Interview with an ex soldier. American soldier

Motto: „living humans are of more interest than landscape, architecture or history” Rory Steward in Introduction at Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger

Paul was a soldier in the U.S. Army for 21 years. During he’s military career, he been in the military bases from Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, South Korea, Italy. A few years ago, he been seriously wounded during a mission in Iraq. He survived and he decided to live his life as a Christian missionary. In this interview, you will find out something about his travel style and his work as a missionary in Kenya and India.

Rep: Tell me a few things about yourself (age, where you’re born, schools, hobbies etc).
Paul: My name is Paul Mackenzie. I am 38 years old and I was born in Norfolk, Virginia. I graduated from High School in Virginia Beach, and I have a bachelor’s degree in Religion from Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia. My hobbies are reading, oil painting and playing the violin.
Rep: How did you begin your military career? What was the main reason?
Paul: I joined the U.S. Army when I was 17 years old, right when I finished school. I wanted adventure, to see the world, and to serve my country.
Rep: If you will have the chance to go back, you’ll choose the same thing?
Paul: Yes.
Rep: Tell me about that mission in Abu-Ghraib…
Paul: During my Army career I was shot while deployed to Iraq. While battling insurgents I was wounded by an insurgent.
Rep: You survived after being shot. How this thing change your life?
Paul: It’s my belief that the Lord, God, spared me from death that night for His purposes. I believe He has called me into the ministry, as a missionary.
Rep: What do you like about USA? What you don’t like?
Paul: I love my country but I don’t always agree with its politics.
Rep: What country do you think that will be the next target for the U.S.? Iran? North Korea?
Paul: Well, really? I am only a simple man, trying to raise a family.
Rep: What plans do you have for the future?
Paul: I intend on serving the Lord all the days of my life. My faith is a gift of God. I believe my life exists to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. My vision is to win many souls for the Kingdom of God, and to glorify God with everything I do, say, and think. This is my vision. My vision directs my activity. Soli Deo Gloria.
Rep: How many countries you visit till now?
Paul: At present, I have visited 34 countries, many of them being in Europe.
Rep: What places in the world impress you most and you wanna see them again?
Paul: I enjoyed my recent missionary trip to India. I was very impressed with the Indian hospitality and openness to truth.
Rep: Tell me a few things about your travel style. From what I read till now, it seems to me that the American way of traveling and seeing the world it’s totally different than the European way.
Paul: I like to blend in: you know, when in Rome… Par example, when I’m travel, I’d like to wear something that doesn’t stand out, I’m not wearing something that is too American (ex. a Hawaiian t-short) and I try not to offend the local culture, if I worn a t-shirt with a pig on it in an Arab country, this could be offensive. Another thing, the body posture: if you show your bottom of your foot, that thing it’s considered offensive, because feet are dirty.
Rep: You buy clothes from the countries you visit?
Paul: In Kenya I bought the traditional shirts from the market, and in India I used flip-flops, like most of the people do.
Rep: About the luggage, it’s a common thing for the people who travel to take a lot of luggage with them. (Paul points to the bag which lay on the floor). You take only one bag?
Paul: Yes.
Rep: How many pounds or kilos has it?
Paul: Hmm, 10 kilos, that way I don’t pay. Sometimes, you have to pay if is over 10. Sometimes, I take the backpack too, to put the Bibles inside.
Rep: So, actually, you have two bags, a small backpack and a bag. What do you take when you go one month in a different country?
Paul: Well, I used to take, let’s see, maybe three pairs of pants, 4-5 shirts, 1 pair of shoes, a suit from top to bottom with a tie for Sundays, plenty of socks. Also, I take a couple of Bibles, I take my Greek Bible with me and my English Bible, dictionaries for that particular area, some paper, a pen, my camera.
Rep: Prior to visit a different country, you read something about that country, that region or you just go in that direction?
Paul: Yes, with 6 months to 1 year before I study the region, for example Andra Pradesh: the population, the language(s), so I could have basic understanding of the language and the culture.
Rep: Do you use any guides, like Lonely Planet or Rough Guides? What is your favorite? Paul: Actually, there’s websites for tourists, but I have guides at home, I order a lot of travel guides.
Rep: But what do you take on a trip, for example you need to take a bus or a train from point A to point B, and you don’t know what to take. So, what do you take with you?
Paul: No, for these trips (n.r. for the trips in India and Kenya) I don’t take anything, I have friends in those countries which help me with information. When I do a trip in Europe, with the family, then I do that, I have all kinds of travel books, like trains timetables, and bus schedules and all that stuff. But in India and Kenya, I don’t do that, I rely on pastors.
Rep: That’s because you have friends over there…
Paul: In that way, I can spend more time with people…
Rep: What is your preaching style when you go to India or somewhere else?
Paul: The preaching is extemporaneously, but is also based largely on understanding of the Gospel. Is extemporaneous for the fact that when God move you, He gives you word to say and how to say.
Rep: What means exactly extemporaneous?
