Avalon Chronicles #83: "Divine Encounters-Part One"
by Allen B. Clark
Linda and I recently returned from a seven day voyage on the Queen Mary 2 from New York City to Southhampton, England with further travels by rail to Portsmouth, Winchester, Brighton, Dover, Canterbury, and London. We always begin our travels with a prayer for "Divine Encounters." It is my hope that the following account of the "Divine Encounters" we experienced on this trip will be a source of inspiration as to how our dear Lord answers all prayers, big and small.
The Queen Mary 2 announces for each day's schedule the time and location for gatherings of affinity groups. We attended the one for "Christians" our first day on the Atlantic. At this gathering we became acquainted with a pastor and his wife. He is involved with an international prayer ministry in the spiritual warfare arena. His wife teaches drama at a Christian high school. Linda has offered up prayers that there would be opportunities for younger women to take on the mantle of presenting the programs she has dramatized for twenty years of Women of the Bible (http://voices.name). The pastor's wife is eager to introduce Linda's scripts to her drama classes.
On the Sunday of the voyage an Anglican priest (passenger also) conducted an Anglican eucharist service which Linda and I attended. It went past the time at which a ship's non-denominational worship service was to begin. Attending late I went to the back of the auditorium and seated myself with some difficulty on a chair where my legs would be comfortable. There was only one other attendee in that section. Noting I did not have a program, she offered hers and went to obtain another one. The ending hymn was "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" with its prayer for protection "For those in peril on the sea." Most important through the centuries for all who sailed the "mighty oceans." Having observed my disability as I took my seat when I arrived, she approached me at the end of the service to inquire about my disability. As the conversation developed I learned she had been a British Royal Navy nurse assigned to a civilian ship converted to a hospital ship in Gibraltar. It sailed from Gibraltar in deployment to the Falkland Islands (east of Argentina) in 1982 when Argentina had invaded the Falklands and the British went to war over the incident. She served in the ship's operating room for the surgery of the war wounded amputees! Obviously we had much in common and met later twice with Linda to discuss her maiden name, Pugh, which was the maiden name of Linda's mother. She filled Linda in on much of the Pugh family history in Wales and England. Nicci Pugh is the author of White Ship-Red Crosses, the documenting of the Falklands War and its casualties.
In one of our destinations we enjoyed a delightful lunch after which the co-owner, an Englishman, whose family had been originally from Iran came to our table and a thirty minute conversation ensued. He said his deceased father had been a most generous gentleman, who provided much help to those in need. After the Iranian revolution of 1979 his mother returned to Iran and barely made it back to England safely due to a threat on her life. He said she took off her scarf she had always worn and threw it away never to wear it again. He related that the vast majority of Iranians/Persians do not support the mullahs in control of the country and said he wished our president would lift up the Iranian people for support in contrast to the leaders, believing this support might prove helpful for the people to rise up and overthrow the dictatorship. When we finished the conversation, he hugged us both! Very warm-hearted gentleman. We prayed for the success of his entrepreneurial endeavors. He offered us a drink on the house, but we declined since we do not drink any alcohol.
On the tour in England we worshipped at services in three cathedrals, Winchester, Canterbury, and St. Paul's. At Winchester Cathedral during the service I was in awe of the physical majesty of the edifice, but more importantly, my heart was filled with the overwhelming emotion that I was in worship in a place wherein my fellow Christians had been worshipping for over 1000 years.
At Brighton I read a Christian history of the town and discovered it was on a Brighton beach that Hudson Taylor received his inspiration to begin his China Inland Mission that has borne so much fruit in the propagation of our faith in that country.
At Canterbury we took a river ride on a small boat such as we know from Venice. On this one our boatman "punted" with a pole that propelled us through the shallow river meandering through the ancient city, originally visited by St. Augustine to introduce the Christian faith to England. He spoke about having been raised a Christian, but he did not worship today. He was still smarting from an experience in his youth when dissension in his church caused a split. I took this opportunity to define by being a Christian it was not necessary to attend public worship, nor adhere to legalism, but rather, in believing that Jesus is the Savior, Who gifts us eternal life, when we accept his purpose in coming to earth and dying on that Calvary cross. It was a simple rendition of our Gospel truth.
When we were at the Atlanta airport ready for the final flight home, we were at the location where I asked for a wheelchair to navigate security more comfortably and obtain transport to our gate. We observed a young man, who walked as I do, very haltingly as a double leg amputee also. He said he lost his legs in a train accident. He was at least half my age. Linda spent some time talking to him and gave encouragement to him in navigating his future life by pointing out the example of the richness of my life after fifty years as an amputee. I must declare that much of my richness is due to the blessings of my life companion, my dear spouse Linda.
Stay tuned for Part Two.