Editor’s note: Tammy Real-McKeighan is out of the office today. This is a previous column, which has been updated.
Marv Eden died in 2017, but I still appreciate what I learned from him years ago.
You may not have known Marv if you don’t attend Salem Lutheran Church or are part of the Fremont Kiwanis Club.
I met Marv after I was assigned to cover a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Service at the Lutheran church in 2009.
And he told me a story I’ve never forgotten.
Marv wasn’t at Pearl Harbor, but he was drafted in 1942.
While in the military, Marv was stationed on Biak — an island in between New Guinea and the Philippines.
Three airstrips were built on the small island, which is just 32 miles long and 8 miles wide. Marv and other men lived in tents on both sides of an airstrip in the center of the island.
March 22, 1945, was the last night an enemy plane ever flew over Biak.
The night was clear and the moon shone brightly as a Japanese pilot kept his aircraft under the radar by following a hospital plane to the island.
Suddenly, his plane veered off and he began dropping bombs not far from the tent where Marv and five other men lived.
Many American servicemen died that night, but the pilot ran out of bombs just 100 yards from Marv’s tent.
If that pilot hadn’t run out of bombs, Marv believes he would have been killed, too.
I was amazed by that story and asked Marv more about it at lunch after the service.
While we were talking, the Rev. Michael Thomas, then the senior pastor at Salem, sat next to us.
I asked the pastor what he thought of the service. Thomas said he believes this type of observance can remind us how important faith is as people face the dangers of war.
Marv nodded his head in agreement.
Then he said something that brought tears to my eyes.
Every night for the 3 1/2 years that he was in the service — even if it was by flashlight — Marv said he would read part of the New Testament and also Psalm 91.
I was touched by his story — in part because just the day before I’d heard one of my friends at church encourage a young woman to pray that Psalm every day over her father who was going to serve in Afghanistan.
That night, I sat down to read Psalm 91 again.
It’s a wonderful Psalm that talks about God’s protection, but verse 10 really hit me.
It reads: “then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.”
Remember how Marv said the pilot ran out of bombs just 100 yards from his tent?
I don’t know why some fine Christian men have died in battle, but I believe that God was protecting the tent of one of his own — a man who read that Psalm every night for years and who trusted in his Lord.
The young woman’s father came home safe from Afghanistan and now lives in Florida, where he and his family made it safely through Hurricane Irma in 2017.
It all still astounds me.
Now, please understand — not saying people should pray Psalm 91 like some good luck charm or chant.
But I think remembering these verses can be very comforting for people during tough times.
The Psalm talks about the security we can have in the Lord and how he’s a refuge for us.
We can trust him even when we don’t understand everything that’s going on around us — whether it’s a pandemic, tough financial times or just rocky life in general.
There have been many times recently when I’ve found myself telling the Lord: “I don’t understand all of this, but I trust you.”
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and yet it’s brought me incredible comfort just to be able to say it — and to see how God keeps bringing me through challenging situations.
I love other verses in this Psalm like the ones that state: “You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday … because you have made the Lord your dwelling place ….”
The Lord is our protector.
Does this mean nothing bad will ever happen? No. Bad things do happen to God-loving and God-serving people. I’ve known dear servants of God — including precious friends and loved ones — who haven’t survived an illness or accident on this earth.
But I know in my heart that they’re with the Lord.
God keeps his children safe one way or the other.
And many times he protects us on this earth so we can go on helping others.
I trust him to keep me safe even when the world can be a very unsafe place.
At the end of Psalm 91, the Lord even speaks of his protection:
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
“With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
God sure seemed to satisfy Marv with a long life.
Marv lived to be 95 years old.
I find it poignant that Marv left this world on Christmas Eve — a night when we think about a little baby, born in a stable, who would become our Savior.
Jesus came to this earth to pay the penalty for our sins. He set an example of how we should treat each other in this world — showing kindness and compassion, hating evil and doing good — and forgiving those who’ve hurt us.
Christ lives to give us hope in this life as we continue to trust him.
And he gives us the hope of eternal life with him in a place that doesn’t know pain or war or death.
I’ll bet Marv isn’t thinking about bombs or enemy planes or long, weary nights in a tent far from home.
And why would he — or anyone else — amid the marvelous, glorious presence of our loving, protective heavenly Father and the Savior of our souls — Christ Jesus.