“Many missionaries will talk about a “call” to missions and ministry. This is, as they describe it, the firm conviction that God would have them serve Him, first, and second, a willingness to go where He sends them.” -Mom
Dad’s position aboard the submarine was to be the Supply Officer. It was his responsibility to keep track of all the inventory aboard ship from food for the kitchen to spare parts for the engine. He would compile the information and determine the nature and quantity of items that needed to be stocked aboard ship before heading out to sea. “You never wanted to run out of toilet paper,” he would joke. It would seem that going into the Navy would be one of the least likely options for growing one’s faith, but God has His ways. Dad had originally requested the Mediterranean as his place of service, but when his assignment was announced, it was to be aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Pogy, stationed out of Honolulu, Hawaii. Dad was amazed; his father had served aboard the Pogy’s diesel counterpart in WWII. It was not only an unexpected link with a father he loved and admired but a continuing connection with the Asian culture he had learned to enjoy at UCLA.
After flying half way across the Pacific Ocean, Mom and Dad landed in Honolulu. Settling into a motel while they awaited housing, Mom and Dad became familiar with the base and the local mall before attending a welcome aboard dinner given by the ships’ officers. It was there that the next step unfolded in their call to ministry—an unexpected opportunity. Dad was seated next to the executive officer’s wife, a self-described atheist. When the subject of religion was broached, Dad suggested that “we simply do not have enough information to determine there is no God. The most someone could be was an agnostic”, he said. The conversation was low key and the topic was easily dropped for less controversial themes but his thoughtfulness had its effect. The following day, when he reported for duty aboard the submarine, Dad was surprised to discover that in addition to his duties as Supply Officer, he had also been appointed the Protestant Lay Leader. Unlike other ships that carry one or more full time chaplains, submarines carry only essential crew. On submarines, two of the existing crew members would be assigned collateral duties as non-ordained clergy, or lay pastors – one Protestant and one Catholic. Despite little formal training for this position, they were expected to take on the role of clergy aboard ship – from sermons to counseling. Dad accepted this assignment and delved into the study of scripture and reading books about the Christian faith. Working alongside the Catholic lay leader, he and other spiritually-keen men aboard ship held Sunday and midweek services, retiring to pray in the quiet space next to the diesel generator. Seeking guidance from chaplains on larger ships whenever they were in port, Dad steadily grew in knowledge and faith, and the change was evident to those around him. Continue reading “A Calling to Missions”