Comment from Ken: It is my goal to take our newest walk on Tuesdays but even in retirement obligations interfere – or maybe time in a woodworking shop. I appreciate your patience waiting for me to join you. Please let me know if you enjoyed our walk or if you wish me to write on a specific subject or passage of scripture.
Scripture: Matthew 5: 38-45
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. 43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sunrise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Hope you are all ready for our walk. It’s going to be a slow one today for I pushed myself physically yesterday. It brought back memories of my dad’s farm in Barrington, New Hampshire. I removed a couple of scrawny shrubs on our side lawn so that Dale could plant a new garden. First of all, I had to dig with our front-end loader to loosen the stubborn, clinging roots of the shrub, and then I had to hook a chain around those roots and yank them out of the ground out with the tractor. This process meant that I had to get on and off of the tractor several times and that I had to crawl somewhat under the bush to affix the chain to itself and then to the tractor.
Now when I succeeded in removing the shrubs from the alleged garden, this pastor was rather pleased with himself. This was a task I was not sure, with my present strength, that I could accomplish. How joyful I was when Dale came home and was so pleased with my afternoon’s work. The rest of the evening my strength was all gone.
Do you test yourself that way sometimes? Do you attack a project wondering if you are really able to accomplish it? When I was a young man, I pulled dozens of alder bushes out of the edge of our brook at the farm so that the lower meadow could more easily be seen. That was hard work, but I never doubted that I could accomplish bringing back the view of that meadow for our family. Today is a different day – I’m no longer in my twenties.
Dale looked at me and said she noticed how happy I was last evening. She and I knew it was because I had accomplished something I questioned I could do. So maybe after our walk you would like to think of a project you have put off for you have been concerned about your ability to accomplish that project. You can if I can!
Say, my next-door neighbor said he had seen a moose around here lately. Now that is something that I never saw around the Chapel in Attleboro. There was a deer in the parking lot one day, but never a moose.
A week ago, I attended another lecture presented by OLLI, a college institute for seniors. The presentation was concerning the only prisoner of war camp in New Hampshire during the Second World War. Our country had made an agreement with Britain that we would take so many prisoners of war into our country during the duration of hostilities. Some four hundred thousand prisoners of war would be scattered over our nation before that war was won.
Above Berlin, New Hampshire, there is a small town named Stark. Before the Second World War, a Civilian Conservation Camp had been located in that town for unemployed young people during the depression. As there were barracks already there, it was not difficult to fence it in, place towers around it, and to convert it to a prison. The prisoners would dock in New York City and then be sent to various prison camps around our nation. Many prisoners could not believe their eyes when they entered New York Harbor for they had been told New York Harbor and city had been destroyed. Before them was a thriving city enveloped in a tremendous war effort. From New York, the prisoners were sent to Fort Devens in Massachusetts and from there, came one hundred “volunteers” to northern New Hampshire.
Most of those sent to New Hampshire had been captured fighting in North Africa so they little expected the kind of winter they would experience here. Their duty while prisoners was to cut wood for the Brown Company, which produced cardboard, and paper, wartime needed products.
Each man, regardless of age, had to cut a cord of wood per day. They had only hand tools to cut and fell trees, and most of the men had to be taught how to harvest cordwood. Two men would cut the trees down, two would limb the tree and cut it into cord wood length, and one man would drive the horse to bring the wood to where it could be shipped to the paper mill. As some of the prisoners had been forced to fight for the Third Reich, they had no love for their fellow German prisoners. Some were communists, and they had no love for anyone but those who held similar beliefs. At the beginning, there were often fights in the camp. But as time went on, attitudes and understanding of each other became acceptable. As a matter of record, some who were living in Stark felt it was one of the best times for that community, and some Germans, who after the war returned to see where they had been held, claimed that the years in the camp were the best in their lives.
A great change took place over those war years. The captured men, the guards, and the people of the community became friends and partners. After a time, the fence around the camp was thought to be there to keep people out rather than to keep people in. Some of the prisoners were pleased the wall was there for it kept the bears out. The captured men were astounded at the first fall foliage, as they had ever seen it before. Nothing like that was seen in Germany.
If a man fell behind in his daily quota of a cord of wood he would be left in the woods with a guard until his cord of wood had been cut. It became a fact that rather than stay in the cold doing nothing but guarding the guard would take up the end of a two-man saw so both could go back to warmth. Camp Stark became a place of friendship and compassion. So close to the community did the prisoners become that there was more mourning when President Roosevelt died than there was for the death of Adolph Hitler.
Years later, there were reunions held in Stark when the men who had been prisoners returned to the community to reunite with their friends.
Our lecturer told us that there is a little museum in Stark if you ever get to travel that far north in New Hampshire. It is on my list to go there some day with Dale.
What happened at Camp Stark is what our Lord Jesus taught us. If we but love and forgive our enemies, a great positive change can take place in our hearts and minds. So many times in our daily lives we have to remember the words of our Lord – to love one another – to hold fast to loving “your neighbor as yourself”. Who would have ever thought that a group of former Nazis, communists and former convicts from a war in Africa could become friends and wish to have a reunion in Stark, New Hampshire? If you and I but look, we can find the love of Jesus Christ in the strangest of places – even in a prisoner of war camp His Word comes true.
O God, help us to be a forgiving and loving people. When we have an enemy, help us to overcome our hatred and anger and seek to reach out in forgiveness and with peaceful ways. And thank you, Lord, for showing us your love in the strangest of places – your love and ways can overcome fear and distrust. Help us to be Your worthy children. Amen
Until the next time we walk together, “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.”