I was going to write these experiences at the end of my last posting but thought that since they were two different topics, I'd post a separate entry.
As you can imagine, being a group from Utah, a large portion of our command is LDS. We met last Sunday night in one of the empty buildings near our command headquarters. We sat on milk cartons. We used a cardboard box as the sacrament table. Since our storage boxes hadn't arrived, yet, we didn't have sacrament supplies. Instead, we used styrafoam cups from the mess hall for water cups.
My buddy and I were among the first to arrive. And, in typical Mormon fashion, sat on the third row of overturned milk cartons. Perish the thought of sitting on the front row.
Our group leader asked for volunteers to help bless and pass the Sacrament. I love to bless the emblems of the Lord's supper and never get to do it in my own ward so jumped at the opportunity.
As the time drew near for the meeting to begin, more and more soldiers kept coming in. I couldn't believe how many we had. I guess I knew we had that many members but to see them all together was quite a site. One of our Captains, introduced and Air Force Captain. He was sitting on the front row as they got there just as the meeting was starting.
As we sang the opening hymn, I noticed the AF Captain had tears in his eyes. I somehow sensed that he had a story to tell.
As we began to sing the sacrament hymn and uncovered the bread, I could immediately tell that our group leader who had prepared the sacrament had not anticipated this many people. There were only two small pieces of bread on the plate. I looked at the brother who was helping me and we realized that we were going to have microscopic pieces of bread. Fortunately we didn't run out of bread.
When it came time to bless the water, the group leaders under-estimation was again apparrent. Because he hadn't yet received his packing box that had the sacrament cups/supplies, he had to improvise. Ever take the out of a styrafoam cup? Me neither. Well, there was only about 20 cups on the tray so in true soldier fashion we improvised and simply passed the cups around. It was interesting to watch as soldiers would drink out of those passed cups. I think under normal circumstances, some may have been a little squeamish to drink out of someone else's cup, but because of the circumstances, I don't think anyone minded.
After our group leader shared his message, he asked if anyone had something they wanted to share. Sure enough, the AF Captain jumped up and shared his testimony about how the Lord truly does watch out for us. He said that he'd been there for two weeks and had been unable to locate another LDS group to meet with. Because of the training schedule, he was unable to get off post to attend the LDS ward. He said he began to get depressed and frustrated at not being able to meet with fellow priesthood holders. Then, that very day, he heard that there was a group from Utah on post. He drew the same conclusion. Where there's a group from Utah, there will be an LDS meeting. His only problem, there's thousands of soldiers on this post and how was he to find a group of 140?
He took the bus into town that day. As he was riding back onto post, he was praying that he would somehow find us. As he felt more depressed, he began to hum a hymn. About that time, a voice, "as loud as I'm talking to you right now," he said, told me to ask the guy next to me where he was from. So, he turned to the guy sitting next to him and asked him where he was from. You know the answer of course. "I'm from Utah" came the reply. He said that he could not speak for a minute or so because he was so overcome by the Spirit. By this time he was openly weeping and I could feel the tears welling up in my own eyes. He testified that the Lord is mindful of us. He knows our needs. He knows our heartaches. The Captain told us that he knew that the Lord knew him and led him to us. It was a very moving story.
Today, we held our second meeting. This time it was in the base chapel. Our subordinate unit has been in Iraq for the last year. The command has been trickling back slowly. For the soldiers in my command who have known and worked with these soldiers, it's been really neat to see the reunions that have taken place. I only knew their commanding officer and had a great visit with him.
Anyway, since we were now double in size, the number of members who wanted to attend church, and since the command had a chaplain, he made arrangements for us to meet in the chapel. It's a beautiful white spired building with stained glass windows and oak woodwork on the inside.
After the chaplain spoke, he invited members of the returning command to share their experiences and feelings with us. Each soldier who spoke, spoke of how prayers were answered, how miracles took place. Virtually all testified that by staying close to the Spirit, their lives were protected. It was very comforting.
One of the soldiers mentioned how it became very clear to him just how many people were praying for him while he was gone. While he was on leave, he and his wife went to the temple. She took him to the prayer roll office and showed him how his and his family's names were on the prayer roll every month. I began to reflect on just how many people are praying for me as well. I know that mine and my family's names are being put on at least one temple prayer roll every month. I began to look around my ward and could envision all those who I knew were praying for me. I then began to think of family and friends who were also praying. And my heart was full of gratitude. The soldier said something to the effect of, "how could the Lord not lisen to and answer the prayers of all those people?" The Spirit bore witness to me that He does hear and answer those prayers.
One our soldiers is really struggling right now. He's terrified of being deployed. He's terrified that his family will not be safe. He's terrrified about a number of things to the point that he's becoming a danger to himself because he's so distracted. Our commander is considering sending him home. I was talking with one the JAGs that works for me today about him. We both commented on how great it was to have the gospel in our lives and to have that relationship with the Lord such that we can have experiences with the Spirit that confirm that we WILL be blessed, we WILL be protected and that things at home WILL be taken care of. What a great thing the gospel is.
Anyway, that's a recap of the two Sundays that we've been here.
I didn't even go into what a unique and special experience it is to meet with other Melchizedek priesthood holders and share the Sacrament. It's really incredible. But maybe I'll save those thoughts and feelings for another time.
May the Lord bless you all. And thank you for your prayers.
I thought I had our LDS group picture on my thumb drive but don't. I'll post it another time.