Helping those in harm's way

by Jerry Circelli

North Texas Catholic

Dave Eubank carries a child

"Free Burma Rangers” is a true adventure movie, featuring real-life heroes. Chief among them is David Eubank, a former U.S. Special Forces soldier who puts his life on the line constantly to free the oppressed and rescue victims of civil wars. (Courtesy Deidox Films and Lifeway Films)

Following my review of the eye-opening documentary “Free Burma Rangers,” about missionaries who help free and treat oppressed people around the world, I felt compelled to get in touch with the group’s founder, David Eubank.   [Circelli's review and movie trailer here

I wanted to know what motivated this seasoned U.S. Special Forces soldier to become a missionary and risk his life daily to help people in some of the most dangerous regions on earth. 

Heidi McDow, a communications specialist associated with the Free Burma Rangers, told me that Eubank was in Syria. He was in the midst of freeing Kurds pinned down in the fighting there and moving them to safety. I asked her if, somehow, he could answer some questions for the readers of the North Texas Catholic. Ms. McDow relayed my questions to Eubank via email and told me it could take a while to get a response. 

A few days later, on the evening of October 30, I was watching “Special Report with Bret Baier” and there he was — David Eubank — in the middle of frontline rescues of the Kurdish people in Syria. With the blood of rescue victims on his clothing, Eubank was explaining to reporter Benjamin Hall the dire circumstances in which the Kurds find themselves in Syria. Along with treating rescued Kurds, Eubank and his Free Burma Rangers were also treating a Syrian government soldier.

I watched as the news reporter said of Eubank: “His team operates under fire — day in, day out — putting their own lives at risk to treat others… It’s not clear how the Syrian story will end. There are so many competing powers in such a small space. But there are people like Dave Eubank, who will do whatever they can, simply to help those caught in the middle.”

I received a phone call in the middle of the report. It was the communications specialist telling me that Eubank had forwarded a message to her for the NTC from the front lines of the fighting in Syria.

I touched “play” on the attached file she had sent to me. And there he was again — David Eubank.

Following is what the Free Burma Rangers leader and founder relayed to Catholics in North Texas:

“It was hard to condense 26 years of working in Burma — and now Iraq, Syria, and Sudan — to one documentary,” Eubank said. “But we prayed, and we asked God to help us to put together what was needed for this film.…So we chose what we thought were some of the most significant moments for the Free Burma Rangers in Burma and in Iraq, and we left out Sudan completely, and we left out Syria, and we left out a lot of Kurdistan. But we hoped the essence of what we’re about and what we’re trying to do, which is love and serve God and His people, is there. And I believe it is.”

When asked what he hoped would be some of the greatest takeaways for viewers of the movie, Eubank related a recent encounter.

“A lady watched the movie, who I didn’t know and she didn’t know me, and she said ‘Do you know who the hero of the movie is? It’s God.’

“And I thought, wow, we did it. God helped us do this. He’s the hero. … This movie is about salvation and finding that salvation through Jesus.”

To deliver that message and accomplish his goals to free and treat the oppressed around the world, Eubank takes an ecumenical and all-inclusive approach.

“Our organization has Muslims, Christians, atheists, agnostics, spirit worshipers, Buddhists, Yazidis … everybody is welcome as long as you are here for love, stand with the people, don’t run if they can’t, and are able to read and write, so you can provide good medicine and write reports. This [is] what it takes to be with the Free Burma Rangers. And I hope that comes through, and that we’re a family. Not just my family, my wife, and kids who grew up doing this, but all of us.… It’s about family and it’s about love.”

Eubank continued, “We’ve trained almost 4,500 Rangers and hundreds of videographers. We have thousands of hours of film … and what I hope comes out of this is that people look at their own lives and ask themselves who they are serving, what they are serving. I hope they find that answer in love and in Jesus. … And I hope people are inspired to stand up for people who are hurt and oppressed and that they draw their strength from God.”

As for himself, Eubank explained his priorities and what keeps him motivated.

“I try to put things in this order: First is the Spirit, led by God. 

“Second, intellect and heart — intellect says oppression is wrong and the heart says love. 

“And finally, the body. It’s fun to walk around in the jungle, it’s fun to run around — for me anyways — and help people and live an outdoor life.

“War and fighting don’t bother me that much, so it fits. But I want to keep it in that order. God first. Heart and brain second. And then then the body.” 

Eubank said his crews will continue filming in order to keep people apprised of what is going on in the lives of oppressed people around the globe. Expect more films, especially now with his involvement in Syria.

“This is just an offering of love,” Eubank said, “to say thank you to God and thank you to everybody for what we’ve seen and what we’ve been able to be a part of. In spite of our weaknesses and failures, God has used us.”

Regarding his faith, Eubank describes himself as a Christian.

Eubank’s parents were missionaries in Thailand, and he spent his childhood there, getting to know many Jesuit priests and Maryknoll sisters.

He relayed a story from those days in the missionary fields.

“I went to boarding school and I was away from my mother and father. I was a small boy, seven years old, and I felt homesick. I got dengue fever, so I was physically sick, too. And I remember laying in my bed. 

“Mom and Dad were not there. I was missing them. They were a thousand miles away. I was in northern Thailand and they were in southern Thailand.  

“And I said ‘Jesus, I don’t know if you’re real or not. My parents believe in you, but I need to know.’ And so I said, ‘If you’re real, help me.’

“Right away I felt like the room got lighter and I felt love in my heart. And you know God is love. That’s what you should feel, right? I thought about that later. I felt love in my heart, and I closed my eyes and it got even brighter. Then I saw an image — a picture, a face.

“It was the face of Mary. I thought, ‘Whoa!’

“I’m not Catholic. I didn’t grow up Catholic. But that’s what I saw.

“I became a follower of Jesus after that.”

Eubank continued to explain, “One day at church, years later, someone asked me my conversion story. And I told it.”

Eubank said a woman took interest and explained his vision in a way that has forever made sense to him.

“She said, ‘Dave, you couldn’t have your mother, so Jesus sent His mother to be with you.’”

Eubank continued, “There are mysteries that we don’t understand in this world. We all have different experiences. But I believe in those things. And I believe that God did send Jesus, through Mary, on this earth in human form to show us what God is like, to forgive us our sins, to lead us in joyous life, and to give us salvation afterwards. And He’s here with us every day.”

With that, and a thank you to Catholics in North Texas, Eubank signed off, ready to fight another day and continue his mission to free and provide medical treatment for his brothers and sisters around the world.


Dave Eubank carries a wounded child

Following my review of the eye-opening documentary “Free Burma Rangers,” about missionaries who help free and treat oppressed people around the world, I felt compelled to get in touch with the group’s founder, David Eubank.