THE OCTOPUS IS GONE!
'The octopus is gone!' yelled Sandra. 'It's not in the bucket! It's escaped!' And so began a frantic search for a missing octopus.
Our family of four was camping near a beach, with thirteen more of our extended family. It was Easter time and these family camps had become a tradition. They were times of fun, sharing and much hilarity.
One of the children had caught an octopus in a rock pool and brought it back to our camp in a bucket. Foolishly, we left the octopus in its bucket, outside our tents, all day. And now it was missing. On the loose! Had it crawled into one of our tents? Was it hiding behind our eskies*?
'I'm not going into my tent 'til it's found!' declared Sandra. 'What if it's in my sleeping bag!'
Everyone joined in the search for the errant octopus and at last it was found. It had squirmed under the floor of a tent. Somehow it was extricated, levered back into the bucket, and was soon on its way back to its briny habitat.
But that wasn't the only drama that holiday. The next day our ten-year-old daughter Ruth went missing!
As soon as we noticed she wasn't around, all the family sprang into action and a search began. Up and down the beach. All around the camping ground. The surf life-savers joined in too.
Two long hours passed and Ruth hadn't been found. We imagined abduction or other unthinkable possibilities. I felt weak with fear and was praying fervently.
Just when we were about to alert the police she turned up, happy as Larry, completely unaware of the drama she'd caused.
'Where have you been?' demanded her father.
'Just playing in the sandhills with the girls from that caravan,' Ruth answered.
Of course we reprimanded her, and warned her about about telling us where she was going, and not wandering off alone. But above all we rejoiced and we thanked God that she was back, and safe.
With the octopus back in the sea and Ruth found, we looked forward to a relaxing, incident-free, finish to our Easter family camp. But that was not to be.
The next day, our last day, our friend George arrived to visit us. He brought his small boat with him and offered to take four of the children, including our two, for a ride along the bay. The kids were excited. George would take the boat to Flinders' jetty, some eight kilometres away, while we drove the children there so they could ride back in his boat.
We waved George off though the waves and set off for the jetty for the rendezvous. We expected to beat him there and we did. Then we waited. And waited. And waited! George didn't turn up. We kept waiting. Still no sign of George.
'At least', I thought,'the kids aren't out there with him.' But we were worried. What could have happened?
After a very long wait, when the boat still hadn't appeared, we called the police. The police sprang into action and soon a helicopter was circling over the sea, searching for George and his boat, while we waited, increasingly anxious.
Some of the family stayed at the jetty while back at the camping ground the rest of our party gathered and prayed for George's safety. The sun was setting and still no sign of George. Things were not looking good.
Then, just as darkness fell, George turned up, at the jetty, on foot! Out on the bay his boat's engine had stopped, dead. And, unable to restart it, he had rowed to the nearest beach, then walked to the Flinders' jetty. And that had taken quite a while.
But now George was safe, and our children were safe. As the news reached the camping ground a cheer went up.We thanked the Lord for keeping George safe, and I thanked him that our children hadn't been out in that boat.
What an unforgettable holiday! Not just because of all the drama, but because God graciously heard our prayers and things turned out well.
God doesn't always allow things to turn out the way we want them to. Sometimes things don't have what we call a 'happy ending'. But God promises to be with us in all circumstances. And he is.
* 'eskies' are insulated coolers
(This is a true story but names have been changed.)
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