Month of Sundays: Following

After this many of his disciples drew back, and did not go about with him any longer. So Jesus said to the Twelve: “Do you also wish to leave me?” But Simon Peter answered: “Master, to whom shall we go? Immortal Life is in your teaching; And we have learned to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)

One of the greatest military campaigns conducted in the 20th Century was the guerilla war waged by German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in what is now Tanzania. At the beginning of World War, the Allies purposed to overrun every German colony in Africa and the Pacific. They succeeded in short order—except German East Africa.

There, von Lettow-Vorbeck organized his army of askaris, the black troops drawn from the colony itself. He knew that he, surrounded by the British, could not win outright, and that he was cut off from supplies from the fatherland. He therefore kept his troops constantly on the move, striking where he could and moving onward when he had to.

The result was that he was able to tie down a British force many times the size of his own for the full four years of war. The only reason why he surrendered on November 23, 1918 (in British territory!) was because Germany had signed an armistice twelve days earlier!

Accounts of this usually emphasize von Lettow-Vorbeck’s leadership qualities. What’s frequently overlooked is the loyalty and discipline of the askaris. Well trained and immune to many of the diseases that decimated their British counterparts, they were central to von Lettow-Vorbeck’s purpose of keeping British resources in Africa and away from France and Italy, where millions were dying in static trench warfare.

We as Christians have the greatest leader what ever lived. His life, the training and discipleship he gave his first followers, his selfless sacrifice on the Cross and his resurrection are all things we can follow in him. But we must first follow, and follow him unconditionally, so that at the end we too can leave the battlefield undefeated. Where else can we go? He has the words of eternal life.

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