Coming up this week is an anniversary in our nation that I’ve come to hold dear to my heart. Anzac Day commemorates the day that thousands of young men poured onto the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, on 25 April 1915, in an eventual failed attempt to take the peninsula for the Allied side during World War I.
Ironically, what was arguably our greatest military defeat, has now come to be something which has formed the basis of friendship between our nations. The famous Turkish hospitality continues to be bestowed on Kiwi travellers and the mutual honour and understanding that passes between us is something quite unique.
Shawn and I visited Gallipoli 13 years ago while serving on the mission field in Europe and spent the entire day visiting the large sprawled site and soaking in the story told on that soil. Our Australian tour guide told the story with such obvious knowledge and passion. We contemplated the relevance to our own lives and that of our nation with the place. The following year, since we were only 5 hours drive away, we simply couldn’t miss the opportunity so returned for the Anzac Day commemorations and joined with thousands of other mostly young travellers. Many of these young pilgrims, like ourselves, were hungry to know how this story formed part of their own identity as New Zealanders, and in knowing this part of our identity, what difference would it make in how we now live?
So why would the story of the Anzac hold such significance for me and many others?
Quick history lesson: In 1915, our relatively young nation was still considered part of the British Empire. The army corps, serving in Egypt in 1915 prior to Gallipoli, were nicknamed the ‘Bronze Giants of the south pacific’. Despite our obvious difference in physical stature to citizens from the mother country, and about one generation had passed since our nation had been ‘officially’ started at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840), our identity was that of British subjects. By the end of the 8-month long campaign, and the end of the Great War itself, our nations people emerged with an identity of their own – that of New Zealanders. The worthy qualities still known about us to this day were forged and made famous in the trenches – that of mateship, courage, sacrifice, valour, good humour, and endurance. These values have become known as the ‘Anzac spirit’ or ‘Anzac legend’.
The most significant part in my own journey is that of God’s redemptive story currently unfolding, and what my/our part is in partnering with this. He takes what was meant for death and destruction, and brings life and healing. He brings forth beauty from ashes. He takes what appears lost and downtrodden, and crafts something significant and beautiful.
Years ago in our old hometown, we met up with a friend who had been at a prayer gathering that weekend. He passionately shared how the Lord had moved on his heart with the words ‘redeem 1915’. He asked the question ‘what would 1915 look like redeemed?’ Our faithful friend has shared this message for years now across our nation, and many have been inspired to investigate what it might look like for them to be part of writing HIStory. (Listen to a great message on this here).
From that day visiting our friend’s motel room, the Anzac story took on a new purpose in my heart, and the impact of previous year’s visits to the land made even more sense. These years since, we have been holding this before the Lord in prayer and dreaming how this 98-year old story could look like redeemed. How can the believers in our land arise and pour out into modern land of Turkey, inviting His presence, His hope, and the living message of salvation found in Him alone?
A few years back I wrote down a stream of thoughts on what I believe this could look like, pages of it from memory. It’s the kind of dreaming that only God can do through us – the ridiculously impossible! I’m feeling today that I need to pull those notes up again and read what my soul-searching with Him produced. I could do with a freshened up dose of inspiration.
For those of you elsewhere in the world, can I encourage you to ask yourselves, what is it that the Lord has destined within your people that is meant for life? What is the unique expression that lies within your land that, when dedicated to Him, will give Him glory and draw many to His Light? Do you live in Los Angeles: the city destined to take His message into the world? Or New York: the gateway city to the rest of the nation. Or London: a hub of heritage, and of gathering and sending out. Is your people group drawn to a specific creative expression, or does it display an inventive or innovative spark?
See through the eyes of faith. His fingerprints are on His created world, even at times where they may seem tainted or covered. Uncover and rediscover a glimpse into your nation’s purpose. You’ll be amazed when you incline your ear to Him!
I pray He gives you eyes to see what partnering with a redemptive Father God can produce. And that you’ll be inspired to join with what He has on His heart!
And that my friends, is what I believe to be the heart of the Anzac story. Redemption. Life. Him.
For historical information on the story of the Anzac, here are some sites to look up:
- NZ History Online
- NZ Govt Anzac website site
- Anzac from an Australian perspective – heaps of good stuff
Home Educators, you might be interested in this great resource as well.
Spoken by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1934 and now displayed on a memorial at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli:
“Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.”