Story Number: NNS140318-05Release Date: 3/18/2014 8:52:00 AM
By Seaman Phylicia A. Hanson, USS Mesa Verde Public Affairs
HAIFA, Israel (NNS) -- Sailors attached to amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) and Marines assigned to 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) were baptized in the Jordan River while exploring the Holy sites of Israel during a scheduled port visit March 8.
Mesa Verde's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) committee organized tours for the cities of Nazareth and Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and the Jordan River.
Mesa Verde' command chaplain, Lt. Bryan Purvis, along with Lt. Michael Monroig, a chaplain assigned to the 22nd MEU, performed 22 baptisms of both Sailors and Marines.
"It was such a humbling experience," said Purvis. "To think, this is where John baptized Jesus, and I had the honor and privilege of baptizing so many Sailors and Marines. It is what ministry is all about."
Monroig coordinated with the nine Marines wanting to be baptized, and Purvis coordinated with the Sailors.
"The opportunity to watch people's personal and spiritual life grow as they participated in the baptisms is an honor," said Monroig. "It was a unique experience, some of the Sailors and Marines were recommitting their lives to God, others it was a renewal of their faith and passion for Christ. I believe that this experience will be a life-changing event for the Sailor and Marines who participated."
Sailors boarded buses at sunrise and set off for the hour-long drive to the Jordan River. For some it was opportunity to visit historic sites, as well as an opportunity to renew their respective religious beliefs. For others, family ties motivated them to visit the area.
"It was renewing and refreshing; it helped me realize that I have a lot to be thankful for," said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Caroleeta Smith. "I have come a long way but I still have a long way to go and it made me just very thankful."
For many of the Sailors and Marines it was the first time they had been baptized, for others it was a renewal.
"This experience just left me in awe," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Jalisa Dembo. "To be baptized where my Lord and Savior walked, talked and delivered his people was an absolutely awesome experience. It was my first time being baptized and one that I will nearly, dearly treasure for the rest of my life."
Purvis said there were many rewarding aspects to the tour, and the impact of each varied based on the individual.
"You had the historical aspect, the spiritual significance, but also the relationships that were built between the U.S. and Israel," Purvis said. "If I had to pick one, as a chaplain, it would be the baptisms. The emotion from the Sailors and Marines as they understood the significance of what just occurred is something I will never forget."
Through the remainder of the tour Sailors and Marines talked about how the baptism and the tour to Nazareth had impacted their lives.
"This experience was very spiritual for me," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Joshua Linder. "Getting baptized back home in a creek with a preacher from an old country church is where it all started for me, but when you experience being baptized where Jesus was baptized, it felt magical to me. Now I have a good story to go home and tell my family and friends."
Mesa Verde Sailors and Marines assigned to 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are deployed supporting maritime security operations, providing crisis response capability, increasing theater security cooperation and providing a forward naval presence in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.
For more news from USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), visit www.navy.mil/local/mesa/.