A New Calling

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
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The last words of Jesus to his disciples are found in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” These final words before he ascended to his heavenly throne were marching orders for his followers. We have been commanded to reproduce spiritually. We are called to make disciples and that must include children entrusted to our care for such a short time.
As I write this, I am nearly a week into “retirement.” Last Friday was an eventful and exciting day where we celebrated the end of a twenty year naval career. When some of our friends found out about our plans to retire, they were a bit confused. They had prayed earnestly and faithfully for me to be able to stay in just four years ago and now we are deciding to get out.
Of course, the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes. In that time, I have reached retirement eligibility, I have been an O-4 for three years and we have been living aboard Ankyrios, our 2003 Lagoon 380. We had always said that twenty years was arbitrary; that we would stay in the Navy (to which God had called us) until God called us to something else. Well, God has called us to something else. He has given us a passion for a new work.
Beginning next month, the Kelly Family will be heading South of the border to begin our five year mission work as we sail Ankyrios around the world. We will finally be together as a family and will be doing ministry together. For too long, ministry has meant that “Daddy has to leave.” Now we will be able to model Christian service to our children and pass on a legacy of missionary service to them.
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Checking out a “Younger Girl”

Younger Girl

“So they searched throughout the land of Israel for a beautiful girl, and they found Abishag from Shunem and brought her to the king.” 1 Kings 1:3 (NLT)

Brandy, who is normally quite methodical about making decisions (sometimes looks like indecision to me, but what do I know? Uhh?), decided in that moment that we were buying a sailboat. When she called me at 4:30 am (my time zone) and told me, I immediately thought it was a wrong number. A sailboat was my fantasy, but more on that in another post, not hers. We can’t afford a boat. We can’t live on a boat. Do you know how big a boat we would have to have for our family? You don’t know anything about boats. I can be very encouraging at times. This was not one of those times.

In any case, it gave Brandy a project. She is a researcher (like I said, it looks like indecision, but she is THOROUGH). This was kind of a fun activity together – YachtWorld.com can occupy you for hours as long as you disregard the prices. I found a decent boat for $14 million. Another for $20 million. Very nice. I mean as long as we’re dreaming. . .

But she was serious. Next thing I know, she’s taking our “crew” to visit boats. There were some beautiful boats. I was thinking our budget was somewhere in the $60-80k range. It would require a little work, but no way we could afford any more than that. We didn’t even have that much in the bank, but we could probably finance the rest. It became clear that we couldn’t fit on anything less than a 50 foot boat. That’s a lot of boat to sail, to berth, to maintain, etc. Well, it was fun while it lasted.

One of our friends, who had a go at the sailing life a few years back suggested that Brandy look at catamarans – two hulls, very stable, tons more room. Now she’s got a new mission. She found one for sale on the entire West Coast – a Charter Cats Wildcat 350 in Long Beach. Well, she packed up the kids and drove the hour or two to check it out. She was somewhat disappointed – it was cramped, dark, material condition was so-so. Reality check.

Well, when God is working, little things like “it doesn’t exist” are no big deal. (For an example, see Genesis 1:1.) Brandy went back to researching. She discovered the ill-fated “<a href=”http://www.bumfuzzle.com/”>Bumfuzzle</a>,” also a Charter Cats Wildcat 350. A little more research on Charter Cats revealed that they had gone bankrupt. Dodged a bullet there. But in her research she found the “perfect” boat – a Lagoon 380, charter version. Okay, get specific why don’t you? Most 380’s were owner’s versions – three cabins. The charter version, rarer, had four cabins, two heads, galley up, blue water capable and from a strong company. Well, being the spiritual man that I am, I told her that we would pray for a Lagoon 380, charter version.

She found a few for sale on the East coast and the BVI. That would be quite a trip for her to take to check out a boat. Additionally, it would cost somewhere in the range of $10-$30,000 to pay someone to deliver it to the West coast. Without exaggeration, within a couple of days of beginning to pray, a Lagoon 380, charter version showed up for sale, not only on the West coast, but in San Diego! Brandy called and took the crew to visit the “<a href=”http://youngergirl.org”>Younger Girl</a>” that week. (The photo accompanying this post used to be on both sides of the boat, almost 3 feet tall.)

She was perfect. Open, bright, spacious. No ducking or stooping. It was “cruise-ready” with lots of upgrades like solar, wind, water maker, SSB radio, SailMail, even Sirus satellite radio. When I came home for R&R a couple of weeks later, Brandy picked me up at the airport and took me straight to see the boat. I was so jet-lagged that she could have shown me the “Wanderer” and I wouldn’t have known any better. (That’s a Captain Ron reference if you missed it.)

A week later, the owner was in town and we took her out for a test and professional survey. We were smitten. The owner and his new bride were a really cool couple. He had stage 4 lymphoma and was putting his affairs in order. I think they liked us too. We told them all about our plans for ministry. As much as we were checking out the boat, they were interviewing us, would we be worthy of her?
We hit our first snag – financing. Apparently banks don’t care about how many upgrades boats have. All they care about is how much they can get at auction if the loan gets defaulted on. Using a value derived from the NADA guide (National AUTOMOTIVE Dealers Association) they valued the boat at less than half of the asking price and would only finance about 50% of that. We would have had to come up with about $200k down. That was obviously not going to happen. We approached the owners and told them our dilemma. They agreed to seller finance. A little bit of back and forth brought us to a price and the deal was done! We had secured our “Younger Girl.” Now to do something about that name. Oh yeah, and I had to get on a plane back to Bahrain.

Why Not NOW?

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 2:4-7

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So the old adage goes and so our journey began on a rock overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Onofre, CA. (Technically, a better translation might be “Even the longest journey must begin where you stand,” but we need not be pedantic. Except for using the word, “pedantic.” It’s a fun word and it makes you sound, well, like a pedant, which is not as naughty as it might sound.)

About halfway through my one-year unaccompanied tour in Bahrain, Brandy was struggling. Frankly, we all were, but that is to be expected. Having taken the kids to a free day-camp for children of deployed service members, Brandy was “looking forward” to three hours of uninterrupted house-cleaning. (Trying to clean a house with kids in it is like brushing your teeth while still eating Oreos.) What she didn’t plan on was that the camp, even though it was on Camp Pendleton, where we lived, was an hour and a half drive. Since she would spend all her time driving back and forth, housework was out (and Brandy was devastated).

With three hours to kill and no plan to account for it (a rarity for Brandy’s formerly very structured outlook on life), she decided to have some “me-time.” High on a cliff at San Onofre Beach with a commanding view of the ocean, Brandy’s mind shifted into overdrive – when I returned in December, we were going to need a place to live. We were on the waitlist for housing, but the wait was 3-4 years (we’re still on the list, mostly out of curiosity). We couldn’t afford to live in Coronado otherwise, but if I was going to be working there, when would there ever be a better time to live on that cute little island? Anywhere we lived would end up being a 45-60 minute commute on a good day. And that close would require more than our housing allowance. How  much was a “short” commute worth to us? And so it went. (This is a fraction of a second in Brandy’s brain. Seriously, it’s impressive and a little scary. I would have been able to accomplish an “Uhh?” and shoulder shrug in the same amount of time.)

As the reality of our housing situation and our current geographical separation and a hundred other things bore down on her, Brandy began to cry out to God, literally. One of those times that I wished I could be there. With tears in her eyes, she looked at the sailboats on the horizon and thought about the carefree lives those sailors had (how little we knew). Someday that would be us.

Why not NOW?