"Prayers were answered"

Mar 26, 2003 03:16 PM EST

Sam Horne, 22, enlisted in the Navy at the young age of 18 to find a purpose in life. Here, he not only found his career but his faith as well.

"I found out what I was really longing for -- a true committed relationship with God," Horne said.

Despite being sent away for various training periods, Horne found a home at Virginia Beach Freewill Baptist Church and committed his life to God.

"After my first deployment, I wanted to find a church to go to, and since we'd been sent back to the shipyards for some downtime, I thought this would be a good time to do that," said Horne.

However, loneliness set in his heart as he rejected the life of drinking with other sailors on base. He began to pray for a co-worker and friend who could understand his walk of faith and life; someone who could offer encouragement and comfort in his Christian path.

Soon afterwards, Horne met Chris Huggins, 22, in the jet engine shop of the ship where they both work. Huggins, from Bangs, Texas, also attends Virginia Beach Freewill Baptist. When they're in port, the two friends help as youth leaders there, keeping up with the students through e-mail since being deployed.

"There's freedom in experiencing salvation," Horne said. "I think what I'm doing here is making a difference and fulfilling God's will. Saddam Hussein shows a lot of hatred. The Iraqi people need to see a different part -- the New Testament if you will."

Despite such hatred, Horne continues to walk the path of the gospel through his bible studies and prayers.

"Every day you have to wake up and sometimes you don't feel good," Horne said. "I'm always battling in my mind and trying to make sure I treat people with love and kindness.

"You know the phrase, 'Sleep with dogs and wake up with fleas?'" Horne asked. "If you can stay with the vine and He stays with you, you can bear fruit. But sometimes the vine can seem pretty far away."

Horne and Huggins rely on their church's support as one way to make the time pass. Church members send cards, CDs of the pastor's sermons and care packages that can include Bible studies and whatever else the young Christians want. They also often get e-mail from the associate pastor -- though as of late, e-mail for the ship's sailors has not been as accessible due to current restrictions resulting from the war.

'"We prayed the other night [before the first planes with loaded missiles took off] for our enemies," Horne said. "They need to see what we see -- I need to see what they see. All I can do is pray. I'm not here to kill anybody -- just to defend good from evil."

Higgins has witnessed firsthand what God can do through a Christian on board the ship. He ran across someone at lunch one day who was having a lot of problems and contemplating suicide. Higgins shared with the sailor what the Bible said.

"I told him that you have a choice right now of whom you will serve," Higgins recounted. "He chose to step up, just started bawling right there on the mess deck and gave his life to God." Later, the new Christian told the chaplain in front of Higgins that he had been five minutes away from walking off the deck of the ship if the love of God hadn't been shared with him.

"I definitely know we're here for a reason," Higgins said, as he got back to work on one of the jet engines in the shop. "I've seen it firsthand."

By Pauline J.