Last August Troy Sowers walked into his retirement party and was momentarily flummoxed. Everyone in the room was familiar—everyone but one young man. Every smiling face belonged to someone he had worked with as the Special Agent in Charge of the Knoxville, Tennessee FBI field office. There were fellow agents of course—men and women with whom he had investigated crime, executed warrants, and made arrests. There were also analysts, administrative specialists, and a handful of Assistant U.S. Attorneys who had prosecuted his cases. The event was festive, and in reality more than Troy had wanted (In sober G-Man style, he’d told his staff: “Keep the party simple—just donuts and coffee”). Although Troy wasn’t put out by his staff going big with the party, he was puzzled by the presence of the stranger: “Who is that guy?” Adding to the mystery was the young man’s attire: a Marine Corp uniform. But before Troy could make the I.D. his fellow “gumshoes” gathered around him with hugs, handshakes and words of appreciation.
After lunch and several appreciative remembrances by colleagues, Troy’s number two in the office, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Sherri Onks stepped to the podium. After expressing her own appreciation for the boss whom she would soon be replacing, Sheri reminded Troy of one of his earliest cases as a rookie agent in Tacoma fresh out of Quantico. A woman wearing a nurse’s uniform stole a newborn from a nearby hospital. After her quick arrest, the woman confessed to the kidnapping. She told the agents that she had placed the baby in a shoebox and dropped him in a dumpster behind a restaurant. She couldn’t say precisely where.
With that slender lead Troy and his fellow squad members tore off in their Crown Vics and began to search. After many hours of fruitless dumpster dives and ready to call it a night, Troy found himself digging through yet another filthy can. Spotting a shoebox, and with his heart pounding, Troy opened the lid and found the baby. The scrawny guy was cold, hungry, and unhappy, but otherwise unharmed. Troy would be there when the emergency room staff returned the infant to his previously frantic, now euphoric parents.
That’s not the kind of case that an agent forgets, and Troy Sowers hadn’t. In fact, many times over his FBI career he had thought about the baby in the box and wondered what had become of him. Troy would soon have an answer.
After telling the story of the rescue to the assembled crowd, regaling the young agents who had never heard of their stoic boss’ heroics, Sheri asked the young man in the back to come forward. Introducing the muscled Marine to Troy as Corporal Stewart Rembert, Sheri said to Troy: “Meet the man you pulled out of a dumpster 22 years ago in Tacoma.” There was a handshake and then a hug. It would be several moments before Troy could speak.
Obviously, I don’t know Troy Sowers
But I can guess what he must have been thinking days and weeks after this incredible reunion, one widely reported in the media: “I’m sure glad I crouched in that dumpster. I’m sure glad I didn’t let the fatigue and filth keep me from finishing the search for that baby. If it had, the world would have been denied the gift of Stewart Rembert, and I would have missed what I now see as the most momentous deed of my life.”
Friends, Scripture teaches that each of us disciples is destined for our own “retirement party.” Someday after the return of King Jesus and the “retirement” of this age, our lives will be evaluated. Paul calls Timothy to keep this Day in mind in II Tim. 4:1: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead,…” When that Day comes, those of us who dedicated ourselves to the work of caring for children will have our own “Troy Sowers moment.” We will see the difference our love made in their lives. Then we will look into the eyes of the Judge of all the earth, and he will say: “Well done, good and faithful servant. In loving and serving these little ones, you loved and served me.”
Yours in Christ,