Back in 2005, musician Mark Schultz took time from an exhausting tour schedule to visit BGEA headquarters in Charlotte. He was on campus to film a Salute to Troops as part of the December 2005 Billy Graham Television Special. His single, “Letters from War,” was a key part of the show.
Because he was so tired, someone on the BGEA team showed Schultz a place to take a brief nap. When he woke up and looked around, he suddenly realized he had fallen asleep in Billy Graham’s office!
“The thing that will stick with me,” Schultz recalls, “are the pictures he had over his desk of all his past secretaries. It was obvious that he held them in high esteem. When I asked someone about it later, they told me that Mr. Graham had a special place in his heart and honored those who had served under him.”
Schultz adds, “I thought about what a different place the world would be if everyone took that message to heart. It was nice to see humility and gratefulness lived out.
“I left his office inspired to do the same.”
Letters from War
Fast forward to 2011. Schultz is still touring—including Christmas at The Cove on Dec. 9—and still performing “Letters from War.” The song has proven timeless.
Schultz describes how audiences react when “Letters from War” is played: “We still perform the song in concert each night, show the video, and honor the troops. We have anybody in the audience who is a veteran stand up, and they get a standing ovation for two-and-a-half to three minutes.”
Recently, Schultz got a call from a mother whose son is stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. She told him, “I don’t know if you’ve been to the chapel on a Sunday but you need to go. They have five services and play ‘Letters from War’ at the beginning of each service.”
When Schultz visited the base chapel, he stood at the back of the room during all five services and watched the servicemen stand up, put their arms around each other, rock back and forth, and sing every word. “I came out at the end and sang, and they would stand up and sing the song so loud that I would just have to stop singing.
“I was really honored by that,” Schultz says. “To think that a song that I wrote so long ago about my great grandmother and her sons was still making an impact today – it was pretty special to see.”
Thanking the Troops
Schultz offers a word of thanks for any military person reading this: “One of the reasons that we’re able to enjoy the holidays safely, and one of the reasons we’re even able to be in a church lifting up God’s name, is because of the folks that risk their lives.
“We know that we’ve got a wonderful military that keeps us safe and stands for right, so I want to thank them and let them know that the sacrifices they make as a family we appreciate so much, and we’re grateful for them.
“Servicemen overseas really love to hear those ‘Thank You’s’ especially around Christmas time from family and folks in the United States who really appreciate their freedoms,” Schultz adds.
What It Means to be Loved
One of Christian music’s most acclaimed singer/songwriters, Schultz puts a personal touch on each song, especially the hit, “What It Means to be Loved.” Adopted when he was two weeks old, Schultz explains the genesis of the song: “It was actually from a story that my wife told me about a family that she’d worked with at the hospital. The mother was expecting a child and was told that tests revealed health issues that meant the baby probably wouldn’t live long after birth. Although the doctors suggested terminating the pregnancy, the mother decided she would love the child as long as she could.”
Inspired by this family’s story, Schultz’s wife talked with him about how they could take such a step: “Since you’re adopted I think we should adopt kids too.”
Schultz said, “O.K. that’s fine,” then his wife responded, “I think we should adopt kids maybe with special needs who are only going to live for a year or two.”
“My wife said she would love to bring those kids home and celebrate, give them the best birthday they would ever have and give them an unbelievable Christmas, so that when they finally pass away and they meet Jesus, they know what its like to be loved first here on earth.”
When Schultz sings “To Be Loved” in concert, he says it gets an “unbelievable reception.” He speculates that people realize “We can love like that because Jesus first loved us like that, so we want to mirror that same kind of love.”
As our interview began to wind down, Schultz shared his personal hopes and prayers. “First, as we talked about already, I would pray for the troops and their families. I saw firsthand how tough it is for husbands to be gone.”
Another prayer on Schultz’s heart is for orphans. “I pray for kids waiting to be adopted. God makes some pretty serious promises to the orphans in the Bible, that He’ll be their father and that He’ll look out for them. I think one of the ways that happens is through the hands and the feet of the church.
“My prayer is that we’ll make a concerted effort in the coming year to really look after orphans and take them in, as well as to continue as the church to open up the things that are important to God and have God’s eyes.”
Sometimes in our culture, says Schulz, it is easy to think, “Well, if everything’s going well with my family and our church is doing really well, then things are good.”
“But we need to really look out and see the needy and the poor and the hurting — to really love the least of these as we’re called to do. To have God’s eyes and just go out and seek those things that are important to Him and resonate with Him, instead of asking God to bless us in our careers or in our own lives.
“Let’s join with God and do what He said is already important, and what we know is already blessed.”
Learn About The Cove
The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove is a 1,200 acre getaway in Asheville, North Carolina where gifted Christian leaders, teachers, and speakers guide people in studying God’s Word. Visit The Cove website now.