Former Fox News host and Marine Corps veteran Lt. Col. Oliver North recently shared an amazing testimony of how he became a Christian and how God healed him from an injury he received during a military training exercise.
It is a story I first heard over 30 years ago at the Officers Christian Fellowship retreat center in Colorado as a young Army officer and relatively new believer in Jesus Christ.
In May, North retold the account to Allen Jackson, lead pastor of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The Vietnam War veteran credited God with bringing fellow Marine John Grinalds into his life in the mid-1970s, who, though a West Point graduate, had branch-transferred from the Army into the Corps.
Grinalds would be instrumental in leading North to Christ.
He was “very near the top of his class [at West Point], a Rhodes scholar, a White House fellow, an MBA from Harvard and a war hero [and] was also known as a Bible thumper,” North said.
The two first served together as staff officers at Marine Headquarters in the Pentagon starting in 1975.
“For two years we were right next to each other. And I could look over the partition and I could catch him reading periodically, on government time, from this book, the Holy Bible,” North said as he picked up a copy of Scripture. “And that’s a no-no.”
Grinalds later became North’s battalion commander, with the latter, then a major, serving as the operations officer for the unit.
It was during a large field exercise in preparation to deploy to the Mediterranean Sea for seven months that North injured himself, he told Jackson.
“There were all these big generals and pooh-bahs from Washington that had come down with their clipboards” making notes how the battalion performed, he remembered.
North, wanting to show how tough he was, decided to jump down from the top of an armored vehicle, with his full gear on, rather than climbing down — it was about an eight- or nine-foot drop.
“I landed all the wrong ways,” he said. “I had broken my back in a terrible automobile accident in ‘64 and reinjured it in a parachute accident in ‘73.”
“I knew what I had done because I lost the feeling in my legs,” North recounted. He could not stand up.
Grinalds, who was nearby, came over to his officer’s side.
“And so John Grinalds knelt down on top of me in front of the sergeant major and all my communicators because I was the No. 3 officer in the hierarchy of this battalion landing team of 1,800 Marines,” North said.
“And he knelt down on top of me and put his hands on me and he said, ‘Dear Lord Jesus, you are the great physician, heal this man,’” North recalled.
Feeling came back to his legs, and the Marine was able to get back up.
“You would think at this point that I would have said, ‘Dear Jesus, you’re my Lord and Savior.’ Not me,” North said.
Grinalds apparently decided his subordinate needed a spiritual push and soon thereafter gave him a copy of the Bible as they were preparing to board ships to set sail for the Mediterranean “in front of all these generals and all the admirals and all the pooh-bahs,” North noted.
“He hands me a copy of this book. And he says, ‘On the way across the Atlantic, read this book. You have got to come to know your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.'”
“I’m a good Marine, I can follow orders,” North told Jackson, but pointed out Grinalds “could have been court-martialed. It’s OK for the sergeant to tell the lieutenant about Jesus, but you can’t go the other way around.”
The major began reading the Bible cover-to-cover — Genesis to Revelation — admitting to Jackson he almost gave up in the Old Testament’s book of Leviticus (the third book of the Bible’s 66), which is full of rules for priests and other cultural laws related to ancient Israel.
“We all almost quit at Leviticus,” the pastor responded with a smile.
Finally, in the first book of the New Testament, North really connected with the subject matter he was reading.
“As we’re coming out of Rota, Spain, on the Atlantic coast of Spain, going into the Mediterranean, I get to Matthew’s gospel, first gospel. And I get to Matthew, chapter 8, verses 5-13, if I remember right,” North said.
“And there’s something I can really understand,” he continued. “There’s a Roman army infantry officer who comes down, and I’ve been to Capernaum a whole bunch of times since. Here he’s coming down the hill, and he comes to Jesus, who’s teaching on the front steps of the synagogue.”
“And I read how he walks up to Jesus and said, ‘I’ve got a sick servant at home. Would you heal him?’”
“Now by that time in my life, I was fairly well-educated in spite of the fact that it was the Naval Academy. And I’d read Josephus and the history of the Punic Wars and the History of the War Against the Jews, which is Josephus. I’d read all those kinds of things because we had to. And I knew what the law was,” North explained.
He saw much as the Roman officer had risked his career and perhaps even his life to ask Jesus to heal his servant, Grinalds had also acted with courage in praying for North and then essentially ordering him to read the Bible.
Grinalds could have been kicked out of the Marines.
But because he acted in faith, North’s life was “changed forever,” he said.
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