“Are you sure this raft won’t sink?” John tentatively stuck one foot towards the raft and then put it back on the bank waiting on the answer from the guide.
“This is a brand new raft, we just got it last week and it’s only been used a couple of times. Get in. You’ll be fine. I promise.”
“Maybe we should have prayer before we begin.”
“John, you’ve already prayed like three times.” Tom, the youth leader, had listened to John’s big talk all morning and feared that he would chicken out on them. “You prayed this morning before we left the church, then again before we got off the van when we got here, and then again when you signed your waiver. God heard you all three times. He knows where we are and He provided us with a guide who has been down the Nantahala a thousand times. We’ll be fine. Get in.” Tom shook his head and looked at the other four teens sitting with the guide and himself in the raft. He could tell that he was not the only one getting irritated with John. “Are you coming or not? Maybe you want to sit out with the elderly women and make sandwiches. We’ll be ready for lunch around 12:30.”
John pulled on his life vest one last time and put one foot in, then the other. Taking the seat to the left of the guide, he grabbed his oar, “I’m ready.”
“Okay guys, remember your short training session?” The guide was sitting in the very back of the raft, ready to give orders. “It’s time to start paddling. Everyone paddle forward.” The oars slid into the river, each swish propelling the raft forward.
After an hour of paddling through the white waters, the group was ready for a break when the guide told them to head to the bank. “You guys have about fifteen minutes to swim or relax before we finish our trip. There’s about another hour of rowing before lunch.”
After the break, everyone was excited to get back into rowing formation.
“Okay guys, you see that clearing up there?” A string of affirmatives answered the guide. “Right past that clearing is where it gets really rough. I need you to keep your eyes forward and your ears on me. Do exactly what I say.” After all had nodded or voiced their answer, he was ready to go again. “Dig those oars in deep, guys.”
The raft skidded over the rocks and splashed down into the rough waters of the river. Four of them had landed inside the raft, “Everyone back in your places and paddle forward,” the guide yelled over the rushing waters.
“Where’s John?” Tom had just noticed that John wasn’t in his place and all eyes turned to the back left of the raft.
“He must’ve fallen over. Let’s get over to the side and we’ll find him. He’ll probably float by us.” They moved the raft over to the right side and each pair of eyes scanned the surface. “Anybody see him?”
The guide had exited the raft onto the river’s edge and was walking towards the falls.
“John, don’t fight the water. Let it bring you to us.” The guide sounded calm, but his forehead was showing creases that hadn’t been there before. He could see John out in the water, and he was struggling.
Then, all at once, the struggling stopped. John was on his back floating towards the raft. A few minutes later he was safely back on the bank.
“What happened out there?” Tom finally got a moment alone with John after lunch.
“I don’t know really. I was gasping for air, and I thought I was going down for the last time. Then, it was like God was speaking to me through the waters. I could hear a voice saying that everything was gonna be okay. I felt like someone was holding me up in the water, so I just relaxed and let Him take care of me.”
“Wow, that’s some cool testimony you’ll always have to share. Aren’t you glad you came?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“So, you ready for round two?”
“Well, actually the ladies were saying that they sure could use some help getting lunch cleaned up and all. I figure I can help them out, and then, we can pray for the safety of all the rafters.”
“Whatever you say, John. We’ll paddle, you pray.”
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