One of my absolute favorite parts of the day is when I get off work for my lunch break and I am walking towards the P9-11 and all I see is a melting pot. Young and old, male and female, every skin shade of brown to white, every uniform color from blue to tan. And we’re all one. Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army, Royal Navy, Pakistani, Bahraini, German, French, Japenese, Scandanavian, Filipinos, D.O.D contractors, civilians, children. Here’s this American Naval Base in the Middle East and its a snapshot of cohesion.
There’s nothing like walking towards the Freedom Souq and getting “hellos” and “heys” from the variously uniformed soldiers, to the “good day ma’am” from the hotel workers, to the smiles and waves from the familiar faces you see around base each day. Sometimes the Muslim prayer song is playing, reminding those of that faith that it is time to go pray. It often reminds me of how much more time I should be devoting to God. I really thought that my coming here was an intentional act of God for me to be sent directly into the heart of conflict, to bring the Good News to a place where it is unknown but greatly needed. However, in my time here, I’ve realized God’s purpose for my life and time abroad is far greater than that. He has been using me not to go out into Black Flag areas on a suicide mission, much as my family back home imagined, but instead to reach those right here on base. Moreso than that, it has been others impacting and teaching me.
How blessed am I to have befriended a bright eyed and tenacious red headed woman from Denton, Texas who serves as a daily reminder what it means to love? She has taken me out of the 10 x 10 box of servitude I had placed myself in and shown me firsthand what it means to truly live a life of love. Never in my life have I met someone who so easily can change the atmosphere of a room just by entering it – be it a classroom full of preschoolers or a table full of grown men. Her heart to serve and her ability to bring light to the lives around her radiates every single day and it touches me and inspires me to be a better, more godly woman. Our Friday morning coffee and church dates have kept my feet planted firmly when sometimes I’m flying too high. She has taught me love, grace, forgiveness, and trust in ways I never could have discovered on my own. She’s helped me let go of shame and hurt and past regrets and showed me its okay to be vulnerable. Because of her, I was able to fall in love with life again, truly and unabashed. Because of her, I know light and love – pure and genuine agape love. Thank you Tammy for that.
About four months ago, these two dorky weightlifters scoffed off angrily when they saw a small blonde coveting the platform for the third day in a row. I had been intentional in my first few weeks on base to keep my head down, eyes forward, and keep my headphones in while training but anyone who knows me back home, knows that’s not really my style. I pulled out my headphones and ran up to the dark haired boy as they sauntered off, “Hey, do you want to work in?” The two boys smiled and just like that a friendship unlike any other, was made. Rob and Nate. The three musketeers. Countless steak nights and Star Wars movies. Birthdays celebrated, weights lifted, medicine and care packages shared, and tears shed. Endless nights filled with laughter and inside jokes, who would have thought home would be found in Bahrain because of these two guys. Before I met them all I wanted was to go back to California. I missed my friends and my family. I missed my gym and my comfort zone. But then I met them and it was like everything was as it should be. We were all so easily happy and comfortable around one another and we became a family. I wouldn’t trade the world for the memories the three of us have made and I look forward to many more when we all get back to California. Two Navy Corpsmen and a Preschool teacher – best friends.
Then there’s Christopher and Nelson, West and Darius, Mike and Ernie, Shannon and Tess, Taneka, and all the rest. There’s Shafeer at GNC and Shameer at the gym. There are the housekeepers and my coworkers at the CDC, there’s the fleet of Royal Navy guys, and there’s a preschool full of children. All of them that have a piece of my heart. A melting pot of love, of culture, of pure and genuine joy. Agape love that overflows.
Then there’s Paddy. Oh Patrick. And what are the odds? A Christian girl from California serving as a preschool teacher on a US Naval Base just so happens to do Crossfit one night at the same time as an Irishman who serves as a mine clearance diver for the UK. All it took was one set of front squats and a few weeks at sea for the course of my journey here to change so drastically. The beautiful thing is that it has become so much more than just a romantic love that I feel for this man – there is an element of unconditional love that I have never felt towards anyone. Maybe it is the way our relationship developed, maybe it is the sense of urgency and the circumstances, maybe it is the constant uncertainty of our future, maybe it is the risk that comes with his job, or maybe it is discovering what you didn’t even know you were looking for – whatever it is, I am so grateful. I am grateful for the love, laughter, learning experiences, lifting of heavy weights, and loads of coffee this man has brought into my life in such a short period of time. There’s no guarentee we won’t break eachother’s hearts, or that the distance and communication won’t become too much. But atleast for now serendipity is the only term that does it justice. Just a man who spends most of his days at sea and a girl who doesn’t know where she’ll be.
It is crazy to think how much can happen in five months. It is crazy to know how drastically our lives can change, how dramatically our views and ideas can be shifted, and how vastly our heart can open up to let love in. There’s three weeks left and I plan to savor every moment. I plan to scoop up every bit of love and laughter I can and stir up this melting pot a few more times. I am so blessed that God has sent me here. I pray He only continues to use me as His vessel and I pray that I can love all that He calls me to. I am grateful and overjoyed. Never forget to live a life of love. Friends, The Great Commission is a call to us all. Remember, “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” Ephesians 5:2.
God bless you all.