We are on Day 43 of USS Bunker Hill’s 2017-2018 WESTPAC Deployment. As we approach the Holidays, I’ve been struck with God’s ability to provide in even the starkest of circumstances. The thoughts below were kindled in my mind as I observed the fatigue of the crew during a recent resupply evolution and considered this in light of God’s multiplying care seen in the book of 2 Kings 4.
Yesterday during UNREP (Underway Replenishment) I watched one of the line handlers on the aft missile deck sitting, hunched over, head in hands, waiting for our second attempt pulling alongside a refueling tanker. He was doing his duty, but clearly tired. Up all night. A VERTREP (Vertical Replenishment) still to go that afternoon. And as part of the Crash and Smash team responsible for emergency firefighting efforts, he had another late night and early morning yet to come supporting the MH-60 Romeos’ flights. With our location being a contended sea, this was no time to let-up. But the physical and mental demands were evident upon his face.
I imagine his thoughts weren’t too unlike what many of us have felt on deployment.
“God I’m tired.”
Perhaps like Bilbo Baggins told Gandalf in Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, “I feel stretched thin. Like butter scraped over too much bread.”
Or, “God I feel alone.”
Is this just emotional “Chaps” talk here? My imagination working on overtime? I don’t think so. It’s interesting how our minds will attack us when one or more of these four human elements is involved. Being hungry. Angry. Lonely. Or tired.
Well, the UNREP ship came back within range. We pulled alongside and took our “sip” of gas. Then ripped out of there with a compelling rudder to starboard. I’m sure some of the strain that had shone on the faces of those aft line handlers gave way to the satisfaction of duty fulfilled. Especially as the sound of Rock ‘n Roll poured from the 1MC intercom, accompanied by the gutsy whine of 100,000 horse power that pushed our 9600 ton warship out at 25 knots plus in the break away.
Break away is always cool. But that feeling of exhaustion may soon come back to those line handlers, or to you or to me. More than five months of deployment remain. Our kids will grow older. Sick family members may grow more ill. Life will continue on back home. And we will execute our duties and do perhaps 25 more of these UNREPs.
Does the thought of continued duty without foreseeable let-up in life make you tired? For us, here 7 weeks into it, some are probably asking, “Is it worth it?”, “will I make it through and stay strong?” I want to point out a little known story from @ 840 BCE which may answer that question in an unexpected way. It points away from ourselves, and our finite nature, to God who makes our “little” multiply in extremely trying circumstances.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel was going through a famine in the region of Gilgal. The famine likely resulted from the constant disobedience of the kings, whom by and large, “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of their fathers and worshiped the Baals (pagan fertility gods) 1 Kings 22:52.” In the midst of people led astray by their leadership, surrounded by pleasure seekers, idolatry and constant threat of warfare, there was a remnant in Israel who sought the Lord. A core group followed the path of the prophet Elisha who had the guts to stand up to the Northern Kings. They formed a school, or guild of prophets.
Three miracles occur among this community in Chapter Four of the Book of 2 Kings. The first miracle involves God’s provision for a widow of one of these prophets. She is threatened by creditors that her sons will be enslaved due to debts she can’t repay. So God steps in and uses Elisha to call her to faith that a tiny supply of oil she has in her kitchen will be multiplied many fold. His word is fulfilled, so much so that the oil is sold to pay all her debts, with enough left to cover her living expenses.
Another miracle transpires when a much needed meal for their community is put on, but the large pot of stew becomes toxically food-poisoned. Rather than death or sickness resulting, the Lord uses Elisha to cause the stew to become safe, and it nourishes the group of prophets. The final happening is a second miracle of multiplication. God causes a small gift of twenty bread loaves given to Elisha to be multiplied so that 100 fellow prophets are miraculously fed. And guess what? Again left-overs remain. Why does this so grip me as I think about Bunker Hill and the many Americans who support and pray for us?
Consider with me that surrounded by enemies and facing great personal difficulties, God reached down and multiplied dwindling reserves to provide in a big way right when needed.
Given that, I need this story to be true in my life too. That God will work a way, even in famine and danger, to provide for me. We learn here that He provides for the vulnerable. The widow–and single mother– is on His mind. And in spite of opposition God, provides for the righteous even in the most trying circumstances. Psalm 37:25 reads, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
I believe God wants us to hear and internalize this. In a special way, He will reach out to you and provide! He did so in Ancient Israel. He repeated it again when His own Son fed 5000 people with just 5 loaves and two fish–with left-overs there in Galilee too.
So my friend. May you hear this today whether aboard ship or supporting from shore. God will give you what you need too, and then some. There will be more, with cup running over (Psalm 23:5).
Your marriage? Safe in His hands. Your children? Not just healthy, but growing in love and maturity. Your career? If He cares for the sparrow and promises the children of the righteous won’t beg for bread, He’ll give you what You need and then some. Jesus is the “Bread of God who comes down from Heaven and gives Life to the world (John 6:35).”
We glimpse abundance in the story of Elisha. But then when Jesus comes on the scene, the abundance is 50 fold. In your life, can you trust Him through long days and grueling watches when countless PIM waypoints (Planned Intended Movements) from California? Even during unexpected double UNREPS? Or while you await a loved one to return home, or to be healed? I know you can.
In fact, aboard USS Bunker Hill, we are going to do it together as a family in Christ on this WESTPAC 2017. If you tune in with me, you’ll be reminded weekly of His Divine provision. “When??” You may ask, “How?” Well, I’ll be looking for it at each UNREP’s close, when I feel the gravity pull, and our Cruiser squat down and dig to Starboard—then tear away from those awesome Merchant Marines of the USNS, ready for anything, it’s then that I’ll be reminded of a GOD who supplies without limit.
(Pictured: Guided Missile Cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56) executing a break-away following underway replenishment with USNS Big Horn T-AO-198)