Gene and Marilyn Smith, who work with new recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego, recently received the sad news that one of the men with whom they had worked, Kevin Joyce, died while serving his country in Afghanistan.
Kevin’s uncle, Emerson George, told Gene and Marilyn that Kevin had been listed as “missing in action” on June 25 and then on July 4, 2005, his body was found.
“Kevin was 19 years old and a strong Christian whose heart was set on becoming a ‘preacher,’ ” Gene says. “His family is at peace knowing he is out of pain and with the Lord, but they are still reeling from all that has happened.”
Kevin attended the class Steps in Christ while at MCRD. He was with Kilo Company, Platoon 3085, and graduated boot camp in August 2004. Dave and Janet Yumen, who also worked with Kevin, said he wanted to be involved in a small group Bible study when he got to the fleet. In his graduation comments, Kevin commented that he wanted to “help out with the Navs someday.”
Kevin is the second Marine involved in the Navigator program at MCRD to lose his life in the current conflict. In November 2004, LCPL Abraham Simpson died in Iraq. He had told his mother in his last conversation with her that if anyone had to die, he hoped it would be him because he knew where he was going – he had assurance of his salvation based not on his own works or acts of heroism, but because he had put his trust in Jesus Christ his Lord.
His favorite song in boot camp was “I Can Only Imagine” by the group MercyMe. In the song, the singer reflects on what it will be like when he finally sees Jesus face to face – will he laugh, cry, praise, or simply find himself unable to speak?
Now, Abraham and Kevin know the answer to that question.
The Smiths and Yumens are part of a team of believers who influence new recruits for Christ. On Sunday mornings, they teach classes on the basics of the Gospel and the Christian life. They also partner with 10 local churches to pray individually with these men, who range in age from 18 to 20. During the course of a year, their team ministers to approximately 10,000 new Marines.
“In the midst of times like these,” Gene says of this second death, “let us not forget how much our heavenly Father truly loves us. He also gave His own Son that we might have life eternal. Let these words comfort us as we remember the sacrifice Kevin made, and that at this very moment he is with his Father in heaven while the rest of us ‘can only imagine.’ ”
If you’re a Christian in the military, or know of someone who is, you may be interested in the book In His Service (NavPress), which is written to help Christians in all branches of service stay on course through the challenges of military life. It examines what the Bible says about war, soldiering, and service, and includes personal stories and lessons from life and history that clearly illustrate the rewards and challenges Christians encounter in military life.
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