On a cold February night in 2002 I decided I did not want to be a Navy Seal. I stood up from the surf zone where my class – BUDs Class 239 - was undergoing surf torture, broke links with the guys on each side of me that had our arms locked together, stood up and said, “I quit”. The guys on each side of me tried to convince me to stay, and the instructors on the shore asked if I was sure as I walked toward them. I said I was sure and they handed me the bell. Three bell strikes later they led me off the beach, I signed a paper with wet, shaking, and cold hands, and then I slept.
Before going to BUDs I had been in the Navy for 4 years. I had a great enlistment, been on 2 deployments, been a rescue swimmer, and part of the Visit Board Search and Seizure team in the Persian Gulf. I started Navy Seal Training in August of 2001 with BUDs Class 238. I had just come from boarding ships in the Persian Gulf and was in great shape. The summer was hot in Coronado and I was prepared for it. I easily integrated into life at NAVSPECWARCEN and loved the new training environment. I loved the water and felt at ease with the new techniques I was learning.
My first day of Indoctrination with class 238 was September 11, 2001. We all stopped eating our breakfast that morning as we watched CNN on the TVs overhead. We would not have training that day. Instead we were all assigned extra watches. There were armed SEALs everywhere. We were taken out to the beach and explained what was going on by one of our Instructors. He said they were going to need us as we moved forward as a nation to counter this threat.
Then something completely unexpected happened. On a cool Friday afternoon in October, as my class – 238 – prepared their boats to enter First Phase, an instructor walked out with a clipboard full of names. He called our class together and told us that the names he was about to read would not enter First Phase with class 238, they would wait for class 239 to begin and start training over. 2 months of training would have to be repeated. The reason was completely administrative and had to do with Instructor to Student ratio entering First Phase. My stomach sank and my heart dropped as I heard my name spoken with 19 others.
This was a difficult blow and I found it hard to recover. I watched my friends on Monday morning move forward in training as I moved backward. I began pre-training with Class 239 as a boat crew leader and held the position of leading petty officer of the class for a time. This was the first time that I was able to really feel the weight of leadership.
The first day of Indoctrination in Class 239 was spent wet and cold. Winter had come to California. In the dark hours of the morning we had our first swim. After the swim we simply sat on the cold concrete shivering in the dark. The first person quit that morning with several more in the afternoon. We started First Phase with 180 people. By the first night of Hell Week we were down to 100. BUDs Class 239 finished Hell Week with 17.
The waves were enormous and the water and air were bone chilling cold. Every day of First Phase I had to reckon with the fact that I may drown. I was at the end of my enlistment. If I finished Hell Week I would owe 1 more year to the Navy. If I finished BUDs I would owe 3. If I quit now I could get out in 3 months. All of these facts culminated in my mind along with a wife and two young sons that needed a father at home. I had also surrendered my life to the Gospel Ministry a couple of years before this. On that cold night on the first night of Hell Week with class 239, after spending 6 months at NAVSPECWARCEN, I decided that I did not want to be a Navy Seal.
I do not regret the decision to go and I do not regret the decision to leave. I learned so much while I was there and was able to get to know some outstanding people. Some of them would die in Iraq and Afghanistan. I grew in Christ and was able to learn much about living for Christ by our class leader during the time I was in Class 239.
Almost immediately God began blessing this decision. I was able to work in an IT position where I had lots of freedom to find another job. I was able to get out of the Navy and spend the next 6 years working as a civilian with the US Army. I deployed to Kuwait twice and was there when the war started in 2003 dressed in chemical protective gear wondering if it was going to work as patriot missiles shot SCUDs out of the air overhead. I was able to go to Afghanistan and grow in faith with a good friend that I had met in class 239 as we worked together. He quit BUDs a few hours after I did.
Those times in the desert were amazing for my spiritual growth. I was discipled by an Air Force chaplain that taught me how to study scripture and preach the Word of God. I was still able to serve my country and be an important part of the war effort, just in a different capacity. I was also able to grow in faith like never before.
