Not long ago, leafing through my considerable “archives” (a.k.a. mounds of old magazines), I came across in the January 2008 issue of Guideposts, the captivating story of Al McDowell’s survival while serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The article begins by telling about Al receiving a copy of the Bible given to him by the government which carried the following message from the White House, dated January 25, 1941:

“To the Armed Forces: As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries, men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength, and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.”

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt 

Al says at first he had no interest in reading about the highest aspirations of the human soul and tossed the Bible into the bottom of his seabag, not knowing that a dangerous day would soon come when the president’s words would send him to his locker to find hope in that Sacred Book, a day when his immediate future seemed hopeless.

“I’ve been ignoring you,” Al said to the Bible; “What can you tell me now?”

Moments later this endangered sailor found himself pouring over and drinking in Psalm 91, a text that promises protection in times of danger, one he would soon test and find true.

While doing hospital chaplaincy work, I came to the bed of a woman looking very ill and asked if she ever read the Bible.

“I read the ninety-first Psalm every day of my life,” she replied.

She had discovered Al’s text and its promise of God’s care in times of danger, which built her faith and speeded her recovery.

My friend, Chuck, was captured by Nazi forces and confined in a prisoner-of-war camp. This placed him in double jeopardy because at that stage of the war Allied forces were bombing the area continually, making friendly fire even more dangerous than the treatment of prison guards.

As an anchor for his faith, Chuck settled on Psalm 55:22: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee.”

As the president had promised in his proclamation, this sacred text became a fountain of strength to Chuck, enabling him to have peace even when barbed wire fenced him in and bombs were falling all around.

F.D.R. wasn’t the first American president to invoke the value of Bible reading.

John Quincy Adams wrote: “The Bible carries with it the history of the creation, the fall and redemption of man, and discloses to him, in the infant born at Bethlehem, the legislator and savior of the world.”

And another President Roosevelt, Theodore, concluded: “When you have read the Bible, you know it is the word of God, because it is the key to your heart, your own happiness and your own duty.”

When Al McDowell discovered that this book of wisdom, counsel and inspiration was true, he decided to serve God his whole life through.

How about you?

Roger Campbell was an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. A new book, “Weavings – Some Times It Takes a Poem,” is now available at your local or online bookseller. Contact us at or follow us on Facebook at yourfaithadventure.


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