Thursday, January 29, 2009
A Table in the Presence
It is hard to believe that three years ago today, Steven came home from his final tour of duty with the Multi-National Forces in Iraq. He had spent 22 of the previous 24 months there. From February to December of 2004 he was at Camp Fallujah, not far from the town of Fallujah, Iraq. He came home for a month. Then, for a full twelve months (except for a couple of weeks R& R with me in England in September) from January 2005 to January 2006, he was in Baghdad, first at Camp Victory in the south part of Baghdad and then on assignment to the State Department at the Embassy in the Green Zone of Baghdad.
It was a difficult time for both Steven and me. Although by this time in his career with the USMC Steven was a lieutenant Colonel, neither of his assignments had been "cushy". At Camp Fallujah there had been almost daily bombardments of rockets, with travel outside of the camp being extremely dangerous due to roadside bombs. The quarters were spartan by US standards. The heat was oppressive, well into the 100's. And the hours were long, long. No days off. Having to make decisions that could drastically affect peoples' lives forever was probably the hardest part, though.
At Camp Victory and the Embassy a lot of the same conditions prevailed, but there was the added danger of many low, fast helicopter flights between the camp and the embassy, and vehicle convoys several times a week through the most dangerous parts of Baghdad. One time his convoy was even the target of a vehicular suicide bomber. Although he was technically a logistical advisor to the Ministry of Interior, part of his mission was to report on corruption when he found it. He had some enemies in high places.
At home, although I did not face the same kinds of discomfort or dangers, my heart was with my husband. We talked on the phone, or emailed each other daily. I acted as the conduit for most of the news between Steven and the rest of our family and friends.
I also had to be strong at home, to help guide our son Phil through his last year of high school and later, as he was making his transition into the "real world". And then there was all the household and financial decisions to be made: home repairs, car breakdowns, repairs, purchases and bills, etc. I had a lot on my plate.
The LORD God got us through it all. A key factor in it was that family, friends, and church were so very faithful to hold us up in prayer! Steven says that was a palpable reality in Iraq. Whenever his attention was turned even slightly toward God, the Presence of God was right there comforting and strengthening him! He attributed that directly to the prayers at home. He also found Christian brothers in the military that would openly pray with him during critical transitions and decisions.
God used Steven, not only in the military missions, but as a witness to unbelievers and to several Muslims. One of his Muslim friends even accepted Christ!
And Steven came home to me safe and sound.
I'll finish up with a couple of excerpts from my journal at that time:
"At 10:22 this morning, Steven called me from Kuwait. He's coming home tomorrow! He talked a very nice Marine Corps Staff Sergeant into sending him straight to San Diego (instead of going to Florida first) so he could be here for my birthday (1-31). WOW!!! I need to pick him up at the San Diego Airport tomorrow at 4 PM. He's coming on United--flight #6156. I was hopping around the room like popcorn after that!"
2-7-06 (We were settled into a very nice cabin on the beach at Camp Pendleton.)
"This morning we woke up about 6 AM. We got up and had breakfast. Steven left for work at 7:30 AM. I washed up the dishes and did my Bible reading. At about 8:30 AM, I decided to take a walk down the beach. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning! The sun was shining. Temperature perfect--not too hot, or cold. I had the whole beach to myself--just the seagulls and other sea birds and the breakers. I was so overwhelmed by the peacefulness and beauty, I just started crying, singing a worship song to the LORD for His blessings.
The LORD has blessed us in so many ways this past week: bringing Steven home safely--in time for my birthday and our anniversary; giving us safe travel between here and Tehachapi; giving Steven a job here at Camp Pendleton that fits with his interests and skills; giving us a good realtor (and possible good price) for the house in Tehachapi; giving Steven a warm reception with family, friends, and even strangers (ie. Olive Garden); and a beautiful temporary place to live this week on the beach. I just have a real peace that God is going to work out the rest of the particulars, including where we are to live and go to church."
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
Psalm 23; 5,6