This is probably the most boring chapter of this whole book but you find if you will have patience that the facts contained herein, though they may not seem very important as you read them here, bear solemn weight upon these events and are a most important background for this revelation of things in the eternals and in the very heart of the Lord. Truly it was well said in Romans: "all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His Purpose."
My first week onboard the USS Holland was spent mostly checking in and then working directly for the Master Chief of the Command, who is the #1 enlisted man aboard any command. All I remember is that we were worked with the ships seal stamping a bunch of forms, etc.
After this the command wasted no time in sending me to work at the mess decks. The term "mess cranking" is a term very familiar to most anyone in the Navy. It's comparable to KP or Kitchen Patrol in the Army, etc. I actually went twice. The first time I went for 120 days. The second time it was 90 days. On most ships only the younger and low ranking sailors get this "privilege." It is pay grades E-1 through E-3 on most commands unless they are so small they take E-4 also. But usually if you make Petty Officer third class which is E-4 they can't make you go mess cranking again. Eventually I had to make E-4, of course!
My first mess-cranking tour was in the ship's enlisted Galley. That is the place where meals were made for the enlisted sailors and they say it was a little better than working in the Officer's mess area. But serving tables is not as bad as being inside the Galley. It was like being inside a sweaty kitchen all day. The worst part of it all was cleaning the grills. They were being cooked upon constantly. So were the kettles and other fixtures of the Galley in constant use for three meals a day. The worst was they wanted you there bright and early at 0400 or 0500 in the morning to prepare for breakfast.
There would be almost a "white glove" inspection every night about 1900 or 7:00 o'clock in the evening if we called and said we were ready by that time. Any way that was the goal to get out of there by that time but it didn't always work out that way.
Now this is important, very important to this story. The mess decks had two teams or what the Navy calls sections to take care of everything that had to do with food service AND to give us time off. At least there was one good thing while mess cranking and that was that you didn't have to stay onboard ship 24 hours and not go home every 5th or 6th day while mess cranking. You got to go home every night. Even if it was 7:00 or 8:00 at night which in our language would be 1900 or 2000. However, so you wouldn't have to stay that late EVERY night you were either on the Port duty or Starboard duty. I think I was in the Port duty section. During the week you would stay till after the evening meal every other day. On the day between you would stay till after cleanup after lunch and then get to go home! That was cool! It would be between 1430 (2:30) and 1600. You would go home at 1400 if you were fortunate. On the week where Port had to work Monday, Wednesday and Friday till 1900 they would be the only ones there on Saturday and Sunday and work the same hours whereas Starboard would get the weekend off. But on the week where you worked Mon, Wed, and Fri till after lunch cleanup you had the weekend off.
Well, on Christmas day, 1983,not only was my wife and daughter not there with me yet but I was working all day. They probably gave us an hour off to sit down cause it was Christmas but that was about all the "merry" I got!
Now I have to change the subject a little. There was a certain brother affiliated with the Lutheran denomination that helped (though he would not accept my viewpoint on the New Testament assembly life at all I don't think) me out. I had no car in those days so to go out apartment hunting even I needed some transportation help from a friend. Fortunately I found an apartment complex only a few blocks beyond the big traffic light intersection where the Government property became civilian property (or city property) once again. Of course even though they were long blocks, I had to get my wife, daughter and I something as close to where the ship was that I could get because we had no car for awhile after that.
The paperwork, the rent, the first and last down payment, and the credit check all seemed to go through so that I was due to pick up my keys and get into our place on the exact day that my off weekend was to start! If you read this whole story and come back to this fact later I think you'll have to agree there was not a single event that was not worked out by the Lord to the tee in exact precise detail. Only me, only these exact circumstances, only this life with these concepts that I had in that exact year could have been the setting for this experience! It could never be experienced before or after by anyone who had ever lived by any chance! There are just too many details! I mean it is all so amazing! At this very moment as I write I am more amazed by it than ever before in my life! As I look at these things again from different angles I am more amazed than I was the first time and each time even more amazed and only God could do something of this kind of nature for His gory. To me this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was in it.
The apartment I got was in an apartment complex called "Devonshire Apartments." Of course I am thankful for the help from the brother who helped me get over to the place to get it. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever for all that He provides for His own. Like they say, "He may not come when you want Him, but He's always right on time!" Right, Lazarus? Praise the Lord!