Paul: Is not preplanned.
Rep: So, you just go in a street, in a market and you talk with the people, I mean you don’t have a plan, like : today we gonna talk about the salvation or tomorrow I’m gonna talk about life of Jesus and so on…
Paul: In a church, yes, but on the street is extemporaneously. We talk with people for a couple of hours, is just what we do. And also, we largely do what the people need. What is their need? You talk with somebody and if that person need food, you buy food, if he need shoes, you buy shoes. Also, I respond at people’s questions, I transmit the general message of repentance and faith in Christ. In order for Grace to be truly Grace, must be free.
Rep: So, you said that if they need some rice, something to eat, you buy them that food…You think that buying those things helps your preaching work or…?
Paul: Certainly, it won’t hurt, I mean if one guy is hungry, you first give him food, and then he probably would listen what you have to say. Of course, the most important thing for them is to hear the word of Gospel, to repent and believe and have faith in Lord Jesus Christ, but they also have immediate needs. So, it’s a balance, I just gonna preach to someone you know is hungry and you say : „OK, OK, God bless you” and leave. This is expressly spoken by Peter and James in the epistles, you have to take care of the widows and orphans, this is true religion. But the homilies on Sundays and on other days, these are planned, you have to study Scriptures and determine what the Lord wants to say to the people. Or perhaps the pastor that I’m visiting wants me to preached on a particular subject.
Rep: What about the other countries you visited…?
Paul: Yeah, I’ve been to India and Kenya.
Rep: OK, so tell us about Kenya. I know that the Kenyans know English very well, they learned in school. You preach in English?
Paul: Yeah, in English and someone translated in Swahili.
Rep: You go to the Christians villages or to the Muslim or pagan areas?
Paul: Yes, we go to the pagan areas . Actually, these people worship wood, they are pantheists, but there are pagans, yes. We don’t actually go to the mosque’s grounds, but we go to the Muslim villages, usually on the streets, market places.
Rep: Prior to preach in a Muslim area you go to a local imam or local chief, local mayor to ask for the accord?
Paul: No.
Rep: But you had problems?
Paul: No, not in India, not in Kenya. If you were in Sudan, things are different.
Rep: How long to you stay in a country when you go in that kind of mission?
Paul: Less than a month. Three weeks to a month, to get three Sundays. It’s enough to go at all the churches, in all the major areas.
Rep: What is the percent of success? You go to Andra Pradesh, you preach the Gospel and let’s say one, or two or ten people become Christian after you preach…
Paul: I don’t take stats, I don’t know, it’s not up to me. It’s like the sower with the seed, there’s four types of ground: the seed that fell on the way side, the birds took it, the seed that fell on the rocks, without any ground, any soil, it has no roots, and the seed that fell among the thorns, grew up but the thorns choked the plants, and the seed that fell on the good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. So, the increase come from the Lord, the sower is simply doing what God is calling to do, but the increase and the results are not from the sower, a mere man telling the Gospel. God makes the increase, God makes them grow, so the results are not up to me, even if a preached a really good message or not so good message. It’s not up to me if I’m very eloquent or if I’m just a bumbling novice, still the word of God it’s preached, the Holy Spirit is speaking in those words to people. I just go where I’m commanded to go, say the words that I’m commanded to say, and Your people we’ll hear Your voice, cause You call them up by name, because are Yours.
Rep: You wanna say something for the people, in the end?
Paul: Yes, I’m looking forward to came to Romania one day, talk with some people.
Rep: We’re waiting for you. God bless you!
Paul: God bless you too!

P.S. The Romanian translation is gonna be ready soon. Feel free to add your comments and your questions to this interview, but I kindly ask you you to use only English. When the Romanian translation it’s gonna be ready, you may comment there in Romanian. Thank you!


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  4. Recently I read your Veteran’s interview online and just wanted to say thank you. If possible I would encourage you to check out and share your stories.
    The mission of The Frontlines is: „To provide members of the armed forces, veterans, family and friends a platform to creatively share their stories from the frontlines.” There are many ways in which people tell stories and The Frontlines encompasses them all, utilizing social media in order to allow individuals to share their stories through videos, pictures, letters, art, or songs. Additionally, there is a blog, a forum, and the ability to post book, movie and gear reviews of items of interest by those affiliated with the military. Lastly, The Frontlines is unique in that it affords a family member or veteran to create their own „dossier” listing their description of service, campaigns and any awards they may have had. This „dossier” represents a time capsule for future generations to use in order to have a better appreciation of the sacrifices their relatives made during wartime.
    As philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So I ask you what is your story? Fronts Change. Memories Don’t.
    Thank you again for your time and service to our country. To learn more about The Frontlines please visit care
    Very respectfully,
    Nathan W. Tierney


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