The word that prepares you to cross IED alley
It had been a very hot day in July 2009. Everyone was exhausted from the heat, the heavy body armour and the serious tension of operating in hostile territory in the Uruzgan Province in central south Afghanistan.
Travelling across the province from Tarin Kot was extremely dangerous. IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) were everywhere. Every step or every turn of a vehicle wheel could trigger a deadly explosion.
Chaplain Charles Vesely was with the Australian soldiers, spending the night at Patrol Base Qudus. The mood was extremely tense. Tomorrow they must pass through the treacherous Baluchi Valley – “IED alley” they called it – a difficult terrain. Ambush was a constant threat and the ground was strewn with explosive devices.
We were all in fear, and we all needed to hear theassurance from the Lord who loves us and gave his life for us.
The horrifying results had been witnessed too often already. As evening fell, Chaplain Vesely prepared himself for evening prayer.
“From day one of the operation, I established the practice, regardless of where I was, that at 20:45hrs I would hold evening prayer. Some soldiers would attend, whilst others would request that prayers be said for them.”
It was a particularly clear night. Under a canopy of brilliant stars in the desert sky, about a dozen soldiers gathered in a corner of the PB Qudus compound. Chaplain Vesely opened his camouflage – covered military Bible, signed by all his friends back home.
“I must admit I had not spent too muchtime choosing a Bible reading. I hadhurriedly chosen the passage from the lectionary readings for July. We were all in fear, and we all needed to hear theassurance from the Lord who loves us and gave his life for us.”
Chaplain Vesely turned to the set reading, Psalm 31. White light was forbidden and he read using a dim green LED. He read the opening verses, wonderfully appropriate, full of images of God’s protection – “I come to you, Lord, for protection…Be my mighty rock and the fortress where I am safe…”
Then they came to verse 4: “Free me from the trap that is set for me and keep me safe.”
“I stopped at those words. I felt the words stir me in my soul. I looked up at the faces of the soldiers who were with me. The dim green light cast a strange glow on them. Their faces were like mine, stunned. God had spoken to us, strongly and plainly. Even in the midst of a strange and hostile land, God was with us, assuring us, protecting us and speaking to us.
“For some of those men, this was their first encounter with the power of the Word of God, the Word with the power to change their lives.”More