The middle of a desert in Kuwait, 2003. After 0200. (2 am)
I am awakened by the sound of someone knocking on the pole holding up the front of the dust-laden tent in which I am sleeping. It is a young woman, one of those responsible for driving our ambulances in convoy, across the border into Iraq, to where we will soon set up our field hospital. This is dangerous work.
“We are leaving in two hours,” she says when I stumble through the tent-flaps. “We need communion. Can you do that now?”
I tell her I’ll be there in 10 minutes, just long enough to put on the rest of my uniform and dig out the field communion kit from our connex box. I reach for my flashlight to see what I am doing. Suddenly the bare overhead lightbulb begins to glow. One of the nurses with whom I am sharing our temporary shelter is by the switch.
“I’m sorry to wake you,” I say. I look and another is gathering my flak jacket and helmet.
“This is important,” she replies. “We’ll help.”
Five minutes later, I head for one of the larger tents. All the ambulance drivers and their security team are inside, standing in a circle, quietly waiting. Knowing I have Sailors and Marines of various Christian traditions gathered there, as I prepare the communion elements I ask, “What’s everyone’s faith group?”
“We are crossing into the combat zone, chaplain,” one of them replied.
I served everyone.
“If thine heart is as my heart,” if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: “Give me thine hand.”
From Catholic Spirit: A Sermon by John Wesley, published in 1831.
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