• John Howard

The Power of Worship

In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2. I was a Marine Reserve lieutenant colonel drilling with I MEF (the designated Marine force for the Middle East) as part of the G-4 (logistics guys). On August 8, someone came back to my civilian job from lunch and told me that the Saudi's had requested military assistance. I knew that was the trigger for the "balloon to go up" so I called my unit. They said, "Can't talk by phone but come by after you get off work". When I got there they said, "You're on active duty now". After a very long week of deploying plane loads of Marines, equipment, and aircraft, my boss said "I'm going with General Boomer to Saudi tonight. I want you to come with me. Get yourself on an airplane today". It was a hurried afternoon packing my sea bag, drawing my weapon from the armory, and traveling to Norton Air Force Base to fly out that evening. That was August 16, two weeks to the day after the invasion, when I flew out. Twenty eight hours later, I landed at Dhahran Air Base in Saudi Arabia.

We took a bus north to the port city of Al Jubail, where Marine Forces were standing up. We arrived about 8 at night and, as the bus drove through the gate, the Marine guard shouted "welcome to hell". Not quite accurate because the temperature got down to a mere 100 degrees by the following morning. I then rose from my cot in a warehouse and walked outside to see about 1000, 20 foot ISO containers with big orange diamonds on them, about 20 megatons of high explosives. It was the ammunition for 30 days of combat by two Marine brigades. I thought to myself: "One well place BB and the city of Al Jubail would be a crater". By the way, there were five Iraqi mechanized divisions just one hour's drive north but it would be several more days before we could have our units combat ready. So we were really hanging out there during that time.

That first morning was following by change, change, change. After several days of non-stop work to get forces in place, feed, and armed, I got pulled to Riyadh for a couple of weeks. My boss got called back to the US because his wife had a medical crisis. So I ended up serving as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics (G-4) for Lt. Gen. Boomer. Then back to Al Jubail where things never slowed down. Just to cap it off, the Headquarters Commandant moved our sleeping quarters from warehouse to warehouse every few days for no apparent reason.

By then it was late September and I was pretty stressed out. I heard that one of the chaplains was going to have a worship service on Sunday and I instantly knew that was something I had to be at. Sunday came and I went to the building at the time I had been told but it was already over. I really was crushed and felt at the end of my rope. The chaplain told me that there was another service starting right about now on the other side of the port. So I hiked fast for a mile in the 115 degree heat to where he told me it was and got there a few minutes after it started. As I entered, they started singing Amazing Grace. I stood in the back with tears running down my cheeks, hands in the air, and tried my best to get the words out. Truly I was overcome by the Holy Spirit. The chaplain gave a message of encouragement but, honestly, it was singing Amazing Grace with a body of believers that renewed my grasp on sanity and spiritual life. I left that service calmed and centered on the presence of God.

As we are coming up on our seventh Sunday of no in-person Sunday service, I am missing it, especially the singing as a body. I can't wait to meet again. Pastor Mel's online services have been helpful but not a fully satisfying substitute for being with the rest of the congregation. I read recently that worship together is "supernatural encouragement". We are called on to do it in Hebrews 10:23-25. I can't wait to reunite in glorious celebration!

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