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‘Experiencing God’ reaching sailors in the Mediterranean

ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, EAST MEDITERRANEAN (BP)–They sit in a room with stained glass windows, rich blue curtains covering one wall and an altar draped in white with a gold cross on each end. The room is designed as a place for sailors to worship, pray and meditate without disturbance. For Mark Stark, Wade Melton and Francisco Jusino, it’s also a place where they’ve literally experienced God together through a study by the same name, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Stark, whose wife has studied “Experiencing God,” had wanted to do the study for some time and felt led to start the class on board the USS Harry S. Truman. Six of the 15 who started the study just recently completed it, a number that Stark, a substance abuse counselor in the ship’s medical department, feels good about.

“I knew for myself that this was one more opportunity to build my relationship with God,” said Stark, a minister at Providence Road Church of Christ, his home church in Texas. “I thought that others would also want to learn and grow from it.”

Perhaps the one most impacted by the study is Francisco Jusino, who goes by Frank, a new Christian as of just a few weeks ago. He gave his life to Christ at one of the gospel services held on Sunday nights and jumped at the chance to grow his new faith through the Experiencing God course.

“This course helped me so much in my new faith,” said Jusino, a crash and salvage leading petty officer from Detroit, who has been with the Navy for more than 11 years. “I had to give up my hidden agenda of wanting my life to be right by my reasons and focus on God’s agenda — one day at a time.”

Wade Melton, a Greek Orthodox Christian from Virginia Beach, Va., said he liked the way the study focused on communication with God and making God-based decisions.

“Going through this study really helped me realize that I wasn’t putting God at the forefront,” said Melton, an electronic warfare technician who has been in the Navy for more than 17 years. “I’m using what I’ve learned to share by e-mail with my 9-year old son back home. I tell him what God gives us and what we need to give back to him — our complete trust.”

While all of the men pointed out individual points about the study that helped them the most, Stark had a life-changing moment when he was preparing to teach one of the units on resentment.

A coworker Stark worked with was consistently giving him problems, leaving Stark with anger and resentment. He quickly recognized that he couldn’t teach the week’s lesson if he himself couldn’t apply it to his own situation. After praying about it, he went to the coworker and apologized for the situation, explaining that he was a Christian.

“I cried in front of him — but after it was over, I felt like I could breathe again,” Stark said. “If I’m experiencing a relationship with my heavenly Father, I can’t act like a hypocrite, holding grudges against other people.”

Since that day, Stark said he has felt no resentment or bad feelings toward the coworker.

“God helped me turn it around — I don’t have to live with that kind of excess baggage,” Stark said.

The men agreed with a statement made by Melton on how the study has ultimately impacted their lives.

“I’ve said, ‘God, you’ve got it — I can’t handle it but you can,'” Melton recounted. “I’m learning every day as a Christian, and I’m keeping my book close by. There’s a lot of good notes in there.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TEACHER’S BIBLE.

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  • Sara Horn