Our newsletter, "Cross Current" is published each Sunday. Along with an up-to-date rundown of congregational activities, each edition features an interesting and challenging cover story that connects faith to real life.
Written by Rick Gamble, these articles are published the following week in the Brantford Expositor where Rick is the Religion and Ethics columnist.
Sweet Salvation: Lessons from an Iconic Candy
In the chronicles of history, which candy was a lifesaver? And, no, it's not that obvious one.
This one played a key role in a crucial battle of the Korean War (1950-53) in which the Soviets and Chinese supported the North, and an American-led United Nations force backed the South. That epic struggle between two competing views of life set up the Cold War. And candy helped saved the day.
On November 27, 1950, 120,000 Chinese launched a sneak attack on 30,000 UN soldiers at the Chosin Reservoir in northeastern Korea. For 17 days, a fierce battle unfolded in bone-numbing temperatures.
Not only were the southern forces incredibly out-numbered, it was so cold that food rations froze, guns and artillery stopped working reliably, and fuel lines ruptured on vehicles, stranding soldiers in the remote area.
Before long, the UN soldiers were dangerously low on 60mm mortar shells. So using code to disguise their need from enemy eavesdropping, they called in a desperate plea for an emergency drop. As soon as air support could manage it, scads of pallets were parachuted into a UN-held zone to aid a collection of American marines, British commandos, and South Korean soldiers.
But when the crates were retrieved and torn open, the men were stunned at what they found. In what must've seemed the height of stupidity, or a cruel, senseless joke, the boxes were filled with thousands and thousands of... Tootsie Rolls, the candies that resemble a mix of taffy and chocolate.
As it turned out, the mix-up happened because — in code — 60mm mortar shells were known as Tootsie Rolls. But the radio operator who got the emergency call didn't know that, and didn't have the code sheets that would've told him what a Tootsie Roll was. So, as crazy as it sounds, the dispatcher called in the order for the only Tootsie Rolls he was familiar with. But that's only half the story.
Once the shock, anger, and confusion wore off, resourceful soldiers began to see potential in their unconventional supplies, spurred on by necessity and perhaps even desperation. For starters, the candy was edible — even in sub-zero temperatures — and its high-sugar content boosted both the energy and morale of the tired, hungry troops.
When chewed, the Tootsie Rolls became pliable and putty-like, but soon solidified again in the freezing cold. So the soldiers heated the candies in their mouths and used them to plug bullet holes in vehicles, or to patch automotive hoses and tubes.
According to even military accounts, Tootsie Rolls helped the soldiers hold on for almost two weeks, get through enemy lines, and retreat to a safer place in the south. The surviving marines called themselves The Chosin Few, a name that stuck even after a truce was signed two years later.
That moniker was a play on the words of Jesus who said, “Many are called but few are chosen.” He meant everyone is offered salvation but only the comparatively few who embrace him as the only way to be made right with God will receive eternal life (Matt. 22:14). It's a narrow, arrogant claim, if Jesus is still buried in some first-century sandlot. But if He came back from the dead, He owns that exclusivity. So even today, there are two competing views of life, and it's still an epic struggle.
In this culture, those of us on the faith side of the divide are vastly out-numbered. Conditions are harsh. Life is hard. So we often find ourselves making frantic calls for help. And, make no mistake, God makes no mistake. But He frequently answers from above with things we don't expect, want, or understand. The question is, what do we do with that?
It's perfectly okay to be mystified, or mad at God. Even David pours out his fear and frustration (check out Psalms 16 and 22). But at some point, we have to get past the shock, anger, and confusion. We must recognize that God knows what He's doing; that anything He supplies out of his love and wisdom can be a blessing for us and others; and that our job is to trust Him and use the brains He gave us.
As people of faith, we need to resist the gut-reaction to link our loyalty and obedience to God's willingness to answer our prayers exactly the way we want. With confidence in his love, wisdom, and power, we should see the awesome potential in every unexpected option and opportunity He sends our way. God never promises to give us what we want; only what we need. And He delivers.
When we break free of our narrow expectations and learn to see things from a God's-eye-view, we'll always have enough to feed and sustain us; the resources to plug the holes in our hearts; and the means to move forward again after respect and relationships are ruptured.
Not every individual battle will be won, but final victory is assured. Meantime, unwrap life's potential.
By Rick Gamble. Reprint at will in not-for-profit publications. Originally published in Cross Current, the weekly newsletter of Followers of Christ, an independent, nondenominational church in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. To get these free weekly articles by email, with no strings attached, send a note to Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org