On August 16, 2023

The wind whistles soft through the trees atop the bluff overlooking Omaha beach. The pathway winding though the trees opens up to manicured lawns and symmetrical rows of crosses at the American Armed forces memorial. These are the men and women who gave their lives in the Normandy campaign—the beginning of the end of Hitler’s diabolical reign in Europe.

The calm of the cemetery is the starkest contrast to the chaos and carnage that ruled the beach below on June 6, 1944. But this calm is also a very fitting tribute to what these heroes did here. Their sacrifice made all this serenity—as well as freedom and a future—possible for France, Europe, and ultimately the entire free world.

The German stronghold was thought to be impregnable, and the cost was unimaginable. But a beach head was all that was needed, then a foot hold on the coast. Then the land could be taken back town by town and the Allied forces could occupy…and rid the land of the reign of the enemy.

On this trip I saw another kind of occupying. Elton, an Albanian refugee who works with a church plant in the Normandy town of Liseaux, has taken a beach hold in former communist block housing apartment complex. He has established a relationship with the youth there—mostly Muslim refugees—and created soccer leagues and community among them.

When France was rocked by riots recently a mob set cars on fire and burned the buildings next to the cafe. Suddenly, a dozen of Elton’s young friends stood in front of the Cafe and told the rioters they would not do harm to their friend Elton’s cafe. Although they were not Christians (yet) they stood with their Christian friend Elton.

Jesus told a parable about a man who left stewards in charge of his property. “Occupy until I come” was the charge to the stewards. And so it is with us. We are called to occupy: to take on the enemy squarely, to take a beach head, to take the ground the enemy has occupied. We take it back for the kingdom of God, and we end the reign of the enemy. This is the privilege we are given: to occupy this earth until our Lord Jesus returns.

Even so, give us grace, Lord.
Even so, Maranatha, Lord Jesus.

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