We almost died!
Everyone has a story, and this is one we would rather soon forget, yet we understand that when God makes an appointment, it is intentional. We want to tell you the story of 3 couples who shared a death-defying appointment. One couple from Canada, a British couple from Mallorca, and a couple from FL.
We had been sailing along for 8 days along with 900 guests. We had never met, But God makes divine appointments and He connects people under certain circumstances. We should be sensitive to these situations because our lives may change acutely or abruptly.
We were happy, relaxed and enjoying our cruise when all of a sudden a storm arose in the Norwegian Sea, and the ship lost its 4 engines. Suddenly everything changed. Peace flipped into crisis; relaxation snapped into anxiety; certainty moved into doubt.
When you face the probability of losing your life, your perspective changes as dramatically as your circumstances change. You learn quickly about yourself and God. Before I get to that, let me tell you about the couples we bonded with. The Canadians were from outside Toronto. Very sweet and helpful to everyone around them. We met just outside the Theater in the hallway which became our neighborhood for 20 stressful hours. They helped us to charge the iPhones so we could maintain communication. They joked with us to trigger laughter even though there was a level of anxiety. The other couple sat on the floor directly across from us. They were from the UK but had moved to Mallorca, Spain ten years ago to provide a better environment for their teenage daughter. They were so helpful and funny. Trust me any humor is helpful in the midst of uncertainty and chaos. They stuck with us, and together we decided to get in the cue for the evacuation. That was quite an adventure. As we approached the door we could only hear the helicopters and the howling wind. It suddenly became very cold. We had no clue of what was to come. Liana was called first and she suddenly disappeared. I was next, thinking we would be hoisted up in a cradle like Moses. To my surprise, I was escorted quickly to Liana who was standing along the ship’s rail facing off into the sea. I was commanded to face her and hold on to a harness they had slipped around my back without me even noticing. The rescuer clipped us to a cable and just like that we were hoisted up above the ship and the cold waters of the rough Norwegian Sea!
Time, thankfully, did not permit an assessment of the situation. There was no time to consider what was about to happen, what we needed to do, or whose hands we were going to be placed in. And for that we are grateful. Sometimes less information is better.
We were the first couple onto the helicopter. The Brits followed us. To say we were relieved is an obvious understatement. We then became cheerleaders and assistants in helping the next 8 couples who came into the helicopter. The rescue team were amazing, skilled individuals who were very intense, yet kind and friendly. As we saw the Viking Sky become smaller and finally disappear, we felt relief but also concern for those left behind. The worst of the storm had passed but the seas remained angry.
Within 35 minutes we landed on what looked like an abandoned high school gymnasium where we were greeted by the Red Cross. These wonderful volunteers were simply amazing. They registered us, offered us food, a blanket, and a beverage. Many who were there had no ID or money. Many had lost their medication and glasses. I had a flashback to my childhood when we arrived in the US from Cuba.
Soon we were on a chartered bus to a hotel in Kristiansund, Norway. There we rested and began sharing stories with many others from the ship who had also been rescued. For the first time we began to see see the news coverage. Again we felt dread and anxiety watching the ship on the TV.
We are firmly convinced that we are alive by the grace of God, and through the prayers of friends and family. Now, what have I learned from this experience? In short order, many things!
Firstly I have learned how dependent I had grown to life “under control”. The itinerary, the plans, this and that. Well obviously I am not in control of what happens next. Only God knows that. Life’s path and direction can change within seconds to minutes. I honestly thought on two different occasions that I would die on that ship. Secondly I think I have learned to live “in the moment” rather than continuously planning and projecting.
I had become addicted to certainty; I had grown inflexible and uncomfortable with the unknown. Well that was before my Viking adventure!
Thirdly I (quickly) learned that when facing a near death experience your priorities become very clear and focused. All I wanted was to be with Liana. Nothing else mattered at that moment. The only material things we had were the clothes and coats we were wearing that day. We had lost everything else including our money and passports, yet this too was an afterthought. Still, I had peace because I know where I will be when I die. Similarly your world becomes very small- Liana and I and the few couples we bonded with became our universe.
I also had these recurring questions: how selfish I have been? There were 1,300 lives in peril. Had we perished, how many of them would die without knowing Jesus? This experience has opened my eyes to a new dimension and urgency to share Christ.
Finally, I realize that If God spared my life it is because he has a purpose with/for me. I still have “places to go, people to meet”. Perhaps he was preparing me for the mission field. Missionaries are flexible servants. They are focused on the now and on the mission. They practice submission, and they balance passion with adventure.
Our natural (human) response to an event such as this is to return to normalcy as quickly as possible. We see the human spirit do this after natural disasters, and horrific events such as acts of terrorism and violence; however, my prayer is that God would supernaturally prevent me from returning to normalcy! I intend to be a different person moving forward because this event has changed me. Praise God!