About 14 years ago our family had the privilege to be in the Virginia Beach area.  We were very interested in lighthouses.  The next summer we visited 186 of them.  Some of the lights that we saw were movable and not fixed in one place, they were lightships rather than lighthouses.

One of them is permanently docked in Portsmouth as a maritime museum.  It became known as the Portsmouth Lightship.  When we stopped there we had the privilege to go on board and tour it.

Any lighthouse sends out its beam to warn ships that there are dangerous rocks or shoals.  The light keepers also risked their lives to help pilots, seafarers, and passengers to be safe, but the sailors on a lightship had additional risks.  I never heard of anyone living on an island who lost his life in the fog or darkness, because a ship crashed into the island and sank the island.  Neither have I heard of an island and its light tower sinking in a bad storm.  Actually, I have never heard of a lighthouse keeper getting seasick by climbing the spiral staircase in the tower.  But on the Portsmouth Lightship, as with all lightships, the sailors and keepers risked all of the above in addition to the normal problems of a lighthouse keeper.

The lightship had to keep watch day and night, especially in fog, to be sure that no ship passing into the harbor, or even passing by Portsmouth, would run into the lightship and sink it.  The men had to endure all kinds of weather including storms.  Often regular ships could put into port when bad weather was coming, but the keepers of a lightship had to be faithful, especially in bad weather.  They had to stay there and take it.  A moving ship often chose a heading that would make it easier on passengers and crew, but a lightship was anchored and not heading anywhere.  It just had to take whatever the storm gave to it.

The lighthouse keeper was protected from the force of the hurricane winds and the torrents of rain by climbing up to the indoor lamp room via an indoor staircase, but the keeper of the light for a lightship had to climb the swaying light mast by a ladder that was entirely exposed to the elements.  In addition, the giant waves of the ocean could wash completely over the hull of the ship and take with it anyone who was not fastened to the deck of the ship.

God commands us to let our light shine, but He does not always make it easy for us.  He also tells us to “…endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  He wants us to have hope in God as the Great Anchor of our souls.  He wants us to publish and sound out the gospel message as a clarion call and like the sound of a fog bell ringing through the fog and across the surface of the ocean.

Christian, the Navy Bluejackets’ Manual says that each morning at 8:15 there is to be a boatswain’s whistle and a command to “turn to.”  This is the sailors’ command to “get to work.”  God made you a watchman and a light keeper and He commands you each day to “turn to.”


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