By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
CHAPEL HILL — Walking into the living room inside Marcus Reed’s home is almost like walking into a museum.
The room includes a fascinating collection of keepsakes, each representing a time period that shaped the life of a man who might best be described as a combination of John Wayne and Billy Graham.
Born the day before Valentine’s Day in 1925, Reed’s remarkable life journey includes a stint in the Army, where he served in the 98th division under General George Patton during World War II.
Years later, Reed played the vibraharp in an orchestra with some of his Army buddies in a church in Oklahoma, where W.A. Criswell was the pastor.
Reed, who is an active member at Grove Hill Church in Chapel Hill, surrendered to a call to the ministry while attending Criswell’s church. Reed went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and went on to pastor two churches in Tennessee and another in Georgia. He was then called to the foreign mission field, where he and his late wife, Ruth, spent 27 years serving in Israel.
“What we read about in books — he lived it in real life,” said Barbara Powers, a member at Grove Hill. “He has been through so much, but he is such a giver. He is an intelligent, amazing man. ”
Naturally, Reed has a large collection of captivating stories to tell, many of which took place while he was still a teenager.
“Four days after I got out of high school, I was in the army,” said Reed during a recent interview at his home in Chapel Hill. “I got drafted — it was during World War II — and was in the infantry. My first day of combat was Christmas Day, 1944. I was wounded in February 1945 and spent eight months in the hospital.”
Reed said he felt God’s protection during his time in the military, and recalls one instance in particular where the Lord’s presence was especially powerful.
“I believe that God saved my life in a very special way while I was in the service in the war,” said Reed. “Our troops went out down a little dirt road and the Germans were shooting tracer bullets. You could see them when they moved through the air.
“We were just standing there, and this guy next to me took me by the arm and said, ‘let’s move this way, about a foot, two feet.’ So, we did,” Reed said. “And as soon as we did, right where I’d been standing, there was a slew of machine gun bullets. I know I would have been killed if he hadn’t told me to move. I believe that was an angel.”
Reed had another close encounter many years later while serving on the mission field in Israel, where he was the manager at the George W. Truett children’s home orphanage. In 1967, during the Six Day War, Reed and his wife, along with several children, were forced to hide underground while the war broke out all around them.
“We slept on the dirt for three or four nights in a row because everyone could see the fighting all around us,” recalled Reed. “We saw an airplane come over us, and it was so close we could see the pilot. We saw him come over the building and then we saw a crash. We had some quite interesting times.”
Reed said he has felt God’s presence during each stop of his life, even when he didn’t realize it.
“When the Lord called me to the mission field, I wanted to go to South America because I thought the language would be an issue,” he said, “but I eventually was called to Israel and that’s the greatest blessing that ever happened to me.”