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God is Good, All the Time!

A severe storm wreaked havoc on a family wilderness adventure turning it into a rescue effort and a time to lean on God for safety and protection.

Martha and I shared a warm hug at our denominational conference in Grand Prairie, Alberta. She had been a good friend during the seven years we had lived in La Crete. But she had an unusual request: Would I be willing to help with an account she had written of the previous summer's camping experience?

When her draft copy arrived, I couldn't put it down until I had read the last page, and I have her permission to share the story with you.

Martha's parents and extended family enjoyed an annual wilderness camping weekend at remote Thurston Lake, near the border of the North West Territories. A half-mile long, overgrown, grassy airstrip was the only access into the area in summer.

Usually the two families met at Steen River for the half-hour flight in both their dad's Cessna and their brother Jim's Cherokee. With loads of stuff to transport, it took several hours for all 18 passengers to arrive.

They enjoyed a fun-filled Saturday, with lovely weather. Fishing was fantastic! Sunday morning the pilots were up early studying the ominous sky. Something was brewing. Their conclusion: move out now!

The moms with the smallest children were among the first to leave. A motorboat ferried them for a quarter-mile to the bush trail. From there it was a mile-long hike to the airstrip. Two adults and a swarm of hungry mosquitoes accompanied the six remaining children to the airstrip for the next flight.

Martha and her brother Ed stayed back hurrying to clean up camp and pack their things into a big metal bin for winter storage before the storm broke. Moments later thunder and lightning crashed around them.

Ed heard a plane, but hadn't seen it. As the engine sound faded he had wondered if someone might be in trouble. He decided to run to the airstrip. Grabbing some tarps he ran through the dense forest taking a short cut. Martha admired his bravery considering they had spotted several bears around their camp.

The rain suddenly poured hard, accompanied by enormous, frightening crashes of lightning and thunder. But now Martha was alone at camp—except, perhaps, for a bear lurking in the surrounding bush. She ran to the only shelter still standing—a forestry tent roof over a wooden floor with four-foot pony walls. She saw a gun leaning against the storage bin and grabbed it. Only later did she find out that the gun was just one of the kid's B-B-guns.

The lightning and thunder intensified dramatically. "Then it began to hail and the winds blew furiously," writes Martha. "This was totally out of my comfort zone. The storm was so intense that the tent canvas was flapping up and threatening to blow off."

Martha scrambled to hold down the canvas and ran from end to end, pushing accumulated water over the edge of the roof to keep the tent from caving in. Sheets of lightning and vibrating thunder surrounded her.

She prayed as she ran, trying to remain calm. "Succumbing to fear wouldn't benefit me one bit," Martha recounted. "Faith is not the absence of fear. Faith is moving ahead in spite of my fear."

Her mind was working overtime with concern for the others out in the storm. Had anyone been hit by lightning? Had the planes gone down—crashed? Would she be trapped? She tried to rein in her anxious thoughts and rest in God.

After what seemed like a very long time, the storm began to diminish. As she looked out at the storm-ravaged campsite she decided to stay put, wait and see if someone would come for her. But waiting was not easy …

Meanwhile, the children and their escorts were only halfway to the strip when the storm hit. Soon everyone was soaked through. Their feet heavily laden with clay, they were struggling with their bags. The adults, breathing many quiet prayers, had to act as if they were in control in a very grim situation.

Then Ed came through the bush with the large tarp. They were so happy to see him. They huddled under it close together for comfort and prayed. Surely God was with them here also.

As the thunder slowed, the group decided to head back to camp. To encourage each another, they sang, "Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above … ."

Wet and shivering, the children plodded on valiantly, feet "frozen," clinging to the adults for comfort, but not giving up. At the lakeshore, the risk of lightning strikes on the open water made them decide to take the overgrown bush trail. There was still danger of lightning striking a tree, so they tried to keep to the middle of the trail and jump over puddles.

Soon they were back at camp. Martha was thrilled and relieved when she heard the sound of people approaching. The ten of them were safe! She says, "I sent up a prayer of thanks to God." Now, if they could only be sure of the safety of the pilots …

They set up the wood heater in the tent and attempted to start a fire with wet wood. In a few minutes the place was filled with smoke and they had to open the door. They stood around the smoky stove, shivering, with no dry clothes to change into.

The adults now realized it could be a long wait until the planes would be back, but the children kept asking if they would fly out soon. "All in all," writes Martha, "they did well; I was proud of them."

Ed, along with Martha's husband Henry, walked back to the landing strip and dug a little drainage ditch near it to help it dry out. They also brought back some food and warm clothing, which was most welcome!

Meanwhile, the three littlest girls went to pray, asking for the clouds to go away and for those "soft fluffy ones" to roll in. They prayed a lot.

The evening in the far north is long, so they had to be creative to keep occupied. Then it began to rain again. However, thanks to the salvaged food, they had a good supper. Everyone was very hungry from the strenuous walks.

Arranging ten people in the tent for the night was quite a challenge. They managed to line up mattresses (retrieved from the storage bin) against opposite walls for nine people. The tenth had the 'privilege' of bedding down between two rows of unwashed feet. They talked about God and His goodness before having common prayer and then attempting to sleep.

The night was not very restful. Some mats went flat and the mosquitoes were frustrating. Lighting coils only produced choking fumes that added to the discomfort.

Next morning everyone was up early. The sky still did not look good, but it had not rained all night. That was a good thing. They thought of many other things for which to praise the Lord and mentioned them specifically as they continued looking skyward wondering if their dad and brother were safe. Martha commented, "It was indeed a very special time of communion with God. If only we daily felt our need of Him as much as we do when we're in trouble."

In the early afternoon, they seemed to hear a faint sound. Could it be an airplane? Then out from behind the clouds, far in the distance, appeared a tiny plane. When they recognized Jim's plane, the kids let out a cheer.

They wasted no time. Martha and Henry hurried all the youngsters into the boat and along the mosquito-infested trail. At the airstrip they were overjoyed to see that both their dad and Jim had landed safely. "Thank you, God," was their first reaction as they embraced joyously.

The men told of how, after dropping their first load of passengers and setting out again, the weather pushed them off course. They came perilously close to running out of fuel but had been able to glide in for a landing at Steen River. They, too, thanked God!

The children disappeared into the planes quickly, eager to go. Henry and Martha watched the take-offs, holding their breath as the planes skidded down the strip, mud and water spattering in all directions. Then they were up! Another "Thank you, God!"

The planes returned again, and the last four persons were evacuated. Thankfulness and praise, and the knowledge that God is good all the time, filled them to overflowing.

Betty Koop writes the column, "A Woman's Journey of Faith," for The Messenger.

Originally published in The Messenger, May and June 2006.




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