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A Time to Look Back and Assess By Captain Larry Clarke (USN Ret.) Served in Rota, Spain, as a LCDR, AOIC of FOSIF from May 1977 to October 1980 Returned as Commanding Officer from August 1986 to August 1989 During my first tour, I accepted Christ as my Savior while attending a revival at Bethel Baptist Church, a Baptist International Missions, Inc., (BIMI), Missions to Military church. An evangelist was the guest speaker. He had the right message for this lost sinner and at the right time. Deacon Doug Dobson dealt with me and led me to the Lord (Doug is now my son’s father-in-law—more long-term impact of Bethel). During my second tour, I was the second senior officer on base and able to be of assistance to off base ministries, especially Bethel Baptist Church. Naval Station Rota is a Spanish Naval Base where Americans are tenants and must comply with many restrictions and limitations imposed by the Spanish Military since Spain is a Catholic country. Next year it will be 30 years since I last served at Bethel Baptist Church. Therefore, I think a logical question to ask is: What long-term impact did God, using Bethel Baptist Church, have on my life and the lives of my family? How has God used the Clarke family since those formative infant Christian years? Our children were very young at the time. Our son Mason (43) and his wife, Courtney, (daughter of deacon Doug Dobson) have four children. They are now active in a Baptist church where Mason is a Sunday school teacher and deacon. Paxton is 42. She and Brian live in Pensacola, Florida. When building a house, the importance of the proper foundation will be evident in future years as far as maintenance and wear and tear go. So it is with our Christian life. If we miss out on the basic foundational issues, secular life will throw us curve balls we are not prepared to handle. This can cause us to get off track, stop serving our Lord, and in some cases, become debris on the side of the straight and narrow way. This is why, in my view, Bethel Baptist Church has had such an impact on me personally and my family. I would like to review what I see are to be those foundational issues that seem simple but are seldom followed with rigor. 1. “God is good all the time and all the time God is good” is a well-known quote among Christians. One of the key lessons we learned in Rota is that God wants to be in control of our lives and will be if we allow Him. Being a hard-headed, double “A” personality, I always had the attitude I can do it, even after being saved. Looking back, I think God had plans for me and needed to get my undivided attention with a long-term impact event. In the early 1980s, after our first tour in Rota, our son, Mason, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. In those days, adolescents seldom lived to adulthood. Mason was assigned by the Navy to the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at King’s Daughters Medical Center. He was sick at home for weeks at a time, had constant multiple infections, and for over two years did not grow in height or weight. Literally thousands of people all over America and the world prayed for Mason. God finally got my attention by handing me a mess that I could not fix alone. Please notice that He went after something that was very important to me. When things are really bad, reasonable people know they need guaranteed help. This is where my training at Bethel Baptist pointed me in my future actions. During a Sunday preaching service at Providence Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, I leaned over to Carol, my wife, and said, “During the invitation, I am taking Mason and his medical condition to that altar and leaving it for God. I hope you will come with me.” She went with me. After church, I told Carol that it was now in God’s hands and we needed to not worry about it any further. We prayed for God’s will to be done, and we needed to learn to live with whatever that outcome would be. About 18 months later, Dr. Rubio, head of that clinic for over 19 years, called us in and said that Mason no longer needed their services. He said that Mason is the first child he has ever released! Dr. Rubio was not saved, but his medical wisdom and capability told him that this was a very special event! I thank God that He got my attention before He may have had to call Mason Home. Needless to say, my attitude and desire for service and strong belief in the power of prayer all merged into a focused human, striving to achieve God’s perfect will for my life. 2. I learned to be a fundamentalist at Bethel Baptist Church. The absolute authority of the Scriptures is paramount to the Christian life. Anytime one or more Scriptures are marginalized, the full power of the Gospel is not realized. The Bible is clear; we are to magnify God and not attempt to bring God down to man’s level. Some ministers avoid certain topics to not alienate a subset of the congregation. Some will add all forms of “entertainment” options to draw in the lost. When that happens, the lost come in but the clear distinction between being lost or saved is missed. The church creates confusion when it should provide clarity. To be saved, one must first recognize his or her lost condition, be willing to repent, and realize his or her absolute inability to do anything about it without God’s intervention. The Scripture says that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God ready to testify as to who is and is not part of the family of God. In Acts 7 we read that the Scripture reports Christ standing, suggesting He is testifying that Stephen, about to be stoned, is one of the family of God. Amazingly, standing off to the side is Saul of Tarsus, an anti-Christian/