The weather here in Iraq has been phenomenal of late. Back home I'm sure you are familiar with the term Top 10 day. I would say that we have had roughly 40 Nebraska Top 10 days in a row here at lovely LSA Anaconda. The high has been around 65 or 70, very little breeze, and sunny every day. It really doesn't get much better in my book. The low has been between 35 and 40, but the nice thing is that is usually overnight and by the time it cools off I'm tucked away in my cozy twin bed in my 10x12 slice of heaven, with the heater set on 70 degrees, dreaming sweet dreams of ribeyes, blue n' chromes, and my wife and son.
That is until Saturday. For some unknown reason, we lost power to the whole base sometime in the afternoon. This has happened before, and usually it is back on within a few hours. The office has its own generator, so work of course didn't stop, but our hootches were out of power and therefore without heat and lights. By 10 o'clock we were a little worried as it had been about 5 hours and still no power. The blanket that I use is really thin (to minimize packing space) so I was seriously doubting its ability to keep me warm. I actually dug out my Army issued sleeping bag which I turned out to be a smart move that some of my lazier co-workers regretted not making. I fully anticipated that in the middle of the night the power would kick back on and all would be well. I drifted off to sleep without my usual tv shows to keep me company, cursing the horror of it all. Don't let anyone tell you different, life in this man's Army isn't always easy.
The worst part was waking up in the morning. I was actually pretty warm snuggled up in my cold weather sleeping bag, but at 0600 the temp in my trailer was about 40 degrees. I think I could even see my breath. Getting dressed was painful, as my clothes were also about 40 degrees. I hightailed it to the office so I could bring my core temp back to 98.6. I even broke out the black fleece coat, which is affectionately referred to as the bear suit. Of course my buddies all made fun of me for wearing a coat because it wasn't that cold, but that was to be expected and I would have done the same thing had the Hammer showed up dressed like I was.
I headed down to church at 0845 and was glad they I had my coat on, as I will still traumatized by the night spent in the meat locker. While SSG Johnson was on leave we had to rearrange our schedule to cover the office so I hadn't been to Sunday service in around a month, so it was good to get back. When I got to the chapel, of course there was no power there either, which means no lights and no heat.
I should back up a minute and describe the chapel. Many of the buildings that we are "borrowing" from the Iraqis here on Anaconda are hardstand buildings that were already here. The original design usually has 3 wings, with an outdoor atrium in between each wing. Imagine a capital E on its side. We are always short on space, so many of the buildings have had the atriums converted into rooms to allow for more offices. If there is one word you could use to describe soldiers in Iraq, it would be industrious. A tic tac, a toothbrush, and some bailing wire and you have yourself an office. Or a bomb, depending on the joe that is in charge.
Our Squadron chapel is in one of these converted atriums, so it is essentially a plywood room. There are other chapels on the base that are actual buildings, but we inherited this one, and we are the Cav, so we don't like to have nice things anyway. The accommodations could best be described as Spartan, really just a few chairs and a pulpit. Normally the lyrics to the worship are shown on a laptop as the projector that we have is famous for shutting down in the middle of a song and then taking 10 minutes to warm back up.
We normally keep it pretty basic, but add in the lack of heat, lights, and words, this past Sunday was especially bare bones. The door was left propped upon, so in addition to no heat we had a nice breeze as well. At this point I was glad that I had endured the wrath of the mighty S1 and put on my fleece, as I would have been freezing without it.
The message for the day was from Haggai. From chapter 1:
Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"
5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."
The Chaplain discussed how the temple had been destroyed, and rather than rebuilding it, the people had instead worried about rebuilding their homes first. Wrong answer, said God through Haggai. The people were so busy about taking care of themselves, they had neglected the one who could provide for all their needs. I know this has been true in my life multiple times. Once I graduate from college, then I'll be happy. Or buy a new car or house. Or get married. Or have a kid. Or insert whatever here. But those things come and go, and guess what? The car gets a dent and looses that new car smell. The house isn't quite big enough for your family. Marriage and parenthood are rewarding but an awful lot of work. Same with the new job and the new salary.
Apart from God, these things are for the most part meaningless. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with having a nice home or a good career, in fact we are told to work hard and be good at what we do. But sitting in Iraq in a plywood chapel with a handful of soldiers, a guitar, a bible, and no heat or light, I was struck by how fulfilled and how happy I am with my life. I miss my family so much that I can't stand it some days, but my wife and I have the strength of the Lord to get us through it. I know that God has a plan for my life and for a reason that only He knows it currently involves me being half a world away. And that is okay with me. Romans 8:28 says: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Think about that. Are you working on rebuilding your house while God's house is still broken?
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. After 4 days of no power, they've got everything fixed and we once again have lights, heat, cable, and PS2. And I got a great reminder on God's love for us, and his faithfulness to see us through any situation.