Memorial Weekend Road Trip
It's Memorial Day weekend! Let's take a trip to remember our fallen heroes, witness one man's struggle to trust God's sovereignty, and watch as God transforms another man's life. Ed Harrell, Jeremy Camp, and Christopher Yuan share their stories.
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It’s Memorial Day weekend! Let’s take a road trip. Ed Harrell, Jeremy Camp, and Christopher Yuan share their stories.
Bob: That was hundreds of miles away; right?
Ed: —probably 500 miles; we didn't know that.
Ed: I looked at my buddy, Spooner; and I said, “Spooner, I’m going to go. I’m going to join them.” He said, “Harrell, if you go, I’m going to go.” Here are two Marines and five sailors—began to say goodbye to our 15 other sailors—and we're going to swim to the Philippines, we thought. Here we start.
Dennis: Was there anything said by the guys you left? Did they say, “That’s foolish to do that”?
Ed: They did; they thought it was foolish. They said, “The sharks will get you.” Well, they’ve already gotten a bigger part of us; and there was really no/seemingly, no advantage to just stay.
We left our group; and after an hour or two, then swimming, I saw some debris out at the starboard side, out maybe a couple of hundred yards or so, and a hundred yards ahead of us. I called it to the attention of the others. We watched it for a good while. At first, we thought, “Well, it’s one of our buddies out there”; but then as we got closer, we could tell that it was debris of some kind, not one of ours.
You pray for food: “What’s the possibility?—could there be food out there?” We prayed. I know I said, “I tell you what. If you’ll keep going straight, I’m going to swim out and get that. If it’s just a crate, then we’ll bring it in and fasten it onto our others here; but let’s hope and pray that it could be food.”
Well, they thought I was foolish again; because the sharks maybe would get a straggler out there. But, really, I felt a real compelling force that says: “Go for it. Go and see what it might be.” I know, as I swam, and got closer and closer to that crate, I'm praying for food; I'm praying for water—anything.
As I got close enough that I could see those potatoes in that crate, kind of in desperation—I didn't pause to thank the Lord for what I'm about to eat—[Laughter]—but in desperation, I'm making my way to those potatoes. I reached in to get that first potato. Then, as I got a hold of that first potato, kind of in the agony of defeat, all that rotten potato began to squeeze through my fingers. As I kind of squeezed that in despair then, all of a sudden, it was solid potato on the inside.
I often say, “You know what a rotten potato smells like? I know what they taste like.” To take that potato then, and to peel it with my hands and my teeth—and eat part rotten potato and part solid potato—that was some food that I needed, some starch, and some water in that.
Then I began to peel some of them, then, and fill my dungaree pockets full; and then I began to make my way back, then, to my buddies, with still a lot of potatoes in the crate. They could see that here I’m swimming, with an arm on that crate, and eating something, and swimming. They hollered out: “What is it?” I said, “Rotten potatoes.” They left the life raft, and they joined me out there. We had a feast. Oftentimes, I talk to young people/I say, “You know, we had a picnic and no ants to bother us.”
Michelle: That’s Ed Harrell who, today, is the last living survivor of the USS Indianapolis. He has lived an amazing life/an amazing life of faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I encourage you to go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com, and hear the entire story that Ed has to share. It’s incredible. That’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
If you’ve served, or have a family member who has served, thank you for your service and your sacrifice.
Okay, we’re back on shore now. I see a freeway entrance leading us to Southern California. That’s where Christian singer/songwriter, Jeremy Camp was when he met his first wife. You know who I’m talking about; right? You probably recognize some of his songs: Take You Back, Walk by Faith, I Still Believe. If you’re familiar with his music, you know that his lyrics reveal a heart that’s been broken and a faith that’s been tested and restored.
Jeremy’s faith was tested when he married a young lady, who was sick with cancer. He married Melissa Lynn Henning, praying that God would heal her. Here is Jeremy remembering those first few days of their marriage.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Jeremy: With cancer, of course, you have no clue; it’s very unpredictable. They were doing—she had ovarian cancer—so it was a very/and it was called granulosa cell tumor—it’s very rapidly growing.
At that point, knowing, “I don’t know what’s going to happen,”—we both didn’t know what was going to happen—I didn’t care. I knew that I loved her, and I knew that I wanted to be with her, no matter what happened. We formally got engaged; and/just the journey began, for sure.
Bob: And you read 2 Corinthians 5:7—
Jeremy: Whew!—“called to walk by faith and not by sight.”
