In both 2005 and in 2007 I had the privilege of going to South America, specifically the country of Brazil. I was a part of two teams that were tasked with helping to build and upkeep several churches and a school that our church here in the states, began nearly 30+ years ago. I could tell you several stories of God’s faithfulness over my time away but one particular story comes to mind in a significant way as we continue our look at the miracles of Jesus.
Our group had been hard at work for several days when we had the opportunity to take a several hour boat ride down the river to a small village and market where we would have the chance to purchase some tickets and treasures for those back home. We docked our double decker boat just off of the main land at a small island where we disembarked for our grilled lunch over the open fire of a large drum. I managed to rig up my hammock just out of the way and was able to enjoy the breeze and the beauty of this amazing country. Nestled just off the main land where the village and shops were located we spent several hours eating, playing and resting.
We eventually boarded our boat again and made the short jump over to the mainland where we spent another hour or so perusing shops and taking in the sights. As several of us boarded the boat to return to our island oasis we realized that others in our group were more, shall we say, eager for the shopping experience. We were done, they were not. And so we waited, time passed, more time passed and we waited and we waited some more. As the number of us waiting to return grew and the number of those we were waiting on began to grow smaller, those of us waiting discovered that our patience level also began to grow small. We had waited for what seemed like forever when someone made the suggestion, “Hey why don’t we just swim back.” Before I could think, the shirts of several of the guys in our group were coming off and bodies were diving from the second level of the boat into the murky river. I hesitated, but only for a moment before I too found myself headlong in the river.
While I’ve never been a strong swimmer I didn’t fear this decision, I dove in and began swimming towards the island. Out of the 8 to 10 of us that made this choice, I found myself in roughly the middle of the pack swimming next to a friend. Somewhere around the half way point, perhaps from the long week of work or the dehydration I later discovered that my body was experiencing, I felt my arms and legs give out. If you’ve ever experienced this you know that in addition to the physical struggle you’re having you can also begin to experience high anxiety and fear. In other words I started freaking out. I didn’t know how deep the river was but I knew I couldn’t reach the bottom.
I attempted to push through but quickly discovered that whatever energy I thought I had to accomplish this feat was no where near the amount of energy I actually possessed. In as calm of a vice as I could muster at that moment I said to my swimming partner, “Hey man, I’m struggling.” He laughed it off as my progress slowed. Perhaps it was the look in my eye or the quiver in my voice that tipped him off because back came his response, “Are you serious?”
I vaguely remember giving a nod from my head before I went under for the first time. As I felt the water rush over my head, visions of my wife and kids flashed through my mind. I saw her face, I saw the faces of my sons being told that their dad wasn’t coming home. My thoughts were interrupted by a hand grasping the back of my shorts and pulling me up above the water. I gasped for whatever air I could take in as I saw my friend go under himself from the force of pulling me upwards. I went back down, he came up, he pulled me up, he went down again. We repeated this process several times. As those around us realized the gravity of our situation they began shouting to the shore line for help. We were so close to the shore but just far enough away to make it difficult for anyone to really understand what was happening.
As I went under the water for what I was convinced was likely the last time, I remember feeling sadness. Not sadness for me but worry and sadness for my young wife and sons. As I held my breath hoping against hope that something or someone would change what felt like the end for me, I felt for the hand of my friend on the back of my shorts one last time as he pulled up with what little strength he had. As my head broke the surface of the water I took a breath larger than I had ever taken in my life before or since. As my lungs filled with air and my eyes shed their blurriness from the water I found myself face to face with the bow of a small fishing boat. Not from a conscious choice but rather from a deeper gut reaction for survival I raised one hand to grasp the edge of the boat. As the other members of our group that had also slowed their progress to help us, grabbed the edge of the boat I remember repeating the phrase, “Thank you Jesus” over and over. As I felt the sandy bottom of the river rise to the tips of my toes, the flat bottoms of my feet and then to my knees I collapsed on the beach in exhaustion.
What I discovered later in the afternoon, is that the cries of those around me, while almost indistinguishable to those on our boat were heard by an unnamed Brazilian man who was sitting in his house watching television. He heard our cries over the noise of his television, he cared enough to rise his feet to investigate through his open door. He cared even more to do something about our situation. Sensing our peril, he rushed to the edge of the river where he happened to dock his fishing boat which happened to start on the first try. With that he sped out to bring us salvation.
I said earlier in the week that a miracle was something inexplicable. I can’t explain what happened to me on that day other than as cliche as it sounds, “God wasn’t finished with me.” I’m supposed to continue providing for my wife. I’m supposed to continue raising my sons to carry on the legacy of those who came before us. I’m supposed to tell you this story. What are you supposed to do? Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Take a few minutes to join me in a daily journey inside God's Word for the next few days. Check back daily for updates. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.