Sunday, June 16 2024 - 2:40 PM
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A Flag and a Prayer

On October 18, 2016, I was sailing on a cargo ship, the MV Baltic Sea, to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Early in the morning around 5:30, we got the first contact with the port control allowing us to make our way to port in an hour and a half. Soon after that, our captain gave orders to get prepared for the mooring and docking operations. It was a very foggy morning and the visibility was affected.

Faith and a Flag

Through my life I have always felt and maintained a divine connection, especially when we’re at sea. You can see clearly the mighty wonders of the Creator in the vastness of the ocean. I never skip my devotional times. It’s been my faith that has kept me. My Christian background was quieted when I found myself in the marine career. Seaman have absolutely no time for God or religion. The maritime life has its own belief and the pressure will divert you from this earth’s luxuries. However, faith was my direct link to the actual world.

As part of my regular seaman duties, and when ready to enter a territory, I took the Saudi Arabian flag and went to the stern of the vessel and hoisted it. I remember checking the flag and putting it in the right position. We still had one flag before heading to the pilot station. Everything was well prepared and all the crews were ready.

I decided to have coffee, and for some reason was feeling anxious. The crew knows I have some Christian background because they often see me praying; I also have some Bible quotations in my cabin. Those verses are the stronghold of my life. I know they always had questions about me but my consistency in prayer and faith kept me steadfast. That morning we were about to enter a highly Islamic country and being a Christian could be a bit challenging. I was mentally going through a very awkward moment and lots of thoughts were filling my mind. There was no audible word out of my mouth except some short prayers.

Maritime Message

I was still sipping my coffee when I heard the announcement that the pilot had decided to come up 30 minutes earlier and that he was already very close to our vessel. A short time before the pilot got to our vessel, his co-pilot observed that the Saudi Arabian flag had been hoisted upside down. The message was passed on to my captain who asked my chief mate to confirm the situation and give him feedback. The chief mate reported that the flag was indeed upside down.

Overcome with fear, I became very pale and heavy sweat was oozing from my pores. I was motionless and in a panic. The maritime regulations severely punish this type of thing. The company and the ship owners would be charged with heavy losses. Here the problem was Saudi Arabia, that country which would barely tolerate this action. It is clearly an insult to any nation, but Saudi Arabia takes it very seriously. It was evident that I would end up in jail if Saudi Arabian authorities did not have me killed by then. For all I knew, my life was over and I would not see my family again. I knew I would be executed, and probably some of the crew members would be jailed. In a matter of seconds, I could feel the full consequences of the act.

God’s Helping Hand

I quickly came back to my senses, stepped into my cabin, took my Bible and cried aloud to my Lord. “Oh Lord, I never see any difference in Your creations; I never wanted to insult this country. You are in command of the situation now. May Your name be glorified for eternity!”

Meantime, my captain moved quickly toward the aft of the vessel. The pilots and the co-pilot followed him. They went together to assess the flag situation. When they got to the aft mast, they all observed that the flag was in the right position and that they were looking at it before from the wrong angle; the fog was not helping.

My captain asked me later if I had anything to say. I replied, “Sir, there is a great helping hand that can turn every situation around. I am a faithful servant of the Lord and He would not let me down. He is always with me.”

Patrice Sowanou writes from Texas.

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About Patrice Sowanou

Patrice Sowanou

writes from Texas.

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