1/01/2011 | Share this article: View Commentsby Ex-Pastor Dan ~
My year in Viet Nam was unique in a few ways; first of all, it didn’t last a full year. Secondly, I made three complete round trips between the U.S. and Nam… all of this within a 10-month period. Let me explain – I was in Nam during the waning days of the war. No one wanted to be there anymore, not even the officers. Some of our allies at that time were starting to pull out (or had already pulled out) and doing your R and R (Rest and Recuperation) in places like Sydney or Bangkok was no longer an option. It was either Hawaii or back home; of course I chose to go back home for 30 days!
Image by bre pettis via FlickrIn a way I didn’t want to, knowing how extremely difficult it was going to be to come back to this God-forsaken place after 30 days in paradise, but maybe, just maybe God had a plan to keep me home. Perhaps the war would end while I was home and they would let me finish my days at Fort Ord or Fort Irwin, California. I would pray to that end. Besides, what is wrong with praying for the end of the war? Sister MacWilliams turned in her prayer request card every service with the same three requests: Pray for rain; Pray for Revival; Pray for the War to End! With me there as a rallying point for these prayers, we could do it, we could end the war! Jesus said, “If ye ask anything in my name, I will do it.” So we would join our voices in prayer and we would get God to end this war, so that I could stay home where I belonged.
With those thoughts in mind I left for my 30 days of R&R. We touched down in Hong Kong for a 12-hour lay-over. As I disembarked from customs and rode the escalator down to lobby level, I saw a group of young Chinese men gathered at the bottom landing. They were shouting at the GIs in front of me and then they would pair-up and walk off together. As I got closer I could hear one who had picked me out of the crowd……”Hey, GI, you need ride, you need hotel, you want bar, you want GIRL??” “Anything you need, GI, I get you!” “Where you go, hotel? O.K. I get you cab, O.K. You need Girl? I get you Nice Girl! … No girl?... O.K. You need clothes? How about some nice clothes to take home?” CLOTHES, now he was talking. I could be the real star back home; some nice new threads to make my grand entrance back at the Lighthouse. Yeah, yeah clothes, I need some clothes! “No sweat GI, we get you some numba one clothes! My uncle is tailor, he is best tailor in Hong Kong…….let’s go!”
So off we went……..a naïve American kid following a street-wise, Hong Kong hustler through the back alleys of one of the most notorious cities of the world. Even though I was in my Army uniform and was God’s special, chosen vessel, protected with his blood, I began to panic. “Oh God, what have I done? Protect me Lord! I plead the blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, cover me with thy blood!”
I was hopelessly lost! We had wandered down and around so many lanes and alleys…….it was over…….a group of thugs was preparing my demise at that very moment. What little I had would soon be divided between pimp-boy and his nefarious cohorts (whom I expected to be waiting behind the next tin-roofed shed).
“Here we are!” and with a flash of a key and a squeak of a heavy wooden door, we were in. I stood silent in the total blackness of a suffocating, musty, little room…….praying frantically inside my head…..”Oh God, help me! Give me super strength like Samson. Send your chariot of fire to rescue me, like you did for Elijah…….anything…..I beg you! Don’t let me die in an Opium Den of Hong Kong!”
As the lights slowly flickered to life, my worst fears were realized. I was standing in the middle of a silent crowd of strangely clad denizens; some with arms raised, others with glazed, dead stares emanating from their lifeless eyes, and some were HEADLESS…. Wait a minute…. headless?? As my eyes adjusted to the flickering, bronzed light, I could see that the attackers surrounding me were…… manikins! It was a tailor’s shop! Oh, “thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus! Thank you for protecting me from my own stupidity! I am your special servant and you will not let anything bad happen to me. How could I have doubted you for even a second? Forgive me for my doubt, and thank you, thank you, thank you for saving me!!” “Now, Lord, help me get a great deal from this un-circumcised heathen who has managed to scare the shit out of me!”
And with that, the measuring and bargaining began; me and Jesus on one side and pimp-boy and his uncle Lee on the other…..it was a night to remember!
My first Sunday back at the Lighthouse was truly when I felt like I was home. Being with mom and dad and sleeping in my own bed were nice, but it wasn’t until I heard the organ and piano pounding out the familiar strains of “When we all get to Heaven…” and Brother Mac’s rough baritone, growling out the chorus…..”…what a day of rejoicing that will be!” did I really feel like I was HOME! Yes, this was home. This is where my life had begun; at least my spiritual life, and what else mattered? Here we were all “with one accord and in one place”; together with those who loved me and loved God. All of my friends were happy to see me and the girls…….the girls were all beautiful! They all had ‘round’ eyes! Something I hadn’t seen in six months. Six months that seemed like 6 years. I had forgotten how beautiful American girls were. Some that were just girls when I had left for basic training, 18 months earlier, had blossomed into young ladies (if you catch my meaning). I was the toast of the town (of course we only toasted with Pepsi) for those 30 days. I would tell war stories at the Sunday night service and then have my pick of young lovelies to take out to Loop’s Restaurant afterward - A nice BLT sandwich followed by an hour of ‘parking’ down at Surfer’s Point (famous for its long-curling breakers for surfing and also for its totally dark and desolate parking area – for making out). Before my R&R was finished I would be re-united with my childhood sweetheart. She was all grown up now and had graduated High School. It was time we started thinking about our future together.
Life was good – Life was REAL GOOD! I didn’t want it to end. My Pastor wanted me home; my Mother wanted me home; my Girlfriend wanted me home. I shouldn’t have to go back to war!
O.K. God, let’s make it happen. Let’s see what we can do about keeping me here where I belong. I know it’s your will; it has to be your will. Everything is falling into place. God is in control, Hallelujah!!
With the whole church praying, it was only a matter of days before we would hear the news that we all anticipated……”THE WAR IS OVER!”
“I’ll bet they already have the type-set made up for tomorrow’s newspaper…..”
And with that, I drifted off to sleep; safe and sound in my own bed in Ventura, California. The war was a million miles away and thoughts of my sweetheart danced in my head.
NEXT TIME: “WELCOME BACK TO HELL!”