A couple of weeks ago my family decided to leave the Hands and Feet Project. This was not premeditated and we did not have another plan. The Haitians we have been working with as well as our church back home encouraged us to stay in Haiti. Our family made a unified decision to stay and continue working in Haiti. We know that we are still called here and there is so much to be done.
We know that we were called to the Thozin Children's Village for the time that we were there. We were able to learn, grow, and share. We saw 18 children give their lives to Christ during our time there and I had the privilege to baptize some of them. We saw heart changes and subsequent behavior changes as a result. I know God sent us there for that time.
While we were at the Children's Village we had many opportunities to continue to minister to the community. We will continue to partner with the local church in Grand Goave, but will also be free to take opportunities that will call us beyond the borders of this city. We want to remain flexible and mobile. This is why we have decided to name this new ministry Disciples Outpost.
God has opened the door for us to continue evangelism and discipleship here. God has confirmed this gifting and calling since we have been here. Our heart for caring for the orphans and widows still exists and is just as strong. Our desire is to now go out into the communities in order to reach the hurting where they are.
We want to address the problems of poverty by restoring the relationships broken as a result of the fall of man. Through one man sin entered the world, and what we are left with now is a world reeling under the effects of that sin. The good things we do experience in this world are the extension of grace from a loving God. God sent His only son Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sins by enduring His wrath on the cross. Just as sin entered through one man, the extension of life entered through Christ. This is the message that brings the restoration of souls, societies, and nations.
We are dedicated to bringing restoration to the relationships that were broken as a result of the fall – the relationship between God and man, the relationship that man has with himself, the relationship that man has with other people, and the relationship that man has with the rest of creation. We are dedicated to partnering with local churches in order to utilize the gifts God has given the local people to address these problems in their local communities.
The problems are complex, but the Gospel message of restoration is sufficient. There is Yveline. She is 19 and is doing well materially for a girl her age living in Grand Goave. Her mother died when she was a baby and she lives with her Father. Her father provides for her materially, but he is not a Christian. She came to us to tell us about the problem she has with her heart. Her heart hurts and she has been to the hospital but they can not help her. She is a believer, attends church regularly, and is now beginning to bring younger cousins and even babies to church with her.
I met Andeson a couple of months ago beside the beach on a Sunday afternoon between services. There was just something about him that drew me to him. I talked to him and his young friend for a while in order to figure out their situation. He is 9 years old and spends his free time roaming the streets of Grand Goave with a myriad of other young kids his age. He started coming to church regularly after meeting us and always sits with us. I have a hard time getting a straight answer about his family situation. I finally met his mother after Church on Sunday night. She seemed indifferent about him and he was obviously ashamed by the encounter keeping his head down and his eyes fixed to the ground as we talked. He came and grabbed onto me tightly as I began to walk away. I hugged him back and we finally said goodbye. He has a knack for finding me and always seems to pop up.
Then there is Wesley. His nickname is Ti Rasta because he keeps his hair in short braids. He grew up in an orphanage in Port au Prince but had to move out when he was 18. He is now 24 and works when he can find it. He trusted Christ to save him and doesn't know why he is waiting to be baptized. Maybe he will move forward with baptism this week. He has shown interest in Andeson and started bringing him to see me. A young man and a boy with no father figure to guide them doing the best they can with what they have.
I just met Kristel. She is 22. She came to me yesterday because she knows me as Pastor Laramie from church. Shortly after we began talking her friend brought her baby to her. Her baby is named Daniella and is 2 months old. Kristel has no mother, father, or husband. She hinted at the fact that she wants me to take her baby. In her view the future is hopeless for her and also for her new baby. She knows the Gospel message but has not obeyed yet. Sometimes God brings us to desperate places to show us our desperate need for a Savior. Only He can put together the broken pieces.
We don't have all the answers. The needs are consuming and overwhelming. What we have is Christ. We have the message of hope in the Gospel. We have the commission to make disciples. When people are saved by the blood of Christ they begin a transformation. When they are discipled they begin to grow in understanding and sanctification. It is only by obedience to the Word of God that disciples grow, and then begin to change their surroundings, and their world. This happens through relationships. God is connecting us with those whom he wants us to minister to. It is time for us to go to them.