Surprising Silence


One of the realities about camp life is that there is no silence. There is always noise. If you are in a tent, either the heater/air is running or the constant hum of the generator assures you that life is happening. Outside the tent, there are vehicles, machinery, the machinations of a war camp, and, lets not forget, the heart-stopping sound of the alarm letting you know trouble is coming fast.

Then, there are the people. Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, Civilians, Local Nationals – people everywhere you go! There is no sanctuary where there are not people. Even in the portajon, a solitude against the ever maddening crowd, you can hear clearly the people in the stall next to you.

Tents are full of people. There are the day sleepers who work at night and the night sleepers who work in the day. Everyone is trying to be quiet and everyone is making noise. Sometimes the harder one tries to stay quiet, the more grating the noise. Especially when trying to sleep.

All the noise is for me reassuring. I grew up in a large family, one of 12 children, and noise really does not phase me. I’ve never really liked being fully alone. This is not to say that I like talking. The introvert in me loves silence and space but I also like knowing others are close by. At home, my family is ever present. In the field, my Soldiers are ever present. It’s actually one of the things I love about his work.

Two nights ago, I was reassigned to a new tent. I went into the tent and in it was the unit that we replaced, they were waiting for their flight home. Last night, after leaving Bible study at the chapel, I returned to an empty tent. It was surreal. I don’t think I have ever, in 11 years of Army service, spent a night alone in a tent. It was so odd. Even a little unnerving.IMG_20160229_083507520

I woke up with a start about 02 and heard nothing. The generator outside the tent had shut off and I could literally hear nothing. It was so weird. There was no shuffling about in cots, no rolling over, no hum of laptops playing movies, no hushed conversations, no clumping of boots from Soldiers returning from missions. Just silence. Then, the generator kicked back on and it sounded right again. It was still a little odd as I was the only one in the tent (there is another crew coming in tonight so it’s a one night experience) and could hear only my thoughts.

I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Such surprising silence.


3rd Deployment, Army, Chaplaincy




This is the part I like the least. I won’t say it’s the “worst” part because there are always worse days but I still don’t particularly like it. Soldiers come and go. Everyone is waiting for their number to be called so they can board a plane and get to their mission. Those who are stationed here and doing their job are just working and waiting till they can go home. Everyone is waiting and everyone is thinking.Waiting

During the wait, I find quiet spots to sit and wait with them. Often, it’s the smoke pit. It occurs to me that I don’t know why we call the smoking areas “smoke pits” but we do. The one I prefer has a sun shade and picnic table. I sit, read, smoke my pipe and gradually my Soldiers pass through. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we joke, sometimes we just share the silence. Always we wait.

Getting to war is slow. There is so much waiting. My battalion has missions in multiple places and they have all left now except a few of us who are going to the most remote location. There are not as many flights there so we wait till there are enough to fill a flight and we’ll go eventually. In the mean time, ministry happens in the waiting.

Waiting gives time to reflect. Perhaps its why I don’t like waiting. In these moments, I am thinking about my family, the kids, Sara, and this work. I’m glad to be here. Glad to be with my Soldiers. Glad that if someone has to minister here, it’s me.

I brought a noteworthy journaling Bible with me this time. I’m using it for my war journal and devotions. There is a daily reading and space to write. Yesterday I read, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Today, I read, “You are the light of the World, a city set on a hill cannot be hid… let your light so shine before all that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven.” It occurs to me that purity of heart results in seeing God in everything around you and then, the light you shed cannot be hid resulting in God being glorified. God cannot be hid.

Even in the waiting.