A time of war and a time of faith: a true story by Jon Magee

Jon MageeIt was early morning as the airman set off on the sixteen mile journey to his place of duty. It was a routine that both he and his young wife, Joan, had come to know. As he left there was also the certainty that his return would be at the same time each day, regular as clockwork, unless a message reached Joan to say that maybe an exercise had been called, which required him to stay on base till it was completed. This was their life. But today was going to be different. Today, the unexpected was going to happen as events were to transpire that would bring about new and radical change to their lives. The tranquility of their idealistic life was about to explode because of decisions made on the international scene.

Cyprus, where they lived, was considered to be an ideal place for a young couple to begin married life. Cyprus has often been called the island of love. It was on the island of Cyprus that Greek mythology refers to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, being born of the foam of Paphos. Aphrodite, who the Romans would have referred to as Venus, was known as the Greek Goddess of love, desire, beauty, fertility, the sea, and vegetation.  This was their island home, a natural romantic extension of the honeymoon of married life.

Unaware of all that lay ahead, Joan began her routine of chores. For a young girl raised in the Scottish highlands, living on a Mediterranean island really was romantic. But there were still things that must be done. It was always best to ensure the housework was carried out early in the day, before the heat became too intense. And even though they were still expecting their first child, they were living in a reasonably sized, three bedroom bungalow with a large living room and a budgie that sat in a corner in a cage. Yes, there was much to do.

The building had a flat roof, as was the case with so many houses in the east and certainly in this locality, where the washing could be hung out to dry or where one could sunbathe when desired. Down stairs, towards the front of the bungalow, was a large, shaded balcony on which to relax in the welcoming cool breeze. In the evening during the summer months it was not unusual to see the local people using such areas as if they were their living rooms. They would sit together with their families, perhaps drinking coffee or watching television or just socializing. The family was traditionally the most important institution in the island society. Especially in village life, where people thought of themselves primarily as members of families and rarely spoke of themselves as individuals in the existential sense. They traditionally identified themselves first as members of families, then according to their places of origin, and lastly as citizens of a nation.  Jon and Joan had also come to know that the pace of island life was leisurely, that the people were kind and helpful and always ready with a smile. The people were hard workers too, resilient people who had withstood and accommodated a succession of invaders throughout their long history.

As the day progressed, Joan began to prepare for the return of her love. She looked through the window, but he was not there. She stepped through the door, but he was not there. She looked into the horizon, but there was no vision to brighten her life. There was a certain eeriness about that day which she could not completely comprehend. This was July, nineteen seventy-four on the island of Cyprus. There was no telephone in the house to communicate with the wider world. There was no one living nearby who would understand her anxious concerns being expressed in English. She was alone, upset, and anxious, not understanding why it should be that her love was acting so much out of routine. Was he alright? Had there been an accident? She did not know. There were so many questions, yet so few answers to match them.

Nightfall came down very quickly in Cyprus. The eastern countries did not have the long periods of dusk known in Scotland, and as Joan continued to wait in her Cypriot home there was still no sign of her love. All she knew was the terrifying sound of gunfire that was surrounding her home. Could it have been fireworks, she thought? Was there some local tradition or celebrations she was not aware of? No, the sounds she was hearing were clearly different from any fireworks she had ever heard before this day, there had to be another reason for what was happening. And as she sought to secure the premises, Joan was beginning to understand the full meaning of fear.

The windows and shutters were closed as she went from one room to another. The external doors were locked. Every means of access to the home were checked and then double checked, nothing could be left to chance. The house lights were all turned off, just in case any undesirable person should be attracted to the home lit up. Even her radio was switched off–though along with that action came the fact that any news from the outside world was switched off too. Her desire for protection ironically also became the means of her isolation. Add to that her increased discomfort, because, at the hottest time of the year in the Mediterranean, she had switched off the fans designed to keep her cool, just in case their noise compromised her security.

As she sat down in the safest part of the house, still not knowing the cause of the day’s events, she thought of the one whom she had married. Was she widowed already? Would she also be following him into death? Just one day can change ones perspective so dramatically. Life had appeared to be hopeful as the day began, now it seemed to be so hopeless. Her heart began the day with leaps of joy as she considered the wondrous moments that they shared; now, however, her heart was thudding with such an awesome dread. Life was now appearing to be so out of control. What could she do? The reality was clear: there was nothing she could do except to pray that someone, or something, could intervene and bring back her heart’s desire. It was at that moment, though the explosions and the gunfire continued on, that an inner battle of her own began, as she sought to discover a spiritual trust in the midst of the unknown.

Joan began to read a book related to the underground Christian church in Eastern Europe called “I Found God in Soviet Russia” by John Noble. As she did, the words “I prayed” sprang out of the pages from the second chapter.  She knew that was her only answer as she poured her heart out to the only one who was there to listen… God. Her circumstances were not changed. The fearful happenings outside, whatever they may be, were not changed. The terrifying noise of gunfire had not ceased, and the absence of human company continued to be. The concerns at the absence of Jon were still there, but she knew she did not need to face those fears alone. She was already a woman of faith, but it is in the midst of trials and adversity that a full understanding of what that means in practical terms can be grasped.

The words I have written are just one part of a true story. My wife, Joan, and I were the young couple starting married life in Cyprus 40 years ago as a military coup and Turkish invasion transformed the lives of so many irrespective of their national background. Not everyone survived. For some, the questions in their minds and hearts may never have had an answer.  Yet for so many came a realization that when the world appears to be out of control, human answers are often insufficient.