We ended up getting married and went on our honeymoon. On the honeymoon, she was noticing some issues. I opened up the Word of God—called to walk by faith and not by sight—I pulled out a guitar that was in the place we were staying—it was her aunt and uncle’s house they let us stay at in Hawaii; so sweet—and started playing the song: “Will I believe You when You say Your hand will guide my every way? I receive the words You say every moment of every day.”
I remember just going, “Hey, am I really going to believe what this is saying?” I concluded—on the chorus, of course—just saying, “Alright, I will walk by faith even when I cannot see; because this broken road prepares Your will for me.” Didn’t even know exactly what that meant in the sense of what was going to happen; but I knew that it was, at this point, we were stepping out in faith on what was going to happen.
Bob: It was not long after you got back from your honeymoon that you were in the doctor’s office again. This time, they said, “It’s not good.”
Jeremy: Yes, we/so we went in, and the doctor pulled me aside. I went out of the room; I said, “Okay; so what’s going on?” He goes, “Well, the cancer has returned; and it’s spread very rapidly.” I said: “Okay, what’s the next step? What do we do?” He, literally, said/he goes, “There’s nothing else we can do. She has weeks to months to live.”
Bob: How are you processing—this all-powerful, all-loving God, who you trust and you believe in—and your wife’s deteriorating condition and coming to a point, where you’re going, “I don’t think she’s going to make it”?
Bob: How are you making sense of that in your own life?
Jeremy: You know, it’s something that you really have to understand God’s sovereignty, His goodness, His mercy,—
Jeremy: —and His faithfulness in the midst of what we may think is supposed to be. You see, because we always have an idea of what something should be or something should turn out to be.
My ideal, of course: “Heal. We go out—we have a story of a miracle; we have a story of God’s healing power—and we’re going to share this with the world. I mean, we’re going to be in front of thousands of people, sharing of God’s goodness, singing songs; and she’s going to be there.”
You have to come to grips with: “God, are You trustworthy?” That was a question I started having: “Can I really trust You/really trust You?”
Dennis: You and Melissa were married October 21, 2000; she died February 5, 2001. She lived 100 days.
Jeremy: —in our marriage; yes.
Bob: Take us to those last days—because there was a moment in that hospital room that was a pretty amazing moment in the midst of her pain, and suffering, and unconsciousness—
Bob: —there was a moment; wasn’t there?
Jeremy: Yes, there was. It was five hours before she went to be with the Lord. I remember she stood up out of bed and goes: “It’s gone! It’s gone!” And I was/I thought, “Okay, this is just a moment, where she is not really understanding what’s happening.” She looked at me directly in the face; and she goes, “Jeremy, you have to believe me; it’s gone.” I thought, “She’s healed!” She laid down and fell asleep; and then, never woke up again.
I remember, when I first heard the words, “She’s with Jesus now,” I was on the ground, just weeping, in the fetal position, crying out to God/just saying, “God, I’m so confused. What just happened in this?” There was worship music playing in the background. I remember God just saying to me, “I want you to stand up and worship Me.”
My dad—I remember him helping me up—and we all just started raising our hands for the Lord. It was the most powerful moment in my life. I felt the presence of God so thick; I can’t even explain it: “She’s with Jesus.”
[Jeremy singing I Still Believe]
Michelle: Jeremy is still recording and making great music. In fact, that song, I Still Believe, was the first song that he wrote after Melissa passed away. Jeremy has remarried; he is now married Adrienne, and they have three kids. He recently founded a ministry called Speaking Louder Ministries, which provides free crusade-style events and comes alongside local churches or missionaries in countries where the gospel needs to be heard. I mean—and this is cool—it’s places like Uganda, and Kyrgyzstan, India, and Ukraine—exciting stuff.
Hey, I think I see a destination spot up ahead. It’s time to get out and take a selfie while we listen to Ron Deal talking about summer travel advice for stepfamilies. I have a feeling we are going to run into some emergency warning signs up ahead. I’ll explain more in two minutes. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. We’ve been travelling around the world today hearing stories of God’s power in the lives of His children. Have you ever noticed that, when one of His children derails on this journey of life, how God can put up some speed bumps or even detours to get our attention?
Our next story is about a young man who lived a double life; his name is Christopher Yuan. He grew up in a Christian family; but by the time that he was in dental school, he was living a double life. He was a student by day; but at night, he found himself deeply involved in the gay lifestyle and highly successful as a drug dealer. Christopher was so caught up in that lifestyle that he never imagined that it would end until the day a dozen agents of the DEA showed up at his door. Here’s Christopher remembering that morning.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Christopher: I did not think I was going to get caught—I thought that I was invincible; no one was ever going to touch me—so when I finally got arrested, it was unbelief. I couldn’t believe that this was it. It was a few days after I was incarcerated—and I was walking around the cell block—I passed by a garbage can. There was just filth coming out of it; I thought, “That’s my life—trash.”
