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Looking Back: A Service in the Desert

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Looking Back

Looking back today to April 1942 and a wartime service in the Western Desert.

 

Service In the Desert

(The following is an extract of a letter sent to his congregation at home by the Rev R. Stuart Louden BD, from the Western Desert, where he is on active service as Chaplain.)

 

“Life in the desert is, of course, quite different from anything experienced at home. I should like you to try and picture the setting of a service which I conducted for a small group of men on a recent Sunday evening. The men were seated on forms in the open air, with the unending waste of sand, stones and desert bareness all around. The setting sun was turning the daytime glare of the sand into the desert’s dull brown evening colouring. There was a moving reverence and stillness about the worshippers. Just after the sun had sunk below the horizon, and the brief twilight, with its sudden chilliness, was giving place to the quick descending darkness, we joined in our closing hymn:

“Lead kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on.”

The desert stillness – for it happened to be a quiet night – gave us a deep sense of the Presence of God. Everything might speak of the uncertainty of life in wartime, and there might be much to sadden and depress us, but God’s Presence was a real experience and God’s Guidance a sure fact.

“The night is dark, and I am far from home, Lead Thou me on.”

On a Sunday evening it was natural that our thoughts should turn to our homes and to our dear ones far away. The men out here are magnificent in their unselfish anxiety for their people at home. In the dust and heat and discomfort of the desert, they seem to forget their own needs and to be more concerned about whether or not the people at home have plenty to eat, and whether or not they are suffering less from Air Attack. So we could join in prayer for our loved ones, and say, “Grant, of Thy great mercy, O Lord, that when these present troubles and separations are past, we may return to our families, with honour untarnished, duty well done and faith in Thee confirmed and strengthened.”

Another day on active service has drawn to its close. There might be many more days of waiting and wondering, with all the nervous strain of unfamiliar surroundings and separation from dear ones. Yet we could commit the unknown future to God; confident, fearless and trusting. What a triumph of grace, if we could all say in sincerity, “One step enough for me.”

One lesson we can learn from these days is a greater trust in God.

I think that many men away out here are awakening to a new sense of the Reality of God.”

 

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