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Story: In March 2004, I was in the second bookshop in Dymchurch rummaging through the books when I came across a second hand Jerusalem Bible.

As I opened up the Bible, a number of loose leaf papers fell into my hand.

And on one of them was written a story.

It was obviously very meaningful to the previous owner, an elderly lady I gather because she had specially typed it out on a piece of paper.

And she had written this on the piece of paper that dropped into my hands that day:

“The following lines were discovered on the dead body of an American soldier killed in action in North Africa, in 1944. ]

They were found by a corporal in the Royal Army Medical Corps and were printed in a Tunis newspaper.

They found their way to Britain through the United States.

A friend of the writer of these lines, who was with him when they were written (and who survived the battle in which the writer was killed).

He said the soldier was a thoroughly wild character, but there were tears running down his face as he wrote these lines.

“Look, God, I have never spoken to you,

And now I want to say: “ How do you do?”.

You see, God, they told me you didn’t exist,

And I, like a fool, believed all this.

Last night, from a shell hole, I saw your sky,

And I figured then they had told me a lie.

I wonder, God, if you’d take my poor hand?

Somehow I feel you would understand.

Strange I had to come to this hellish place

Before I had time to see your face.

Wel1, I guess there isn’t much more to say:

But I’m glad, God, that I met you today

The zero hour will soon be here

But I’m not afraid; because you are near.

The signal has come, I shall soon have to go

I like you lots - this I want you to know.

I am sure this’ll be a horrible fight:

Who knows? I may come to your House tonight.

Though I wasn’ t friendly to you before,

I wonder, God, if You’d wait at Your door?

Look, I’m shedding tears, me shedding tears!

Oh! How I wish I’d known you those long, long years

Well, I have to go now, dear God. Goodbye

But now that I’ve met you, I’m not scared to die.”

As we remember in this Service today – the cost to millions of our servicemen and women – of that peace that we enjoy today

let us thank God that we don’t have to go “to that hellish place” that that young American soldier wrote about before he had “time to see God’s face”

For God himself is in our midst, if only we would reach out to him

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