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Join the Tugboat Fleet

Looking Back at a Carrier — and Its Tugboats!

I’m reminded of a special “cruise” we took in 2008, right after my first missions trip to Guatemala. We were guests of Petty Officer Bruce Wasson (now pastor of Morningstar Church in Scottsville, Virginia) on a “Family and Friends Day” aboard his ship, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman. What a privilege to be out to sea, out of sight of land, on the deck as jet fighters were launched and recovered, to see one of these “birds” make a sound-barrier-breaking “doughnut” right before our eyes!

But for all the impressive activity of carrier operations, the Lord pointed out an important spiritual principle that day. You see, for all the enormity and power of the Truman, it would not have left the dock here in Norfolk if it hadn’t been for four tugboats, which pushed it out in the channel and guided it into deep water. The Truman, with all its capacity and airborne firepower, needed helpers to transition to deeper ocean water. And when the carrier returned that evening, the four tugs once again guided it up the river through the shallower water and deftly pushed it back into its dock. There’s a spiritual application, related to our missions work.

3 Tugboats in Acts:
Ananias, Barnabas, & Mordecai

S.S. Ananias of Damascus

Remember Ananias of Damascus? Once the mighty “Battleship” Saul of Tarsus (later rechristened Paul the Apostle) had been launched when Jesus spectacularly arrested him, the “Tugboat” Ananias was first on the scene to begin nudging and steering what would become one of the mightiest “ships” in God’s “navy” at the time. Ananias is a type of harbor tug, very effective in his own “harbor” (Acts 9:10-19). Paul recounts Ananias’ “tugboat” ministry in personal testimony (Acts 22:12-16). What would have become of the S.S. Saul of Tarsus without the Tugboat Ananias?

S.S. Barnabas of Cyprus

An ocean-going tug was sent to assist the S.S. Saul and move it into deeper water, and that was the powerful S.S. Barnabas. Consider his role:

  • Befriending Saul and taking him to the Jerusalem Church leaders (Acts 9:26-28);
  • “Tugging” him back from his seclusion in Tarsus to serve in the Antioch church, encouraging his teaching ministry (Acts 11:24-26); and,
  • Partnering on the Acts 13-14 missionary trip, during which he let the “battleship” take the role of “flagship” because of his “anointed ‘firepower.’”

But the battleship and the ocean-going tug parted ways over the matter of John Mark (Acts 15:36-41). The Battleship Paul wanted to “full steam ahead” into combat, whereas the Tugboat Barnabas was still functioning in his calling — focusing on pushing another unlikely ship of the line, the S.S. John Mark, out into deeper water. Battleships are made for battle; tugboats gotta tug! And that Barnabas was ultimately successful with John Mark, was acknowledged by both Paul (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11) and Peter (1 Peter 5:13).

And who knew that Tugboat Barnabas was launching the man who would pen the Gospel of Mark? (Answer: Jesus!)

S.S. Mordecai of Kentucky

Turn to Acts 29 (the chapter in which the Church has found itself for the last 2000 years) and there you’ll find the Tugboat Mordecai Ham. What, you never heard of Mordecai Fowler Ham? Neither have most folks — anonymity goes with the tugboat occupation, I’m afraid. Why is he important? Well, there was a teenager who first avoided, then attended Mordecai’s evangelistic meetings. That young man finally went forward to dedicate his life to Jesus, as did thousands of others. Except this one wound up becoming the nuclear-powered carrier S.S. Billy Graham!

Help Wanted: Tugboat Crew Members!

Map of GuatemalaNext stop: Guatemala!

Bottom line: Don’t underrate tugboats! It’s in a “tugboat capacity” that I’m going to Guatemala in three weeks, Lord willing. My job isn’t to be Billy Graham or St. Mark or the Apostle Paul. Nope. Our job is to find these other ships, these Latin American leaders, and push and pull and encourage and challenge them into deeper waters. Are there any “battleships” or “aircraft carriers” among them? Only God knows, but so many of these men and women have such potential! Let’s do our job, keep “tugging,” and let God sort out which ship serves which purpose in His “Guatemalan Navy.” The leaders from Guatemala are already doing “ministry patrols” in Perú, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

Yes, I said, “Let’s do our job.” I need more crew members. No tugboat captain in his right mind thinks he can run his tug as a one-man operation; and he knows that many tugboat jobs require more than one tug. We need you on the crew. We have plenty of crew positions open, jobs like:

  • “Fueling the ship” with gifts for travel. Currently, we need about 625 more “gallons” for next month’s trip. Please ask the Lord if He would give you the privilege of helping. You can give directly by mail (see address below) or electronically via our donations page: https://FinestOfTheWheat.org/donate.
  • “Manning the lines” of prayer. Let us know that you’re praying specifically, and we can send you special updates.

You just might be part of the crew that launches the next “big ship”! Thanks for your prayers and support! And let us know how we can pray for you.

Much love in Jesus,


Photo credits: USS Truman at sea and USS Tawasa: U.S. Navy via Wikipedia.org (public domain). Truman carrier landing photo: Denise Kerwin. Harbor tug photo: Centpacrr at English Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Centpacrr. Teacher photos: Jim Kerwin. Guatemalan map: OperationWorld.org. Send-off photo: Anonymous Guatemalan pastor.

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