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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Miracle on Lake Erie

By Sharon Letson
July 7, 2013

On July 2, 2009, my husband and father were on a fishing trip on Lake Erie with two of my husband’s friends when their boat capsized. With no way to contact potential rescuers, they spent the next 26 hours sitting on their upside-down boat fighting hunger, thirst, hopelessness and one of the men’s failing health.

My husband, Roy, was going through a difficult time that summer and had told God he no longer wanted anything to do with Him. Sitting on the overturned boat waiting to be rescued, Roy continued his struggle. He didn’t let the other guys know what was going on, but inwardly he was arguing with God.

Roy had felt like God had not been listening to his prayers. But now Roy clearly heard God ask him if he was ready to listen. Inwardly, Roy prayed in despair: Just take me! Why should You keep me around? I’m no good to You.

As Roy sat on the upturned hull, he tried to convince God He must have the wrong guy. Roy had a temper, and he was no good at public speaking. God reminded him that Peter and Moses had those challenges, and that He had used them. Finally Roy felt he had run out of excuses. He began giving his hurt, anger, resentment, bitterness, pain and frustration to God.

Even though Roy made peace with God, it didn’t change the predicament the men were in. When the sun went down, they knew it was unlikely searchers would find them in the dark. Three times during the night and the next day Roy was hit by waves and washed off of the boat.

On Friday afternoon, my father, Doug, moved back by the motor and straddled it to get closer to Roy. They were drifting closer to Middle Sister Island. Doug leaned over and confided he was worried about Ron. Earlier, Ron had told Doug he didn’t think he would make it. As each hour passed, Ron was getting weaker.

With diabetes, a heart condition, and arthritis, Ron wasn’t doing well — lacking his medications and enduring the continual physical strain on his body. His legs were useless by that point, and the other men had to help him pull his legs back onto the boat every time a wave knocked them off.

Ron was feeling more and more miserable as the day wore on. Doug encouraged Ron, telling him he could make it and to hold on, because God answered prayer. Ron admitted he was thinking about slipping off into the water and just letting go of the boat.

Doug sighed, “At least give me until the end of the day.”

Ron agreed, and Doug knew he had bought some time. He hoped and prayed they would find a way out of their situation.

Doug asked Roy, “If we get close enough to that island, do you think you could slip off and swim to it? Try to go for help?”

Roy replied he felt he could, and assured his father-in-law he would give it a try if their boat neared the island.

“I’m at peace, Roy. I’m ready to go,” Doug added soberly, “but you have to stay here and take care of Sharon. You gotta make it.”

Roy nodded as he promised my father he would make it back — to take care of me. But he waited, hoping he would not have to attempt the swim.

The afternoon was wearing on, and the men began to wonder if they would have to spend another night on the water. Doug knew what that would mean. Ron’s condition was deteriorating. And as strong as the other men were, would they make it through another night?

They hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink since the previous day, they were sunburned and miserable, and they were deeply tired from lack of sleep and the effort needed to maintain their positions on the boat.

The men had to face the looming possibility night would find them again before any rescuers did. They were talking very little when suddenly they heard a helicopter coming up behind them. The men halfheartedly raised their heads and waved. Other rescue helicopters had flown over them and had never spotted them. Maybe it would be the same this time.

This helicopter flew past them and banked toward the left. The men watched, hoping the searchers would notice them. Then the helicopter flew back toward them! From inside, the crew gave the men clinging to their boat a thumbs-up. Roy and Larry returned the gesture to signal they were OK.

As relieved as they were, the four knew they couldn’t relax yet. The helicopter was circling them when suddenly it flew off toward the shore. The men knew it needed to guide the rescue boat to their location. Soon it returned and continued circling them. That’s when they saw what they describe as the most beautiful black dot racing over the waves.

The rescuers extended a long pole out to the men and pulled them in one by one. Ron went first, Roy followed, and then Larry slid off. They didn’t dare try to pull Doug in until they gave him a life jacket. He had spent the last 26 hours without one.

We later found out that prayer chains started in the early hours of the crisis had spider-webbed all over the United States and even into other countries. If we had to guess, we would say thousands of people heeded the call and prayed for us during this difficult time.

The fact the story was so much in the news gave Roy an opportunity to talk to many people who heard about his experience and tell them all the things God did for him.

All four men survived and were released after brief hospital stays, adding to the sense of divine intervention. As we were told many times, “We don’t always have a happy ending.”

When skilled responders are the ones who call your rescue miraculous, you realize they know what they’re talking about.

SHARON LETSON attends New Life Assembly of God in Grand Ledge, Mich.



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