This Remembrance Day we share this personal family story from Revd Glen Robins.

There has always been something enigmatic about my Uncle Roy.  I wore his winter jacket when I was in high school.  And his pictures were always faithfully present on the wall — a smiling portrait, another in a reclining chair with his Beagle.  But despite the fact that I recognized his face, and even wore some of his clothes, I never met my Uncle Roy.  We missed each other by a little less than two years.  Growing up, very little was said about him, even though I was quite sure Dad had much to share.  However, in the 36 years I had with my father before he passed away, I was able to piece together fragments of Uncle Roy’s life, and assemble them into a picture.  And once the picture was assembled, I was able to see just how much of my life I owed to Uncle Roy: not only did he pay a terrible physical and psychological price for our freedoms, but it was also through him that our family came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Uncle Roy was nine years older than my father, born in July of 1923.  When the Second World War broke out, he enlisted in the Canadian Army, and was placed in the Canadian Armoured Corps, after he was denied entrance into the RCAF for poor eyesight.  But a couple of months  after the Normandy invasion in June 1944, during the Battle of The Falaise Gap, the Sherman tank in which he served as navigator was captured, and Uncle Roy became a prisoner of war, serving 9 months in a German gulag until victory in Europe was achieved.  And that’s it – that’s all I know about my uncle’s service, but it’s likely enough.

Not long after he returned to Canada, he needed something to relieve the severe pain of his PTSD, and so he turned to alcohol, and, except for a short period, never turned back.  Dad once said that, in the mid-’70s, Uncle Roy made a real effort to get sober.  He attended AA meetings, and apparently achieved sobriety.  But it was short-lived, and lasted a mere few months.  However, even though he was drinking again, he did not close all doors to help and healing.

A man named Henry Boland was the preacher for the Niagara Falls Church of Christ in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Somehow (likely through his prolific evangelistic work) he came into contact with my Uncle Roy in December of 1980, and began having Bible studies with him.  But it was during this time, in May of 1981, that Uncle Roy died at the age of 57.  My father – having no church affiliation – managed to convince a reluctant Henry to conduct the funeral service for Uncle Roy.  Shortly afterward, Henry began having Bible studies with my father, and in time, he gave his life to Christ.  That began the ball of faith rolling in our family.  Eventually, dad’s newlywed bride (my mother) was baptized.  My sister and I were faithfully raised with the Fenwick Church of Christ, and in time, we, too, gave our lives to Christ. 

And now?  Well, I am not a little humbled to recognize that I serve as the pastor for the Stoney Creek Church of Christ, in Hamilton, Ontario, some 40 years after my uncle’s passing.  I don’t know what kind of a faith he had when he died, but I am grateful that, in his search for peace, he was willing to sit down and open the Bible with a man who believed that Jesus could heal his great inner turmoil.  Because of his willingness, Jesus has since brought great healing, joy, and peace to our family.

I remember you, Uncle Roy.  I’m so sorry for your pain, but I’m so grateful for your life.

Glen Robins is the pastor of the Stoney Creek Church of Christ in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Guest blogs are invited to stimulate discussion and comment and should not be assumed to represent the views of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence.

A Prisoner of War Opens The Door

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