To learn more about Jon Magee visit: http://about.me/Jonmagee.author.minister
and Amazon.com

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21 thoughts on “A time of war and a time of faith: a true story by Jon Magee

  1. Kenneth Weene

    In times of battle there is little to do besides pray. Perhaps that is why God allows us foolish humans to make war–to remind us that we need a deity if only for the momentary comfort.

  2. Marta Merajver-Kurlat

    Let me highlight the last sentence: ” Yet for so many came a realization that when the world appears to be out of control, human answers are often insufficient.” When stricken by despair, even the most hardened unbelievers claim for some manifestation of divinity.

  3. Sharla

    Jon, thank you for sharing even a short glimpse into your past and the beginning of a wonderful relationship that survived the cruelties of war. As you mentioned, not everyone survived. I must agree with Marta in highlighting the last sentence. In dire times, answers are often found outside the realm of human existence. Hope, faith and courage are the driving forces strengthened only through prayer!

  4. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Jon, you wrote a wonderful inspiring article that applies to so many. When all else seems lost, mere mortals are left with prayer, no matter what their beliefs. Prayer is the warm blanket that can sooth and comfort the most hardened soul..

  5. Kharis Macey

    Hi Jon, beautiful, touching, heart warming, inspiring and painful are only a few of the adjectives I will use to describe this blog. Praying has always been my solution and will continue to be my solution in activating God’s miracles. You and your wife Joan are blessed to have recognized this as fact. God bless you and your wife.

  6. Clayton Bye

    Thank you, John, for sharing such a powerful story of love for both husband and the Lord. It is a fact that in the depths of despair many of us are lead out by his light. No recriminations. No shaking of the finger. Just the support we need in that terrible moment of realization that one cannot stand alone.

    I am not what you would call a religious man, but I know that belief is a powerful thing. And if one chooses to believe on faith alone, then a certain power is gained. Where that strength originates we may never know, but there is no disputing it has seen many people such as your wife through times of great need.

    Thanks for the interesting read.

  7. Paula Shene

    Thanks for inviting me over. This is a snapshot of faith in times of uncertainty, as is today. This is a memoir to you but to ones who need a boost, an answer in the turbulent storms of war, being reminded that our lives are vapors, eternal spirits that need to stay connected to the source. Our testimonies are the glue for each generation’s infusion of battling fear and arriving at God’s perfect peace.

    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Micki Peluso

    Jon, thanks for a captivating story beginning with bliss, coming upon potential tragedy, and perhaps, through a deep belief in something bigger than any of us–a happy ending. I hope this is an excerpt of a memoir.

  9. Jon Magee

    Thanks everyone for all your comments. I truly appreciate the response from you all. We all have different perspectives in life but one thing is for sure, the challenges of life may be a barrier to fall over, but how much better when it is a hurdle we can overcome reaching to the finishing line of the race of life.

  10. Trish Jackson

    What a wonderful insight into the fear and horror of war. Joan must have been terrified that day, and she did what one would imagine most would do — seek comfort in their faith.

    Jon, I would have loved to have read your thoughts at the same time, since I assume you were called to action, and you must have been worried sick because you were unable to communicate with Joan.

    Is this an extract from one of your books? I would love to read more.

    1. Jon Magee

      Trish, it is not yet published, but it is my intention to publish a book on the experiences in Cyprus. It fits in well with my 1st 2 books on Aden and Singapore.

      I had thought this item may have seemed a bit long for an individual blog, so took the decision to major on what I thought would be a female perspective (and me a male too!!) However, you are right, the full story is not complete without that balance.

      I wonder how it would have been felt by the families if they knew an attempt was made to get through before we finally did, but it was thwarted due to coming under attack by children and youths armed with guns.

  11. Linda Hales

    Jon – what a beautiful way to honor Joan for her courage and strength at what might have been the most frightening experience of her life. Facing unknown loss and devastation alone in an unfamiliar land, she rose to the occasion in an admirable way. I can’t wait to read your new book when it gets published. I have a friend in Toronto who fought in that war. She was an eighteen year old Turkish Cypriot who had a weapon forced upon her and ordered to fight. She tells of so many young who died before their time. Even today, the mere sound of fireworks makes her cower in fear. I can’t imagine what Joan went through being defenceless and pregnant but surely, this was a maturing experience for her and a strong tip-off to what her life would be like being married to one fascinating Jon Magee!

    1. Jon Magee

      It is indeed a maturing process as you have indicated through the hard knocks of life. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  12. Martha Love

    Jon, I live on an island where there are a number of military bases and have met many wives (and husbands too) who are awaiting the return of their beloved from a tour duty in a war zone. I love that you have written about how brave and what strength of hope and faith the spouse, in this case your wife, have as a guiding beacon keeping the home fires burning. This is a touching and well written piece, as are your books, which I enjoyed immensely.

  13. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Jon, forgive me for being late. Being away has kept me from being here but following you is always a treasure. I have loved your writing, spirit and faith in all you author. This piece is no exception to that.

    It shows an incredible strength in both you and Joan and helps us all realize that we are mere mortals who cannot stand alone and we are not the final word. It is through stories like yours that bring to light the knowledge all things are possible if only we believe and have faith.

    Thank you again for such a impressive and memorable post that teaches and touches us all. I look forward to my continued following of your next writings.

    1. Jon Magee

      Thank you for coming to visit here and comment Rosemary, there is nothing to forgive, for you have come irrespective of the timing. I appreciate that you have taken time once again to comment and encourage in the midst of all the other details that must be completed in your own life.

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