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Below the flight deck, worship refuels sailors

ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, EAST MEDITERRANEAN (BP)–A deployed sailor’s life during wartime can leave a lot to be desired.

The 5,000 sailors and Marines currently on board the USS Harry S. Truman don’t have a lot of downtime. The young enlisted men and women typically work seven days a week, 12 hours a day at their various responsibilities and tasks. For officers, it can be 18 hours a day, overseeing and managing the enlisted. Many look forward to the Sunday services led by the ship’s chaplains and the fresh encouragement that will get them through another long, intense week.

Five services are offered throughout the day on any given Sunday. A Protestant liturgical service, a contemporary Protestant worship service, a gospel service and two Catholic masses are offered to minister to sailors of different denominations and faiths. Many take advantage of it.

The contemporary Protestant service, offered at “10-hundred,” is in full swing in the foc’sle — the bow of the ship just under the ship’s flight deck. More than 120 people are gathered on this particular morning, singing joyfully and enthusiastically with the praise team led by a ship’s supply officer. Many raise their hands and close their eyes, seeking one-on-one time with God even as the catapults above launch another group of planes for short mission training flights. The sudden engine roars and bone-crunching thuds offer a not-so-subtle reminder to the group that Sundays, unfortunately, aren’t days of rest for everyone.

Chaplain Doyle Dunn gives the week’s sermon. He talks about Peter stepping out of the boat to be with Jesus.

“We’ve all felt fear and we give it lots of different titles — apprehension, anxiety. There’s a lot of fear out there Commander Dunn says. “Having courage doesn’t mean you’ve conquered every fear, but holding on to fear can keep us frozen in place. It keeps us from doing basic things to survive.”

Dunn and the ship’s other chaplains and lay leaders — not just in Sunday sermons, but in ministry throughout the week — regularly remind sailors far from home about the courage Christ gives, along with comfort and reassurance.

Courage is taking fear and pushing ahead in spite of it, Dunn notes in his sermon.

“When we turn to Christ for a problem and ask him for help, he never refuses,” he affirms. “Courage is a discipline — a mental muscle that cuts a path through fear.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PRAISE MUSIC, DRAMA TEAM AT SEA, SAILOR’S INTERCESSION, LOOKING TO GOD and TIME TO WORSHIP.

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  • Sara Horn