Part 1 click here.

Part 2 click here.

Part 4 click here.

Who am I?  Part 3

The man was beet red in the face and shook his fist near my face when he yelled at me, “You Bible Thumper!”  But then he backed off and calmed down when he saw that he was not going to get a reaction out of me.  And then he said the most interesting thing.  He said, “I’ve seen Bible Thumpers and Holy Rollers in my day, but you….you’re different!”  And then he just shook his head and walked away.

Now I kind of doubt that many people could guess where this little stand-off took place.  I was 17 at the time, and I was in the bunk areas of the HMCS Saskatchewan, a destroyer in the Canadian Navy.  Previously, from age 13-16, I had been a part of the Sea Cadets, which entailed going down to the navy base in Calgary each Wednesday night, and then had the option of going to navy boot camps on Vancouver Island each summer.

Those were great years, as I proudly wore the uniform, marched in a number of important parades as part of the Cadet Navy Band, and got to spend summers on the west coast of Canada while I was still young.  Then, when I heard that a person could join the Reserve Forces as long as they turned 17 by the end of the year, I immediately joined up in March of 1977, eight months before I turned 17 in November.

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Much of the Reserves was like the Cadets, except that now I was in an adult world.  I worked hard that Spring and qualified for summer boot camp training again on Vancouver Island.  After surviving Boot Camp, I opted to stay out there, and worked in the naval dockyards for the rest of the summer.  Then the big moment came at the end of August.

An officer came up to me and asked if I would like to join the crew of a destroyer and be a part of a fleet maneuvers exercise for ten weeks.  We would sail from Victoria, British Columbia all the way down the west coast of the Americas making stops in San Diego, Manzanillo (Mexico), Panama City, Guayaquil (Ecuador), Lima (Peru), the Galapagos Islands, and Long Beach (Calif.)  So I phoned home to Calgary and said to my parents, “I’m heading to Peru with the Navy, but I’ll be back for Christmas.”  And they said, “Okay, see you then.”  : )

So at age 16, I sailed the ocean blue and saw the world, or at least a part of it.  And I loved almost every minute of it.  I’d been in Cadets, and then Reserves, for almost four years and now I was finally sailing on a large ship bound for adventure.  (Funny thing is, when I got back to Calgary, I quit the Navy, because all I really wanted was a chance to go out to sea, and I did that.  Then it was time to pursue my calling into missions.)

Back to my experience on the ship.  It was hard work, but I felt alive.  And spiritually, I felt like I could connect with God out on the ocean in a way that I couldn’t back home.  Which is kind of funny because of the 200 crew members or so, I only knew of three Christians.  One was the chaplain, one was a low ranking sailor at the other end of the ship whom I didn’t see much, and the third was the XO (Executive Officer, second in command.)

So spending time with God was pretty much a solitary journey for me.  When off duty, I would often sit near the stern and sing hymns and songs to myself.  When in port, I would go alone to try to find a church in the area.  And when I woke up each day, I would sit on the edge of my bunk and pull out my Bible and read from it for a while to give me some good things to think about during the day.

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What I didn’t do was to tell people I was a Christian.  I didn’t have to.  It didn’t take too many mornings before someone noticed me reading my Bible, and then everyone knew I was a Christian.  And that is when all the jokes, and ridicules began.  And of course I was always given the dirtiest job assignment to do.  I was even almost pulled into a prostitute house twice, but God saved me in those moments.  And for the most part, I never raised my voice or spoke back at these men.

Now I’m not saying I was a pushover or a pansy.  When I was mistreated, ridiculed or given dirty jobs, I would stand there and look them in the eyes for a minute or two to let them know I was a man inside who could stand his ground, but then I would turn away and go with a smile or a tune on my lips and go about doing my job.

And that’s what led this other man to confront me on the day we docked back in Victoria.  He had called me so many names, and tried to get me to drink, to smoke, to swear, to lay with a woman, but he had not succeeded.  And he had not broken my spirit.  And through all this, I rarely ever said a word.

And this was more than he could take.  He loved to argue with those “Bible Thumpers”, and he loved to mimic and ridicule those “Holy Rollers”.  But he didn’t know what to do or what to make of this quiet, yet strong, devoted Christian young man.  I realized then, when he said, “You’re different!” that it was a compliment.  Not to me, but to Jesus who was living in and through me.  I saw that by not saying a word, I had the opportunity to impact someone for Jesus.

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