Anchor for the Soul

Raymond Perry

Anchored by Service

I come from a family with a long history of military service. My father was a WWI veteran with the U.S. Army (17th Cavalry) under Commander Lieutenant Patton. My brothers were in WWII and the Korean War respectively. My Uncle James Maloney was a WWII Navajo Code Talker with the U.S. Marines. Also, my Uncle Wilfred was a Coxswain who unloaded Marines in Higgins boats on the beachheads of the Pacific during WWII. Native Americans have the greatest representation of military service of any people group in our nation.

I began boot camp in August of 1960 at the San Diego Naval Training Center. Following boot camp, I was sent to the Class “A” Machinist Mate School in Great Lakes, Illinois. There, I was trained to operate the steam propulsion engines that power naval vessels. After graduation, I reported to Long Beach, California, and boarded the U.S.S. Shelton DD-790. It was an awesome experience to board the naval destroyer vessel that would become my home away from home. My assigned workstation was the aft engine room.

U.S.S. Shelton

“General quarters! General quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!” The year was 1961, and the Shelton had encountered harassment from Soviet warships in international waters between Japan and the Soviet Union. “This is no drill…this is no drill!” It was the war cry for the Shelton’s 280 sailors to prepare for open war.

The political tensions of those years prepared us for when we saw action in Vietnam. One morning, we were told, “Men, we are going to war!” Throughout the day we helped load and prepare the ship’s stores. The next morning, we got underway for Viet­nam. We entered Vietnam’s Tonkin Gulf in the early morning hours before sunrise with the aircraft carrier task force.

Our destroyer was tasked with protecting aircraft carriers, rescuing downed pilots, and providing fire support for Marines and soldiers battling the enemy in the jungles of Vietnam. The 5-inch guns on the Shelton were designed for long range accuracy and could engage threats from the land, sea, and air. I was later transferred to the U.S.S. Duncan DDR-874, which was the “radar picket ship.” The Duncan was the “point man” on the high seas, operating miles ahead of the naval task force, doing surveillance operations.

Drifting into Danger

I will never forget the years I spent at sea. My five years of active duty were some of the best years of my life. But when I returned from Vietnam, I returned to an America I didn’t recognize. Respect for veterans was at an all-time low. The public didn’t share the gratitude I felt for the men I had seen give their lives in service to our country.

I lost several friends to suicide during this time. And it wasn’t long before I began to have suicidal thoughts as well. Even though I was still in the Naval Reserves, my life felt like it had lost its purpose. I was haunted by the things I had seen at war, and my life felt like a boat set adrift at sea. I turned to alcohol, but that only made things worse. Life felt empty and unstable. My wife and I were heading for a divorce, and I had lost hope that life could ever be “good” again.

One day in November of 1974, I finally decided to end my life. I had tried everything else, and I felt completely trapped by my circumstances. I had searched many times for something that would bring my life meaning and purpose, but I had always come up empty. Pistol in hand, I walked out of the house and whispered what I thought would be my last prayer ever: “God, if You are real, can You help me?” That was the day Jesus touched my life in a very real way and gave my soul a place to rest. I felt the warmth of God’s hand on my forehead as the Holy Spirit began to work in my heart—drawing me to Himself, convicting me of my sin, and offering hope to my worn-down spirit.

I knew right away that my life would never be the same again. I walked back into the house and told my wife what had happened. In tears, she encouraged me to go purchase a Bible immediately. I will never forget what it was like to return home from the bookstore with my brand-new Bible. It was captivating! It felt like God was talking to me personally, because He was! The truth of God’s Word jumped off the page and began to answer the deep questions of my heart:

Who am I?
(Genesis 1:26-28; Colossians 1:16-18)

Where am I going?
(Proverbs 3:5-6; John 14:1-6)

What am I supposed to do?
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Micah 6:8)

Why do I have to die?
(Hebrews 9:27-28; I Corinthians 15:21-22)

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God….But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. –James 1:5-6

He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. –Psalm 23:3

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. –John 14:6

Sure and Steadfast

The anchor is vital to any ship. When coming into port, securing our Destroyer by anchor was critical to the safety of the ship and crew. When we were a short distance away from the coastline, we dropped anchor. The ship always remained in place regardless of the currents and winds. The bow of the ship might be facing north, and the next day it would be facing a different direction. But our position was held secure because of the anchor.

When I found Jesus Christ, I found an anchor for my soul. The Bible describes salvation in Jesus as an anchor for the soul that is both sure and steadfast. My life is now defined by hope, because my eternal destiny is held secure in Christ.

Which hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast… –Hebrews 6:19

When Christ became the anchor for my soul, the Bible be­came the compass for my life. The Holy Spirit began using Scripture to answer the deep questions of my heart. I learned that I was created by God—in His image and for His glory. I learned that God had a purpose for my life and had given me instructions for life. I learned that my sin required a death penalty, but that Jesus had laid down His life in my place. I learned that I didn’t have to drift through life, uncertain about the things that truly matter.

The most important decision I made as a young Christian was to step up and take my family to church. We found a church in Albuquerque, NM, that welcomed us, fed us from God’s Word, and trained us to feed others from God’s Word. A friend from church named Leon patiently discipled my wife and me for a whole year. He helped us learn how to navigate the Scriptures and taught us how to study the Bible for ourselves using a Bible dictionary and Bible commentaries.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. –II Timothy 3:16-17

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness….But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. –Ephesians 4:14-15

When God rescued my soul from the valley of the shadow of death, He gave me a love for His Word (the Bible) and a love for His people (the Church). God fully equipped me to live a life anchored by hope (II Peter 1:3-8). God truly is good!

Commissioned by Hope

After my discharge from active duty, I spent five years in the U.S. Naval Reserve and another 10 years in the New Mexico Honor Guard. We conducted military honor burials, visited veterans in the VA hospital, and traveled to post flags and promote participation in the U.S. Armed Services. I was also commissioned as a First Lieutenant Chaplain by the Department of Veterans Services.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. –John 15:13

The lives of all who serve are defined by sacrifice. But my life has also been defined by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Life became meaningful to me when I turned my life over to Jesus. This has become part of our family identity, with my children and grandchildren also choosing to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives.

Many Native Americans have sacrificed to defend the United States of America, protecting her and our Indian Nations’ federal reservations. Every veteran needs to know that our Creator has given us hope by sending His Son Jesus to give His life as a sacrifice here on earth.

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. –II Corinthians 4:6

Merritt Youngdeer photo

Raymond Perry and his wife, Lorraine, have been married for over 50 years. He continues to minister to his fellow veterans and serve local churches across the Navajo Nation. He is a vital part of the cooperative effort of tribal members and friends in the Native American community sharing their stories of hope through the Native Voices Project.

Anchored by Hope

God is good. And God is good to us.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Psalms 27:13-14

God provides abundant life.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. John 10:10-11

God has good plans for each of us.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13

God understands our need for help.
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

God provides peace in a world of trouble.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

God provides protection for our minds.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

God equips us for spiritual victory.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; Ephesians 6:14-18

God is present with us in our trouble.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. Psalms 46:1-3

(Copyright Today’s Native 2024)

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If you are struggling to find purpose in life and are desperate to maintain hope, we invite you to read some more articles that will help point you to the God Who knows your deepest needs!