April 19, 2014
The senior class and a handful of staff had been gone all weekend for the senior retreat campout to one of the outer islands called Ahnd (Ant). It took several boats to transport them all and their camping supplies across the open ocean. They returned on Sunday, sun kissed and filled with laughter. Ellie, one of the class sponsors and I sat together on the porch, and she told me about their weekend filled with games, swimming, and lots of fun. The minutes passed and she casually commented, “You know, it’s really weird, because our principal Franky, Roy, and Pastor Tim aren’t back yet. They were in the school’s boat with all the supplies. I wonder where they are?” Our conversation continued on, but the mystery never left the back of our minds.
Another hour passed. The sun began to slowly dip in the sky, and uncertainty turned to worry. We hadn’t heard anything from the missing vessel for hours, and there was really no way of getting in touch with them. At this point, they without a doubt should have returned, and we had confirmation that they had never even made it back to the dock, so somewhere, out in the wide expanse of the ocean, was a rickety fishing boat filled to the brim with supplies, and our principal, our pastor, and our math teacher. All was not normal, and as the sky continued to darken, we began to pray.
A million answerless questions swarmed through my mind as Mrs. Edward, the principals wife left campus en route to the capital to get in touch with the police. Something bad had to have happened. Where were they? What happened? Were they stranded? Were they in danger? We formed prayer circles, lifting our prayers heavenward. Hours passed, boats belonging to locals and family members were sent out in search, and we waited expectantly by the phone, hoping for some sort of explanation. Finally, it came.
Rewind several hours, the sun is now back in the sky. Franky, Pastor Tim, and Roy climb aboard the schools tiny fishing boat, situating themselves among piles of gear. After a weekend of activity, they were ready to get back home and get some rest. Little did they know how drastically their plans would be altered.
They were over halfway back to Black Coral, when the wind stirred waves started washing over the sides of the boat and rain started falling from the sky. Before long, the water overtook the small vessel, and the boat capsized, tipping sideways before turning completely over, paraphernalia riding the waves like skilled surfers. The three men clung to the boat for about an hour, but as the sun set in the distance they realized that they needed to take action.They couldn’t swim to Black Coral because the current made that impossible. They would have to try to make it back to Ahnd. They removed anything shiny or reflective from their bodies, in fear of attracting the vigilant barracuda. They fished a few life jackets out of the debris floating away, and Franky attempted to empty a gas can for added buoyancy. Unfortunately, the gas streamed down his arm onto his chest and stomach, leaving a burning pain in its wake. The gas reached Roy and he inhaled a large portion and induced relentless vomiting.
With the sun dropping steadily, they swam and swam, the strong current hindering their progress, and they moved at an agonizing and frustrating pace. They fought the current for hours, barely making any headway. The sun set, shrouding the three castaways in complete darkness. They prayed continuously, asking God for protection and stamina, and exchanged words of encouragement to keep going and to not give up.
More time passed, and they were no longer sure if they were even headed in the right direction. Roy vomited at least once an hour, his body doing it’s best to remove the gasoline from his system, and painful cramps seized Franky’s body. The current was relentless and had worn them down. They were thirsty, hungry, discouraged, and completely exhausted. Again, they lifted prayers skyward, asking God for help, because there was no way they could make it on their own. Suddenly, the winds shifted, pushing against their backs, and the current began to carry them in the right direction. They swam hard, adrenaline pumping through their veins.
At one point, Pastor Tim asked, “Roy? Do you think our angels are above us, or do you think they’re swimming in this water with us right now?” Without hesitation Roy replied, “You know, I think they’re swimming with us.” So as the night dragged on, six beings, three human, and three guardian angels cut through the water, focused on one goal, getting to shore.
Before long, the waves changed, crashing hard. Now if you had been out at sea that night, you might have heard the quiet echo of Roy Drusky’s voice cutting through the pitch black sky in a song as he signaled to his companions that they had finally reached the reef. Spirits rose, big toes stretched far, hoping to grasp onto the sharp coral as the waves yo-yoed them back and forth. Finally, they had a foothold, and they scrambled to safety. When they reached the sandy shore they threw themselves upon the sand, and laid there exhausted from 8 hours of constant swimming, prayers of thanksgiving pouring from their lips.
The owners of the island assisted them in contacting the mainland via radio and then fed and housed them for the night. They returned to school the next morning, sunburned and exhausted, but happy to be alive.
We might never know why God allowed that boat to sink, but I do know God picked the three people who He knew could handle the situation and survive it. God timed the accident perfectly so that they could still see Ahnd in the distance before the sun set. God protected them from the hundreds of sharks and other dangerous creatures they undoubtedly swam past in the night. Above all else, I know He and a large group of angels were there with them every step (and stroke) of the way and He heard and answered our prayers. God is so good.
Sovereign in the mountain air, Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm, with me in the storm
Sovereign in my greatest joy, Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark, with me at the dawn
In your everlasting arms, all the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end, I can trust You
In your never failing love, You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way, I will trust You.
Sending Organization: Southern Adventist University
Position: 3rd Grade Teacher
Mission Location: Pohnpei SDA School