March 2007 – For a man who grew up revering the Founding Fathers, honoring national heroes, respecting our president and planning “one day soon” to visit the nation’s capitol, it’s a shame it took me 61 years to get there. Last September, I made my pilgrimage to Washington, D.C.
Traveling with AFA’s Tim Wildmon and Marvin Sanders and their semi-annual Spiritual Heritage tour group put me in good company. The tour was peopled with AFA friends and supporters of long standing. From California to North Carolina, from Texas to Pennsylvania, and many points in between we came together to learn more about our nation’s rich Christian heritage. And it seemed that we immediately became one big family.
Despite having studied the photos for decades, I found the Washington Monument breathtaking. The Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials were imposing, almost overwhelming. Stops by the Vietnam, World War II and Korean War Memorials were moving.
Lunch at Mt. Vernon was a treat, and stops at the White House, Union Station, the Supreme Court and the Smithsonian were informative. A drive through Arlington National Cemetery and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns were sobering and somber.
The history angle
At every stop along the way, we benefitted not only from the insights Tim and Marvin brought from their many visits to the city. We also had the expertise of Stephen McDowell, historian president of Providence Foundation, a Christian educational organization. Stephen, himself a longtime friend of AFA, lives in the area and spent some time with us.
He knows just where to point out the evidences of Christian heritage in our nation’s founding. Furthermore, he sites countless incidents from his own research to bear out that the great majority of the Founding Fathers were men of Christian faith.
McDowell reveals that on the 555-foot Washington Monument’s capstone is engraved the Latin phrase Laus Deo, “Praise be to God.” Inside the structure, other blocks are engraved with messages such as “Holiness to the Lord” and “Search the Scriptures.”
The Supreme Court building is adorned with a marble relief of Moses holding tablets of the Ten Commandments. Eight large paintings in the Capitol Rotunda depict various aspects of Christian history. In the House Chamber, “In God We Trust” is inscribed in gold letters behind the speaker’s rostrum.
McDowell concludes, “A tour of our historic sites reveals that America was a nation birthed by men who had a firm reliance upon Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ.”
The family aspect
I had prepared to be impressed by the sites I’d only read about and seen in film or photos. And I was. What I was not prepared for was the impact my newly-met traveling companions would have on me. Around the dinner table our last night together, we talked about the impact of the D.C. experience.
One new friend shared that his brother had been listed as missing in action in World War II after his Navy ship was bombed. From that time until last fall, the family had often wondered if history had marked their loved one’s sacrifice in any way.
He shared tearfully that he had found his brother’s name listed among the MIA heroes in a computer accessible to guests at the World War II Memorial.
One lady in our AFA family had never visited D.C., and one of her desires was to find her father’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. In misting rain, she knelt by the wall and tenderly traced her dad’s name with her finger. Hers were not the only tears shed in his memory.
A young Hispanic mother and her young daughter were in the group. With great passion, the mom talked about what deep meaning it held for her to visit the sites. Beyond that, it was important to her that her daughter learn the history of the nation.
All in all, it was much more than a tour of historic sites in Washington, D.C. It was a family reunion with a hint of revival, a true spiritual heritage experience.