Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: MISSION (01/30/20)
TITLE: Like Jonah
By Tammy Ortung
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“Lord, why?” I cried. “Why me?” Unfortunately, I already knew the answer to my question. I had raised my right hand. I’d taken an oath to obey the orders of those appointed over me. It was my duty. Yet I knew nothing was impossible for God. Though I’d been hot for a deployment, my all-powerful, omniscient God could have prevented this.
“You’re tasking just came in,” my unit deployment manager had said on the other end of the phone an hour earlier. “Come down to my office and let’s discuss the details.”
I’d plodded down the hall, my dread mounting with each step.
“Looks like the Air Force is sending you to augment the Army in Baghdad,” he said after I entered his closet-size office and sat down. I nodded, careful to keep my expression impassive as we briefly discussed the particulars and I signed all the necessary paperwork.
In the months leading up to my deployment, I prayed it would get cancelled, becoming more and more frustrated when God seemed to ignore my pleas.
Then on Thanksgiving day, my husband, Tim, step-daughter, Kayleigh, and I were cleaning up after dinner. I was standing at the sink washing dishes and they were scraping leftovers into containers at the large island behind me.
“Uh, I have something to tell you guys,” Kayleigh said, her voice barely above a whisper. I shut off the water, grabbed the dish towel and turned to look at her expectantly. I wondered what other bad news she had to tell us. This had been the year for disappointment.
“What is it Kayleigh?” Tim said into the awkward silence. I think his insides were twisting too.
Suddenly her face crumpled and I barely made out the words, “I’m pregnant,” before Tim reached out and engulfed her in his long, muscular arms as she sobbed uncontrollably. Though we didn’t condone her current live-in boyfriend situation, we loved her, and an unplanned pregnancy didn’t change that.
The baby was due three weeks before I would return home from Iraq. I was devastated. I felt like Kayleigh needed me more now than ever, or maybe I needed her. Maybe I could have experienced a little of what it was like to have a baby. I could have gone to her doctor’s appointments, shopped for maternity clothes, and maybe Kayleigh would have let me in the delivery room with her. I felt the painful reverberations of my loathsome barrenness. I blamed the military—and God—for taking this experience away from me.
Before I knew it I was sitting at a desk in Baghdad, miserably augmenting the Army.
Friends and family had asked to hear about my stay in the desert. So, each week I drafted one email and sent it out in mass.
Before long, I started to hear back from friends. “I love that you’re sharing our faith and how God is helping you get through this deployment,” one friend wrote. “My husband (who wasn’t a Christian) is reading your emails, you are such a blessing to me.”
Another friend, a self-proclaimed atheist, wrote, “You know I don’t pray, but you’re in my thoughts.” Yet she was reading my emails. I started to understand why God had allowed me to deploy. While I was still heartbroken over missing Kayleigh’s entire pregnancy, I began to see how God was using me to plant seeds in the hearts of people I’d never had the boldness to share my faith with before my deployment—fulfilling His Great “Co-mission.”
As time went on, I stopped worrying about who might be offended by my emails and just wrote from my heart. I felt like people were beginning to know the real me, and through me, they could see what having a relationship with Jesus Christ could be like.
I now realize that Iraq had been my own personal Nineveh—and I, Jonah’s twin. Just as he had thrown a tantrum and ran from what God wanted him to do, I had begged, cried, and pouted my way through the months leading up to my deployment. Yet God always prevails. He used me for His purposes—on a greater mission than I, or the government, could have ever imagined.
This is a work of non-fiction.
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