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Hope for Us All

Edinburgh, Scotland - July 27, 2017 Monument to Polish soldier and bear Wojtek in Edinburgh.

A brown bear became an army corporal during WWII.

In the shadow of Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle, there is a statue of a man and a bear. The placard next to them describes them both as soldiers and World War II heroes — yes, even the bear.

As it turns out, this Syrian brown bear spent years in the Polish army before settling in Edinburgh, where his statue’s nose now gleams gold from friendly pats. That journey began thousands of miles away in Iran in 1942.

It was an event of happenstance that the bear – then a tiny cub in a burlap sack -- arrived at the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. A young Iranian shepherd traded the orphaned bear for a Swiss army knife, some chocolate, and canned beef. The cub was placed under the care of a soldier named Peter Prendys. To everyone’s delight, the animal quickly assimilated, and in 1944, he became Private ‘Wojtek,’ meaning “joyful warrior” in Polish. He was fed double rations, often washing them down with a beer.

Wojtek’s antics provided much-needed entertainment, but he was more than just a pet. The bear proved his worth on the battlefield when his company was reassigned to Italy. Eyewitness reports from May 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino, purport that Wojtek bravely carried artillery shells and ammo crates across the battlefield. After the battle, the company changed its insignia to a bear holding an artillery shell, and Wojtek was promoted to corporal.

When the war ended, Wojtek said goodbye to his enlisted buddies and retired to the Edinburgh Zoo, where he lived from 1947 until his death in 1963, and where a statue now honors his extraordinary life of adventure and achievement.


There’s Hope for Us

If a bear can become a hero because of a man who befriended him, how much more might we become under the love of an infinite God who calls us His friends?

It doesn’t take much self-reflection to realize that we fall far short of God’s standard of holiness. We quickly admit that we don’t even live up to our own standards of goodness. It can be tempting to feel we’re not qualified to do anything for the kingdom. We can fear that our own inadequacy will get in the way or our hypocrisy will be discovered and bring shame upon the one we’re trying to serve.

It’s in those times of honest clarity that God simply comes nearer. The fact we can see our hypocrisy is evidence that His Spirit is alive within us. The greater our sense of shortcoming is, the more likely that we’re comparing ourselves against a clearer view of who He is. He has already seen us at our absolute worst and still accepts us. There is no degree of shame He hasn’t already endured for us.


“For behold your calling, friends, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to naught the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-31




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