Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Life (06/15/06)
TITLE: Down the Not-So-Lazy River
By Dave Kissling
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Sure, I’d been canoeing before—on a quiet lake. The greatest danger would be if some jokester decided to literally rock the boat for us. Since I had never learned to swim, I felt safe here. Some of my fondest memories include rowing into a secluded cove and listening to the absolute quiet of the woods.
Now, during Labor Day weekend of 1997, I was facing a canoe ride down the bubbling North Platte River in Wyoming, southeast of Casper. About eight canoes were in the fleet that prepared for the trip, but I knew I was woefully unprepared for it.
Seeing my apprehension, our singles pastor Rick Reitz offered to take me in his boat, paddling it with another man named Curtis, while I sat in the middle with my legs stretched out. Shortly after we started came the first rapids, and wouldn’t you know it? They decided to plow right through them! The canoe rocked crazily back and forth. I was alarmed how close to the edge the water came. Then it lapped over the side—and it capsized.
Because my legs were under the struts, I could not get out. I was probably upside down, but submerged in the water, all I could think of was going "up" for air. Trapped under the boat, my life vest sure wasn’t doing much good. After minutes that seemed like an hour, Rick and Curtis turned the canoe upright and pulled me out. But I lost my Promise Keepers cap and my glasses in the process; being nearsighted, I saw everyone and everything in a blur.
I wanted to stop right there, but my friends convinced me to continue the trip. Since I did not have a clear way to go back, I climbed into the boat again and we continued. All the canoes went around a fairly calm bend, then came more rapids, worse than the ones before. Rick and Curtis rowed around most of these, but farther on there was a roiling mass of white water that covered the entire river’s width.
Complicating matters, three or four jet-skiers were here too, jumping over the rapids and practically daring them to knock them over. When they saw our fleet of canoes, two of them came straight for us and buzzed us, causing several of us to capsize. "Pull your legs up," said Rick, so I did. Moments later, we toppled again, and this time my life vest was able to float me to the surface. Curtis had me hang on his shoulders while we stayed near the canoe’s hull, and another jet-skier pulled us to the rocks along the bank, apologizing for his friends’ actions.
We finally made it to the end of the ride, and no one was more relieved than me. If it hadn’t been for the resourcefulness of Rick and Curtis, I could have drowned that day. Thank God He also was there to protect me, for that evening, the outpouring of sympathy and love was tremendous.
When the problem of my driving home without glasses came up, another friend named Scott offered an extra pair he had, and they were so close to my prescription that it had to be providence. In addition, my friends took a collection for me to help me buy new glasses, and I was overcome with joy over my new spiritual family. And I knew the Lord had returned my life to me because He was not yet finished with me.
Life. Love. Friends. Family. No material wealth comes close to the value of these.
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