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Having completed the first college phase of my training in March 1975 I was informed by my shipping company that I would be joining the MT Stolt Sheaf in Durban. I was looking forward to a trip on the Stolt Sheaf. She was a 25,000-ton specialised chemical tanker and one of the newest ships in the Souter fleet. She was also due to visit some very interesting ports.

While at home waiting to join the Stolt Sheaf my future wife popped in to see my mother. There was no indication at this time that Marilyn and I would get married four years later. We had only met a couple of times prior to that day. Marilyn was due to start nursing training at the same hospital Mum had trained at, hence her visit. As Marilyn had just returned from a holiday in Durban, I promised to send her a postcard when I got there. Unfortunately, there was a problem and instead of flying to Durban I found myself on a train to Glasgow to join the MV Lindisfarne.

MV Lindisfarne at sea. Note the nifty paintwork!

I ended up joining the Lindisfarne while she was at anchor off Greenock. Not long after taking a launch out to the ship she left the anchorage and headed up the River Clyde to a berth in the centre of Glasgow. After the cargo of iron ore had been discharged the Lindisfarne sailed for Murmansk in the Soviet Union (USSR) to load another iron ore cargo. Souters had several small iron ore carriers on long-term charter to British Steel meaning that they always discharged in the UK. Great if you wanted to be back in the UK every couple of weeks, but not so good if you were a cadet with a hunger for far away tropical places, as opposed to the grey and dismal Murmansk. Not that Glasgow was much better in those days!

MV Lindisfarne – Murmansk USSR, April 1975

Having failed in my promise to send Marilyn a postcard from Durban I went for the next best option and sent her a letter from Russia (with love) instead. After only three weeks on the Lindisfarne I paid off and flew to Iran to join the Stolt Sheaf. I soon received a reply to my letter from Russia, which is how our relationship began.

MT Stolt Sheaf

Who’d have thought that a chance meeting and the promise of a postcard would have led to engagement, marriage, five children, and ten grandchildren (to date). If I had gone to Durban and just sent the promised postcard would that have been it? Who replies to a postcard? I sent a letter, received a letter in reply, and the letters began to flow in both directions. Those letters were the start of a love that has not only lasted but continues to grow.

I believe that God not only arranged our marriage but has watched over and blessed our relationship from the beginning, and continues to do so. I thank Him for everything, even and perhaps especially the trip on the Lindisfarne to Murmansk. Even though I would rather have flown to Durban.

Now you might not believe that God is that intimately involved in the lives of those He created but I do. The evidence is all there in the Bible. From the very beginning there was the care He took in creation, particularly the way He was there for the first married couple, even though they messed up. Messing up continues throughout the Old Testament, but then in the greatest love letter ever written to man God sent His Son Jesus to Earth. And the more I learn about Jesus, the more I see the love of God reaching out to me, to you, to all of humanity. All God wants in return is for us to ask Him to forgive us for all our messing up, love Him back, and surrender our lives to Him.

O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.
You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! (Psalm 139:1-6 NLT)