Take a Child to a War Zone?

Have you ever had the opportunity to take a child to a war zone?

Biddy Chambers did.

So did I.

We, however, reached different conclusions about the wisdom of visiting a war zone with a child.

My story–the Caribbean

War zone with children, Grenada invasion, Biddy Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Navy wife, submarine r and r, Barbados, travel with children into a war zone

My Navy guy served on a fast attack submarine that spent the 1983 fall on a Unitas Run.

His submarine “showed the colors” up and down South America and transited the Panama Canal.

On their way back to Connecticut, the submarine command scheduled a 10-day visit to Barbados.

They’d show the colors in the British colony, but mostly the stop served as an R and R stop (rest and relaxation stop) for the sailors three months gone from home.

As it happened, we made plans for me to join him. We had no relatives on the east coast, so I would bring the children with me to play on the warm sands and enjoy their father’s presence during his off hours.

I had a vague idea of when the boat would dock and awaited news before purchasing our airfare and making other arrangements.

When I got the go-ahead in October, I grabbed our passports and shepherded the children to the car.

A travel agent would help me purchase our tickets (which is how it was done pre-Internet!).

Just before going out the door, I paused to turn off the Today Show on the television.

Except, NBC news broke in to announce the United States had invaded Grenada, a small island in the Caribbean Sea.

What do you mean a war zone?

I set down everything and hunted up the atlas. Grenada, it turns out, is the next island over from Barbados.

No need to make any reservations until I had more facts. Much though I missed my husband and looked forward to this trip, even I knew a war zone was no place for an 8 month-old and his nearly three year-old brother.

In those long ago days, news came in cycles. I kept the television on all day, but everything looked muddled and uncertain. Bullets rang, paratroopers landed, students huddled in fear.

War zone with children, Grenada invasion, Biddy Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Navy wife, submarine r and r, Barbados, travel with children into a war zone

It wasn’t quite this bad, but how could I know? (US Navy photo)

Barbados found itself in the middle of an unexpected war.

But I needed to buy tickets. What to do?

I contacted a friend with insight into the situation. After I explained my dilemma, he told me he’d check around and get back to me.

Two days later, with the situation apparently resolving but still in flux, he called back. “It’s probably okay, but I wouldn’t let my wife go, much less the children. Too much could happen.”

Since he often played the US president in military war games, I figured I could trust his judgement.

I wrote my husband a letter explaining, and we stayed home.

Biddy takes a child to a war zone

Oswald Chambers accepted a YMCA secretary position during World War I, and they assigned him to Egypt.

He asked if he could bring his wife and child–at a time when no other secretaries in Egypt had wives or children with them.

William Jessop, the YMCA head, paused but agreed. The British military (The British controlled Egypt at the time) had not yet closed the borders to civilians.

Oswald arrived in Egypt in October 1915 and scratched his head over conditions. It looked impossible, but he believed God would work out arrangements to His glory.

Biddy remained in London waiting for the situation to become clear–just like I did in 1983 Connecticut.

War zone with children, Grenada invasion, Biddy Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Navy wife, submarine r and r, Barbados, travel with children into a war zone

The family shortly before Oswald left for Egypt. Remember, no antibiotics and poor water. (Wheaton College photo)

He wrote often describing deteriorating conditions.

Ask yourself what you would do.

What woman in her right mind takes a two year-old through U-boat infested waters during a world war in a period before antibiotics to Egypt?

A woman who followed her God.

(Okay, I followed God, too, but the stakes weren’t so dire 70 years later!)

Then what happened?

The Chambers family didn’t have relatives they could leave their daughter with either.

Certainly they knew the risks, but God beckoned.

Biddy, Kathleen and friend Mary Riley sailed in December– a terrible month on the ocean–and arrived just after Christmas.

British authorities closed the port to all but military personnel that week.

(Indeed, the only people who got off the SS Herefordshire were our three and two Americans with a special permit to enter).

The rest?

Biddy took notes and God’s glory shown in amazing ways that influence modern Christianity.

Kathleen Chambers’ presence in a war zone made all the difference to many ANZAC troops.

My children and I stayed home and received letters from Barbados marked “war zone,” thus not requiring a stamp.

My husband had a lovely time in Barbados and ever since has said, “I don’t know why you didn’t come. We had a great time.”


The answer to me is, God obviously didn’t need me in a 1983 war zone.

What choice would you have made–if you were either Biddy or me?


Take a child to a war zone? Why? Click to Tweet

The biographer and Biddy Chambers consider taking a child into a war zone. Click to Tweet

Invasion of Grenada? Not my child in that war zone! Click to Tweet

Every month in 2017, I’ll be telling the stories about God’s leading and my blessed–and astonished–reactions while writing Mrs. Oswald ChambersOswald Chambers' Bible, Wheaton College Special Collections Library, what Bible did Oswald Chambers use? Lecture outlines in the Bible

The next newsletter comes out September 13: Emotional upheaval, an Aussie walkabout, and a Hong Kong surprise

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Leave a comment


  1. Wow, she was brave, and very certain of God’s call. I’m one of those people who drops her jaw at those who bring kids into extremely dangerous situations, then flips and flops about God knowing what is happening/ trying to figure out if my certainty is faith, or just me just being stubborn.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  September 9, 2017

      There is no indication she faltered. The craziness is that OC asked if she could come in the first place! Conditions were primitive, yet the family flourished.

      Meanwhile, the invasion was over by the time my husband’s boat arrived in Barbados and he had a lovely week-long vacation!

      I still made the right call.

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