Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mayday Messiah!

"The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me." Psalm 116:6

The Mayday call came into the Coast Guard command center. A sailboat was in distress and taking on water. Our crew boarded the helicopter and flew toward the edge of a low pressure system slamming the New England coast. On board we tracked the pulse of the sailboat’s EPIRB until at last I spied the deck of the small sailboat awash beneath breaking waves. As the rest of our crew prepared to extract the survivors I jumped.

When I reache
d the father, I found him clinging to his son, refusing to let go. The boy, Alton, was pinned beneath the heavy aluminum mast that had fallen across the boat. I pried the dad loose and placed him into the rescue basket, signaled to my crew and then turned my attention to the boy.

With each wave more of the boat sank, pulling him down until at last, all that remained above water was his head.

I told him not to worry, that I’d get him loose, but he looked into my eyes and said, “I ain't afraid, mister. Jesus saved me last Sunday. I'm already saved.”

I was stunned. He was stuck and about to die but his voice had a measure of calm confidence.

I signaled to the crew and moments later they lowered a chainsaw.

Bracing against the bow I pulled the starter cord and began cutting into the deck, sawing around the mast plate. Flakes of fiberglass mixed with sea foam and rain stung my face. Every few seconds another
wave crashed over us, stalling out the saw. I forget how many times I restarted the saw, maybe a dozen. On the final pull the boat rolled and as it did my foot slipped, causing me to reach toward the bow rail. The blade of the saw sliced across my forearm, turning the sea mist pink.

I fell to the deck screaming, unable to save the boy or myself. As I lay there trying to stop the bleeding I heard him ask, “Mister, do you love Jesus?” I think I said yes but honestly I don’t remember. I just recall the pain and fear.

“If you do,” he said, “then ask Him to save you and he will.”

Another wave broke over us and the boat tipped on its side. The boy slipped under.

Moments later I felt the strong arms of another crew member pulling me away, carrying me toward the safety of the rescue basket.

I lost an arm that d
ay and a father lost his son, but I gained a new calling that day. Each time I hear a Mayday call I wonder if the victims know Jesus, love Jesus and have the courage to call on Him.

If I don’t reach them in time will Christ?

(Based on a story provided by a Coast Guard Emergency Responder - a special thanks for sharing this story.)