gifts and snacks to soldiers traveling through North Platte on Christmas Day, 1941. Wilson organized a canteen committee a few days before the soldiers arrived.
In time, the volunteers provided simple entertainment (a donated piano, jukebox, and radio), a magazine table, birthday celebrations for soldiers who passed through on their birthday, platform girls (on the train station platform with baskets of food) and words of encouragement to the troops. Years later, soldiers who survived the war wrote back expressing thanks to the volunteers. Memories of their stop in North Butte encouraged them during battle, and lingered long after the war.
(Rae Wilson gives men a happy send-off. Photo from Lincoln County Historical Museum.)
What struck me in reading this story was some words by Rae Wilson said. “North Platte hasn’t any big war industries,” she said. “I guess you could say we’ve started our own ~ exporting morale.“
I like that. Exporting morale. Boy, could we use more of that in the Body of Christ as we fight the battle against the unseen enemy and for our Lord. The Bible says we are to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 3:13) and to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
How can I export morale? How can I encourage those new Christian “recruits” ~ born again and just beginning to fight? How can I bless and motivate battle-weary saints?
These are questions we all might ask.
Rae Wilson’s vision motivated people to help her bless millions. I keep thinking, “Lord, I’ll be content to sit at my desk and encourage others through writing; but is there something more you would have me do?” I think it’s a question we all need to ask.
Let me hear from you. How can we “export morale” in the church today?
* From AhaJokes.com, http://www.ahajokes.com/war024.html
For more about the North Platte Canteen, click on the “A Pictoral History” at http://npcanteen.net