When CBF-endorsed chaplain Lt. Jeff Ross (U.S. Navy) learned that he would be deployed on the USS Carl Vinson several months ago, he wanted to explore the possibility of visiting with nearby CBF field personnel during his tour of Southeast Asia. Brenda Lisenby, who is currently serving in the Guangxi Province and Hong Kong along China’s southern border, agreed to try and work out a meeting.
What started as a simple email conversation grew into an “international church exchange” between the shipboard congregation of the USS Carl Vinson and the congregation of Kowloon International Baptist Church (KIBC), where Lisenby attends. Ten of the church’s young professionals hosted the 52 service men and women for a day of sightseeing around the city of Sai Kung and a taste of authentic Chinese culture – including more “eccentric” cuisine such as duck’s tongue and herbal jelly. “They touched some sea urchins and sea cucumber, watched some Cantonese Opera, were introduced to white fungus, thousand-year-old eggs and salted fish, and visited the temple,” said Jennifer, one of the hosts. “They said ‘it tastes like home’ when they visited Starbucks!”
After battling thunderstorms and touring the city and harbor, the group traveled to KIBC to participate in a worship service. “It meant much to us, as a church family, to be able to provide this experience for the young men and women from the USS Carl Vinson,” said Lisenby.
“It was such a blessing to be able to get off the ship and spend an entire day out learning about a different culture, and then coming together as one to worship the same awesome God,” said Ana, one of the sailors.
“When you meet a brother or sister for the first time, and you know you’re family, it’s a wonderful experience,” said Standley, another sailor.
Six church families even opened their homes to host members of the group for dinner. “It was great to be able to go to someone’s home and have such a wonderful meal after being on this long deployment,” sailor Kelly explained. This particular deployment on the USS Carl Vinson became historic last month when the aircraft carrier picked up a team of Navy SEALs carrying the body of Osama bin Laden. The carrier recently returned home to San Diego.
“By partnering with KIBC, we were able to interact with locals who could help us navigate the different culture. It was a safe environment for the sailors and a truly terrific worship experience,” said Ross. “Many individuals were touched by the experience and more than a few counted it as the best experience of the deployment.”
“When complete strangers can meet up and do life like family who have been connected for decades,” said another sailor, “that is when you know Christ is the center.”