I was about to walk by that trash can; and yet, I saw something on top of that trash. I picked it up; it was a Gideon’s New Testament. I took it back to my cell; I opened up that Good Book. For the first time, I read through the entire Gospel of Mark that night. But I did not think that this was going to be the answer to all my problems. I’m pretty stubborn. I had a hard, hard heart; and I didn’t want to change. Yes, the drugs—obviously, that was not healthy—but “I’m gay. This is the way I am; I can’t change. Why do I even need to change?”
I believe it was a true miracle of God/that it was the Holy Spirit that indwells within us that convicted me. I just read through the Bible. I went through every verse, every chapter, every page of Scripture—looking for anything to justify, to have a positive/to bless homosexual relationships: monogamous, adult-consensual homosexual relationships—but I couldn’t find anything.
There is a passage that we see three times—you know, once in the Old/twice in the New—where it says, “Be holy for I am holy.” I thought, “Even if I became straight, I would still need to submit my life, my thoughts, my passions to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Even if, somehow, there was this shift from going from gay to straight, I would still need to pursue holiness.” That is why I realize that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality—that shouldn’t be my goal—but the opposite of homosexuality is holiness.
I needed to pursue holiness. We all need to pursue holiness; it does not matter what your proclivities are. God has called us to live a life of holiness, not on our own strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. That was the beginning of me realizing that this is what God is calling me to—not to focus upon my orientation, as the world would call it/not focusing upon, “What are my temptations?”—but focusing upon living a life of purity and holiness, regardless of whether these temptations and struggles go away or not.
Dennis: Dealing with the issue of idols in your life, ultimately, led you to the foot of the cross to come clean. How did that happen?
Christopher: I was asking myself the questions. You know, reading through the Bible, so many times, we see idolatry and the condemnation; I thought, “I don’t bow to any graven image. I don’t have/you know, I don’t go to an idol temple.” Yet, I realized: “You know what? No, an idol means anything that I feel like I can’t live without.” I began to ask myself that question. Initially, that was obvious; it was the drugs/that was something that I felt like I couldn’t live without.
Then, the last thing that God was convicting me of was just the hold that sex had on my life—and the need for intimacy, and physical intimacy, and then, also, my sexuality—how that was such a big part of my identity. I realized that I had put my identity in the wrong thing/in my sexuality. I had gone from putting/I mean, my identity in my sexuality to, now, putting my identity in Christ. That was, I think, really a key part in coming to know who Jesus was and what that meant in living in the midst of our daily struggles that we continue to have.
Michelle: That’s Christopher Yuan. You know, in Hebrews 4:12, there are these words: “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and spirit of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” There is life in God’s Word. Christopher Yuan found that, as he sat in that jail cell. God truly redeems our past messes and failures. Today, Christopher—he is a professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Isn’t that incredible?—how God can take one life and turn it around.
You know, I think it’s safe to say that on each of these three stops today—the first one in the Pacific Ocean with Ed Harrell; and the second stop in Southern California with Jeremy Camp; and now, in Chicago, with Christopher Yuan—that God’s Word captured each of these men differently and effectively. I hope His Word has captured you today. If it hasn’t, why don’t you spend some time reading through the book of John? If you are not familiar with the Bible, it’s in the right hand side of that book; some people call it the New Testament.
As we said, it’s Memorial Day this weekend. As you’re enjoying that extra day off, or the picnic, or the family barbeque, we have people to thank: men and women of courage, and their families, who have paid a large price for our freedoms. I just want to say, once again, “Thank you.”
Hey, coming up next week, I’m going to talk with a young lady, who has memorized
12 books of the Bible—yes, you heard that right: 12 books of the Bible—Hannah Leary won the first Bible Bee competition ten years ago. I get to chat with her next week on FamilyLife This Week. I hope you can join us for that.
Thanks for listening! I want to thank the cofounder of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and the president, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big “Thank you!” to my navigators and road crew today: to Keith Lynch, who is our leader; producers Phil Krause and Marques Holt to keep us on the straight and narrow; Justin Adams keeps the road noise to a minimum; and Megan Martin/well, she’s the rose among the thorns, so to speak.
Hey, our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I’m Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
©Song: I Still Believe
Artist: Jeremy Camp
Album: I Still Believe (p) 2002 by BEC Recordings
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