While reading an excerpt of Richard Brookhiser’s latest book, “George Washington on Leadership”, I came across an interesting passage detailing the very first general orders Washington issued upon taking command of the Continental Army encamped at Cambridge, Massachusetts in July, 1775. The orders had nothing to do with battle strategy, weaponry, munitions or anything else that might be considered crucial for military victory. Instead, they dealt primarily with the upkeep and maintenance of the camp latrines, also known as “necessaries”. He was especially adamant that new latrines would be dug, and old ones covered over, at least once per week. This meticulous oversight of the camp “necessaries” by the Commander-in-Chief would continue throughout the duration of the Revolutionary War.
At first blush, one might jump to the conclusion that Washington may have had some kind of obsessive-compulsive hygiene hang-up or that he was an extreme “micro-manager” who wouldn’t trust anyone with even small details, but both of those assumptions would be way off the mark. Washington wasn’t OCD or a control freak – he was brilliant enough to figure out that sometimes it’s the mundane and ordinary tasks that are actually the most important and critical jobs of them all.
He recognized that an encamped army in his day was in much greater danger of being decimated by disease and pestilence than it was by enemy fire; and overused or poorly covered latrines were one of the primary attractions that brought disease-carrying insects & vermin into military camps. Washington wisely understood that all the best battle plans, weapons and munitions were of absolutely no value if the soldiers were too sick to implement them. Thus, digging latrines – though unseen, dirty & thankless – was actually one of the most important tasks in the entire Revolutionary War, and played a key (if unheralded) role in our ultimate victory over the British.
Likewise, if Revolution is to prove successful in the struggle to bring good news & comfort to the lost and hopeless in our area, it won’t be due to any “grand plans”, “sweeping strategies” or material resources. It will be due to the tough, thankless, behind the scenes work done for the glory of our all-powerful “Commander-in-Chief”. I pray that God will bring forth workers who are ready & willing to “grab a shovel & dig latrines” for the Kingdom of God.
Post by: Eron Elswick, Leadership Team