Deny Yourself and Take Up Your Cross
Free Burma Rangers is not like most Christian movies. It is a very intense documentary containing disturbing images of war. It is filled with vivid accounts of great evils in this world. It does not have a clear happy ending where everything works out perfectly. Yet, this is fitting for a documentary about Dave Eubanks, his family, and the relief organization they founded the Free Burma Rangers. They are intensely serving Jesus imperfectly in areas where evil seems to triumph. They bring help to people who desperately need it even as gunfire riddles their vehicles. They bring the love of Jesus and do what they can, a simple glass of water, for those they can get to.
Free Burma Rangers is an amazing movie. It is about men and women who take Jesus’ words about laying down our lives to love others seriously. It is frankly awe-inspiring and refreshing.
Please go see it in the theaters if you are reading this today, February 25, 2020. It is in the theater tonight. If not, watch it when it comes out on video.
A Christian Sprinting to the Rescue
You will likely know Dave Eubanks from the iconic video from Iraq. He is the unconventional aide worker in camo and a Kevlar helmet who caught the world’s attention for saving an Iraqi girl from certain death. You likely held your breath as he sprinted out from behind a tank under fire to save the girl who was left sitting among the recently killed by ISIS. He is at the center of the movie but it is more than just about Dave.
Free Burma Rangers is as much a story about Dave and his family as it is about the organization bearing the name. Dave is a Christian and a former Special Forces soldier. He uses his army training to go into hotspots of the world and help those who need help in the name of Jesus. Oh, and did I mention he brings his family along?
The documentary uses the rescue of the little girl as the introduction point for Dave and his family. There is much more to this man than a 50-second video clip that captivated millions. He is the son of a missionary who decided to be a soldier. He then felt called to Burma to help the ethnic minorities in the country. They have been under attack by the Burmese government for decades. If you heard about the recent Rohingya crisis where hundreds of thousands of ethnic people fled Burma in terror, this is the same conflict. The United Nations calls it ethnic cleansing and it has been going on for decades.
Dave Eubanks and his new wife felt called to go to the areas in Burma held by the ethnic minorities and help. He did not know in what way or how. He just knew they were suffering and the love of Christ compelled him. God provides a connection with an ethnic minority Burmese medic and the Free Burma Rangers were born. His philosophy is simple. If people need help, they will help in the name of Jesus. If they are running away from danger, the Rangers will run with them. If they can’t run away, the Rangers will walk with them. They will stay with them no matter what. They are still going strong 24 years later and have moved into Iraq and Syria.
The movie covers the backstory of Dave, his wife Karen and his three kids intertwined with the Rangers in Burma. The story of the family is inseparable from that of the group because Dave and Karen chose to keep their kids alongside them as they worked. The three kids grew up in Burma marching through jungles, ministering to displaced people and seeing the horrors of the government’s campaigns…and they are grateful for doing so. The film follows the development of the Rangers as they seek to train medical workers, document atrocities, share the love of Jesus and just help in any way possible. They makers show interviews with the family and Burmese Rangers covering their journey in the war zones and the hope the group provides. It is both inspiring and heartbreaking. A former child soldier of the government talks about the atrocities he did while in the army before being baptized into a new life in Christ. Such joy in a land of great sorrow.
A warning – very few punches are pulled in footage from Burma and Iraq. There are terrible things going on in both zones and they do not shy away from them. There really is a pile of dead bodies around the little girl Dave ran out to save. An account of a horrible rape and murder of two young aide workers is discussed and their bodies shown. It is not gratuitous but the reality is up in your face. ISIS and the ethnic cleansing of the Burmese government are awful evils.
What is one Christian to do in the face of such evil?
The answer to this question is what makes Free Burma Rangers such a wonderful film.
Share the love of Jesus despite the personal pain and risk. Take the directions of Jesus seriously when He says:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You have eternal life if you are a Christian. Your place is secure. Yet, the time here to make a difference is so short. What are you willing to do in order to bring others to Jesus?
Dave Eubanks is obviously intelligent. He clearly is driven and hard working. He likely could have a high paying job and a comfortable life in America. He chose to leave that all behind and raise his kids in a war zone. He explains in the movie why this makes perfect sense to a follower of Christ. Simply, this is the path Jesus laid out for Him. It is the place where the abundant life is as a result.
You can be tricked into thinking blessings from Jesus come in the form of ease and recreation. These things are not bad in themselves. They are just not the aim of Christian life. Jesus does not need to do the impossible to allow you to watch TV. Following Jesus in the face of great challenges is the place you see the glory of Jesus move mountains.
Why chose the easy path when the impossible one is where Jesus works?
Whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it.
Do you trust in these words? Does your life reflect this trust?
This message is conveyed humbly in the movie. It is not preachy. It does not demand you move to Burma. Dave talks about his challenges and mistakes. He admits he is not qualified to do much of what he does. The organization is far from perfect. You may take issue with their methods.
But oh what faith is on display…from Dave, Karen, his kids, the Burma Rangers and more.
Do you recall the times Jesus commends people in the Bible? This would be when Jesus is recorded as complimenting someone for something in the Scriptures? What does He take notice of?
When the ancient soldier comes to Him for healing of his servant? The man’s faith.
When the guys dig through as ceiling interrupting Jesus’ sermon? Their faith.
Hebrews 11 is not the hall of perfect planning and execution. It is called the Hall of Faith.
Jesus loves intense faith in Him despite the circumstances. This is the message of Free Burma Rangers that my family loved. This is what spoke so clearly to me as a follower of Jesus. Trust Jesus more and do the hard things in faith and trust in His reward!
Go see it!
Please share this review and recommendation with others as well. The more light the world shines on the actions of the Burmese Government, the better.