|Frank Wright, Ph.D.
President & CEO
The Allied ship Dorchester sank on the night of February 3, 1943, within minutes of being struck by a German torpedo. While hundreds of brave men lost their lives in the attack, four men that might have did not. They were given a gift of inestimable value.
The Dorchester was a transport crossing the dark and icy waters of the North Atlantic laden with a full complement of men and material. Because of the ever-present U-Boat activity, the wearing of life jackets was mandatory for all aboard. Yet these bulky floatation devices were hot and uncomfortable when worn below decks; consequently, many men did not wear them.
Aboard the Dorchester on its final journey were four military chaplains. They were exceptional men, devoted to the well-being of others. Always trying to set a good example, these chaplains agreed among themselves to always wear their life jackets without complaint. They hoped their disciplined conduct would inspire others and might even save lives. It did, but not quite as they imagined.
Long after midnight, the German torpedo found its deadly mark well below the Dorchester’s water line. In scant minutes the order was given to abandon ship. In the dark and chaotic scramble scores of men could not locate their life jackets. One frantic young man without a life jacket approached one of the chaplains and asked if he knew where he could find one. In the chaplain’s prompt reply, the young man heard the words of life: “Here, son; take mine.” That same heroic sacrifice was shortly repeated by the other three chaplains. These four were last seen standing together with their heads bowed in prayer, as the dying ship ushered them to their icy graves.
The story of the four chaplains on the Dorchester is remarkable in every respect. These were extraordinary men, worthy of great honor. But having read the account of their noteworthy lives, my thoughts also turned to the men they saved. What happened, I wondered, to the four men who received those life jackets? Each of these young men was standing at the threshold of eternity when someone said, in effect, “Here is my life in exchange for yours.”
What became of those four men? How did they view the gift of life they had received? Surely they marveled at the courage of the chaplains, but to whom did they attribute their physical salvation? Was it merely good fortune? Were they saved by godly men? Or were they saved by God Himself and for what purpose? How did they acknowledge the Providence of God?
These four men were freely given a precious but costly gift. Yet almost more important than how they viewed the gift is what they did with it. More significant than merely acknowledging Providence is how we respond to it – for a gift like that surely demands a response. And the only fitting response was how they lived their lives in light of the gift they were given. In that sense, they were each given both a gift and an opportunity.
While we do not know how these four men responded to the gift they were given, we do know that these things apply to us as Christian communicators as well. We who know Christ as Savior and Lord also have been given a great Gift. And while the Gift of eternal life is freely given, we also acknowledge it as “the pearl of great price,” purchased at infinite cost. Through this precious Gift we were called from out of darkness and into His marvelous light. And the Giver of the Gift demands a response from us as well.
We have been given a great Gift, and with it come both opportunity and responsibility. Ours is the responsibility and privilege of using electronic media to tell the world that this Gift is available to all who will repent and receive it by faith. And ours is the responsibility to use every means available to us until the whole world hears.
I trust you are thankful today for the Gift of God which you have received by faith. I trust that your life reflects that thankfulness before a watching world. And I devoutly hope that you will remain faithful to the responsibility you have been given as messengers, ambassadors and ministers of the Gospel.
All of which leads us back to an important question. The Scriptures teach us that every good and perfect gift comes from above, from our heavenly Father. In light of that truth and in acknowledging our stewardship responsibilities, a fair question to ask is: “What are you doing with the gifts God has given you.”