Making Our Lives Count for Eternity
June 1, 2002 - Shannon Spann says that she is "blessed" and "grateful."
by Tom Layton
Those words are not what the world might expect to hear from the young widow of Mike Spann, the first American killed by the enemy during the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. But in Mike’s honor and in God’s grace, Mrs. Spann has found hope.
"There are times," she says, "when I just lie on the floor and say, ‘God, why did this have to be part of Your plan?’ I miss my husband so much.
"I don’t want to have to do it this way. But certainly, measure by measure, God is the One who gives me the strength and the ability to say, ‘It’s not how I would have done it, but I’m so glad that You have a broader plan.’ I know that God’s wisdom is much greater than mine.
"I also know that Mike would have been pleased to offer his life for one person to make the decision to spend eternity in heaven. So if even one person hears his story and makes that decision, then it truly is worth it."
The Spanns were a family so young that they had never sat for a family portrait. Mike spent only two months with their baby son, Jake, before leaving in October for Afghanistan. Mike, who formerly served with the U.S. Marine Corps, was part of an elite paramilitary team preparing the way for the U.S. military campaign.
The Spanns both worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and for two months after Mike was in Afghanistan, everything went smoothly.
Mike would call home periodically to check on Shannon and Jake, and on his daughters, Alison and Emily, from a previous marriage.
The last time that Mike talked with them was at Thanksgiving. He mentioned then the influx of prisoners coming into Mazar-e Sharif, the city where he was to interview the prisoners. That Saturday night, which in Afghanistan would have been Sunday morning, November 25, Shannon said that she prayed, "God, protect Mike from having to see too much craziness today."
In her journal she has marked that as an answered prayer. The hour that she prayed was approximately the hour that Mike was killed during a terrible prison revolt that erupted as he was questioning the captured and surrendered Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.
"It gave me a little blessing," she said, "to know that perhaps God had honored my prayer in that Mike wasn’t tortured. He didn’t suffer. His death was quick. God preserved him, and perhaps in some way I participated in that through prayer."
With that faith and discernment, Shannon Spann wants to fulfill the mission that Mike had. Even with her doubled responsibility as a parent, she hopes to continue her career with the CIA. For her, the war on evil has now taken on a different dimension and a greater urgency.
"I don’t think anything focuses your mind on eternity more than losing someone you love," she said. "Lately I’ve been reading a lot about heaven, and it has helped me focus on the reality of eternity. At the same time there is—equally real—an eternity separated from God and separated from loved ones. To consider there are people who will choose not to follow God and be separated from those they love, and be completely separated from the One who loves them most—it’s just chilling to consider that reality."
So she counts it as a blessing that "God has had mercy on me to be put in a situation to help prevent someone from being separated from God for eternity."
That’s why, in Gainesville, Florida, the North Central Florida Festival 2002 With Franklin Graham, Shannon Spann appealed to the crowd of nearly 10,000. She challenged those who wonder if God is real. "Stop wondering," she said. "Listen to the music. Listen to people who are here to tell you about God’s love."
Then addressing the believers, she said, "Can I ask a favor of those of you who are Christians? When I heard the news that Mike was missing, I prayed that somehow God would give me something each day that would be for eternal value. Will you join me in praying that prayer? Ask God to make our lives count for eternity."
She paused. "One last thing," she said. "This world is not our home. Since we are ‘family’ here, if you happen to go Home before I do, find my best friend and tell him that I love him."