3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:3-4
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
Susan called me at work on Friday and gave me such bad news that it made me nauseated. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach, stabbed me through the heart. She told me Matthew Ingram had been killed in Afghanistan.
I hear on the news most days about soldiers who get killed in the war. I always consider it to be terrible news, as everyone who hears it does. But this time it hit me a million times harder. Because, for 15 years, Matthew Ingram was the little boy next door.
I watched Matthew grow up through the stages of his childhood, from a beautiful baby and busy toddler, to a happy teenager and brave young man. I will never forget the day when he was 5 years old that he knocked on my back door to invite me to a very unusual weenie roast he was hosting—unusual because he didn’t have any hot dogs to cook! Matthew told me it was still going to be a wonderful lunch because he had a pound of bologna, and he was going to wrap the slices around a coat hanger and cook them on the fire. I was tied up at time and didn’t go to the picnic, but others who attended that day told me recently that bologna cooked over an open fire makes a delicious sandwich.
Ten years ago I was Matthew’s freshman English teacher at Newton County High School. I taught his section during last period every day, and it was made up completely of boys who had just left football practice. Talk about a rowdy bunch! But, looking back on it, that hour each day with Matthew and his friends is something that I have warm memories of even to this day. As they say here in Mississippi, those fellows were “all boy”. But, they were good boys. And all of them, and especially Matthew, grew up to be good, good men.
I never forgot Matthew, and I was honored and blessed that he never forgot me. We wrote letters during his first deployment to Iraq. When he got married two years ago, his family flew me to Colorado so I could perform the wedding near the military base where he was stationed. Out of all the preachers in the world, he chose me. It is humbling to be so highly honored.
Matthew leaves behind his beautiful wife, Holly, and their 10-month-old daughter, Chloe. He also leaves behind his parents James and Patricia, his older brother Jamie, and so many friends and family members that love him. It is heartbreaking beyond words.
Dear mamas, please never forget that it is the veteran, not the preacher, who gives us freedom of religion. And you should exercise your freedom every Sunday. Have you ever slaved to make a special meal, and then you can’t get anyone to come to the table to eat it? How did that make you feel? I think the same principle applies when we have the freedom to worship God and do not use it. We treat it as if the soldiers have labored for nothing.
Dear mama, I hope you’ll take your babies to Sunday school this week. You should take them because the Lord wants you to take them. But, on another level I hope that you will go to church because you can go, because of what the soldiers have done. I hope you’ll attend worship this week, out of love for your Father above—but also for the little boy next door.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” * He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his 25th year of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 18) and Seth (age 15) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (from which they will send you an address if you would like to send Matthew’s family a card). You should write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note from the Mamas: You can also post comments for Matthew’s family and friends by clicking the word “comment” below. We’ll make sure they are sent to Matthew’s family.