Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Garrison, MN lost a “chief vacuum cleaner operator, stewardship committee member, Bible study teacher, usher . . .” this morning when John Vessey went to be with Jesus. He served the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod on the Board for Mission Services, the predecessor to the Board for International Mission and headed up a campaign to endow our churches colleges which was called “For the Sake of the Church.” He described himself as a chief vacuum cleaner operator in an interview in the LCMS Reporter back in 2012 when he turned 90.
This kind of self effacing modesty marked his interaction with folks like me. Someone introduced him to me awhile back at the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod International Center. We talked for awhile and he went on his way and I remembered being taken by his modesty and range of theological interest. The name was lost on me until I remembered the title – General. Then my brain started to process facts that I had forgotten. He was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Reagan. He is accounted with the greatest peacetime strengthening of the Armed Forces in history.
This from the Reporter article by Jeni Miller.
“General Vessey fought in North Africa and Italy in World War II, as well as in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
In addition to his extensive active service, he also served as first commander-in-chief of the Republic of Korea-United States Combined Forces Command and as the appointed Presidential Emissary to Hanoi to negotiate with the Vietnamese government regarding the fates of missing Americans.
His numerous honors include the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Distinguished Service Medals, in addition to many other military decorations. He was the recipient of the Purple Heart and other medals from 19 friendly and allied nations. In 1992, President Bush awarded him the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. General Vessey is also the only person to have ever achieved every rank the Army had to offer.”
He liked to quote article 16 of the Augsburg Confession and gleaned from it that Christ is present with us wherever we are. From the battlefield to vacuuming at his church, John Vessey held onto Christ who redeemed Him with His blood and purchased Him, and now has taken Him to life everlasting.