Thursday, July 19, 2012

God in an Oceanarium

God in an Oceanarium

Liz Hall © 2012

It was the last day. In less than 24 hours, my week-long Christian cruise with amazing singer-songwriters, authors, a comedian and a boat full of God’s people would be ending. It is always bittersweet when good things come to an end. As my day began in Bar Harbor, Maine, I began my sightseeing with these things in the back of my mind. The completion of the cruise would mean I would have to return to the ‘real’ world, and work, and be surrounded by more secular things. Gone would be my daily discussions with my friends from throughout the world regarding the morning devotional just presented by Frank Peretti. Dinner would not be in a world class restaurant and include sumptuous courses prepared by a top chef. My evenings would not be filled with praise and worship lead by an awesome contemporary Christian recording artist and daily excursions to ports of call would be replaced with time in an office, in front of my computer, crunching data.

And so I visited the little shops and hopped on a coach bus for a guided excursion through the town and then into Acadia National Park. The sights were inspiring. Filling my memory card with snapshot after snapshot of the wonders of God’s creation, I was continually inspired to return to my paints and canvas upon my arrival back home. Leaving Cadillac Mountain and the park, the tour guide informed us of our next stop at the Mount Desert Oceanarium where would be given a demonstration and learn about lobsters at the Lobster Institute there. I sighed with some regret thinking that being from Connecticut I had certainly seen my fair share of lobsters; additionally I had just seen a short presentation during my trip to Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia the day before. Regardless, I was with my friends and waited patiently upon our arrival. I glanced around at the wooden buildings, most looking slightly old and worn and wondered what was awaiting us.

We were ushered into a building with a few rows of folding chairs which we filled. Looking forward I noticed that in front of us was an entire lobster boat taking up the larger part of the room. The boat had a cut-away opening to allow easy access and was filled with the tools of a lobster fisherman. There were traps and buoys and the like everywhere. After a minute or so, David Mills, a tall elderly gentleman, entered the room and greeted us. He had white hair and well-worn jeans and appeared to be a gentle soul. He began by telling us how happy he was to see us, confirmed that we were from a cruise ship and said there was someone in common that he and us enjoyed. We were delighted and assumed he was a Michael W. Smith fan. He then proceeded to tell us that God instructed him to open the Oceanarium back in 1972. Now having my full attention, with a huge smile on my face I sat in great expectation of what he would share with us.

He explained how during similar presentations as the one we would see, he hosted many secular groups and was continually given the opportunity to ‘love on’ them when they least expected it. He told us of a recent group that came through and a couple who sat in the front row. The husband, he explained was kind of “jerky” and he felt sorry for the wife noticing her gentle disposition. During his presentation of the lobster boat he directed the group’s attention to the registry number which every vessel must have. As the group he was talking about did, we looked and observed the registry: ME 316 JN on the bow of the boat. Our group became excited and he described how a murmur went through the secular group he was telling us about when he presented them the registry number. Between them he began to hear some of them mention John 3:16. The woman in front with the ‘jerky’ husband said she didn’t understand and asked him what they were talking about. He told us how he explained to her that the letters and numbers represented the state the vessel was registered in, ME for Maine and 316 JN represented a scripture in the bible. To which she responded, “I don’t know it; can you tell me what it says?” He eloquently shared how it says that God loves her and that he loves her so much that he sent his only son and if she would believe in him she would have eternal life and not perish. He reminded us of how we never know how God is going to use us.

The remainder of the presentation was quaint and informative. In a short time the tour guide told him he had to finish up as we had a ship to catch. In the gentlest of voices he told us how much he had enjoyed our group and how he wished there was more time. He asked if he could pray over us and finished the presentation with a sincere prayer for our group, for the rest of the ship including the unsaved staff and for all God’s people. My friends and I got back on the coach bus and looked at each other asking ‘what just happened?’ We were more excited than words can describe. We had spent a week cruising the Saint Lawrence River and visiting some of Canada’s most interesting ports. We had been ministered to by anointed musicians, a renowned author and other talented people; yet the cherry on top of the sundae was in a modest building with a lobster boat and a fisherman wise with years and with the knowledge of God.

What I heard God tell me that day was that His people are everywhere. When I reflect back on the experience, I realize that our conclusion that Mr. Mills was a Michael W. Smith fan may have been less than correct. What we had in common was above all else, a love for the Lord. I equate the Oceanarium experience to finding the gold nugget amongst all the grains of sand. There are those He has refined that are heavy and filled with all the things of God. They will stand out, shining brightly and with His word they will proclaim Him as Lord and ‘love on’ those that are in need.