I was helping a friend move his boat from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico when one thing after another went wrong. We were nearly eighty miles off the coast of Ensenada, in the middle of a gale, when the drive shaft uncoupled from the engine. The boat began to fill with seawater as the storm intensified. We turned back but as we did the wind blew the mainsail into four ragged pieces and the bilge pump gave out. That night it looked like we were going to get wet.
For the next three days we struggled against the wind, the waves and exhaustion. Three times we tried to radio a “May Day” distress call but in the hurry to leave port, my friend hadn’t hooked up the antenna to the radio on his boat. The farthest we could broadcast was three miles and there wasn’t another boat for fifty. Things were going from bad to worse. The life raft hadn’t been serviced since 1976. Odds were it wouldn’t work. Our best hope was to press on under just the tiny jib sail and try to run aground somewhere on the desolate coast. We were alone – all alone.
I remember one twelve-hour stint at the wheel. Wave after wave broke over the boat drenching us. The wind chilled us to the bone as we huddled together in the cockpit trying to stay warm. Things were desperate. We found ourselves far to the south trying to push around a point and an island as the next day broke. All that stormy day we tacked back and forth, trying to move a little farther north against the wind so we could make our way into open sea. Suddenly, the useless radio crackled to life: “Sailboat, are you in trouble?” Someone saw us! Someone was out there! I can’t describe the emotions that swept over me. We weren’t alone! We talked and life was full of promise. Someone could help us! The sun went down and we spent another night on the stormy sea but it was going to be okay. Someone knew we were in trouble and could help us. We finally passed the island the next morning – but we never heard from our friend again.
Yes, another day and another night found us safely anchored in a little bay beside a wonderful village and our ordeal was over but I had to wonder, “What happened to that man who promised to help us?” Did some horrible fate overtake him or had he just lost interest? Was he distracted or was he insincere? I’ll probably never know. He promised to help us but never followed through.
People around us are lost in a far worse storm. We are God’s lifeguards and people need our message of safety and hope but it does no good if we don’t follow through. Jesus told a parable about two sons whose father asked to work in the field. The first said “No” but then changed his mind and went. The second said he would go but didn’t (Matthew 21:28 ff.). Judge for yourself who was the better son. It’s time for us to follow through!