Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Story: Part 4

My Story: Index
Continued from part 3...

I arrived back at Friend Ships in the summer of 2006.

When I got there, I was expecting to set sail for Israel almost right away.  However, it turned out we had a bunch more work to do before we could leave.

I was part of the loading crew.  I worked in the warehouse making pallet-loads of cargo and marking them for proper storage on the ship.  We loaded several hundred pallets of clothing, medical supplies, toys, building material, and other stuff.

The ship was an old ammo ship from World War II.  It was a bit longer than a football field, and housed a crew of 40-50 people.  We repainted it before we left, and finally set sail in the fall of '06.

I shared a small room with 3 other guys.  It had 2 sets of bunk beds and a small sink.  The bathroom was down hall.  Two of my roomies worked in the engine room, and the other worked on the bridge.  I worked out on the deck crew.

We worked 7 days a week.  The deck crew ran an 8am-5pm shift.  The engine room and bridge crews, however, ran 3 rotating shifts, 24 hours a day.  There was the 12-4 shift, the 4-8 shift, and the 8-12 shift.  Whichever shift you had you worked both the AM and the PM hours, e.g. the 12-4 shift worked both 12am - 4am and 12pm - 4pm.  So, you'd have 4 hours on, 8 hours off, 4 hours on, 8 hours off. 24/7.

It took us over a month to get to Israel.  The ship was slow, the weather was bad, and... the ship was slow.  I remember being out at sea and seeing much bigger cargo ships sail past us at 3 times our speed.  I think our average speed was around 10 knots, which is a little faster than 10 miles per hour.  Sometimes you'd look out over the rails and wonder, "are we even moving?"  However, the constant knocking of the engine assured us that we were at least trying to move.

Life at sea was very simple.  It was methodical.  It was slow.  It gave you time to read, to sit, to talk, to play games, to watch movies.  I did a lot of reading and praying.  Actually, I don't think I've ever prayed more than that in my entire life.  The vast, ocean views inspired much prayer and reflection.  I really loved that part about sea life.

When we got to Israel, it was sometime near the Day of Atonement, i.e. Yom Kippur.  I must admit, though I prided myself on reading and knowing the Bible, I didn't know much about the Day of Atonement, nor any other Jewish holiday for that matter.  I knew they were explained in the Bible, but they were in the Old Testament.  At the time, I didn't care much for most of the Old Testament laws.

I had been to a Messianic Jewish Passover meal once or twice before, but other than that, I was pretty ignorant about Jewish practices.  So, when the crew was allowed to get off the ship and do some site-seeing during the time of the Feast of Booths, i.e. Sukkot, I didn't know what to expect.  I do remember thinking, however, that if only the Jews believed in Jesus, then they could put away the laws and practices of the Old Testament and get on God's program for today, the New Testament.  Oh, how zealous and naive I was.

We spent about 40 days in Israel.  We had encountered some delays, and for the most part, everyone loved the opportunity to be there and help.  We got to travel, make some Jewish friends, eat at several nice, kosher restaurants, and, of course, spend time in Jerusalem.  Actually,  one of my most memorable experiences in Israel happened in Jerusalem.  But that story requires a bit of setup...

At that point in my faith journey, I was extremely interested in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  I had wondered if I ever was baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Some Christians said that all Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit when they first believed in Jesus and accepted Him into their hearts.  Other Christians said that not every Christian gets baptized in the Holy Spirit, but rather God gives it to those who ask and seek after it.  I found myself adopting the latter view.  So, I made it a top goal of mine to pray that God would baptize me in the Holy Spirit.  In the book of Acts, those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues immediately afterward, as a kind of sign or proof that they indeed had received the baptism.  So, that's what I prayed for.  I can remember being down in the bowels of the ship somewhere, all by myself, and praying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Then, I would let my mouth go limp and hope that God would take over and cause me to speak in tongues.  At one point, I thought it may have started to happen to me, but then realized my mouth was moving due to the swaying of the ship.  Dangit!  So close!

One day, a group of us were walking around Jerusalem, just bumming around and hanging out.  Somebody decided to take a turn down a street that very few people were walking on.  This led us to some stairs, a few doorways, and eventually to a big room where some people were gathered.  We asked around and found out that we were in the traditional "upper room" from the book of Acts.  The "upper room" is the place where the disciples were gathered when, during the holiday of Pentecost, i.e. Shavuot, they were all baptized in the Holy Spirit!  Surely, I thought, God was telling me that I'd soon be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  I can remember being very excited about it.  It never happened to me, however.

Go to part 5...

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