I first wrote this story in 2016, the same year it happened. I rediscovered it recently among old documents, and after editing it slightly, decided to post it here. It took place on Lake Roosevelt in Washington, which is actually a lake-like section of the Columbia River, created by Grand Coulee Dam. Lake Roosevelt is 150 miles long, and 2 miles wide at the location of this story. Above is a photo on the same section of lake, from a much more recent day. I hope this story is as much a blessing to you as it has been to me!
The sun’s bright rays poked through the clouds and sparkled on the water as we left the dock and began paddling across the lake. It had been cloudy most of the morning and had even rained a little bit, so this was a welcome beginning for our canoeing trip: our last day of canoeing class at summer camp. We discussed our week at camp and steadily traveled across the lake.
More clouds began gliding in to fill the sky, making the sun disappear. We hoped that we wouldn’t get any more rain. Before long we arrived at the other side of the lake and began to eat our burritos. The rumble of distant thunder interrupted our lunch, and we pulled our feet out of the water and moved further up onto the sand to finish eating, but we weren’t concerned. There was only a little bit of thunder, and it was far away, so we ignored the rumbling as we finished eating. Soon though, it started to rain. The thunder sounded a tiny bit closer. The leader decided that we should head back across the lake, so we quickly finished our lunch and packed up.
As we paddled out onto the lake, we began to cross as fast as possible, determining to beat the storm which we realized was moving toward us. As we exited the bay and could see up the lake, we saw a wall of rain and clouds, the thunder growing louder. The idea of that storm coming was a bit scary, and we proceeded as fast as we could. But we quickly realized that we could not outrun the storm. It caught up with us, and the clouds opened to pour down rain. Soon tiny hailstones began to fall, joining the pouring rain as they pelted the surface of the lake. Not good! We had made it about halfway across the lake by now, but we still had almost a mile to go, and it was hard to distinguish the dock we were navigating towards, for the torrent of rain and hail and the rapidly increasing fog blinded our way. We prayed that God would give us a safe trip back.
On the ferry several miles downstream, two members of the Literature Evangelism class were selling books. Seeing the rapidly approaching storm, they worried about how they would keep their bags of books dry on the open ferry, which had no roof. They prayed together that God would take care of their books.
The storm thickened, and lightning closed in on us. It was impossible now to see either shore of the lake, hail bit at our faces, and the waves threatened to fill the canoes, rising higher and higher. The cold penetrated our bodies and our hands became chilled and numb, yet we pressed on. The waves pushed us downstream, and we couldn’t tell if we were heading in the right direction. The leader came into view ahead of us, paddling back through the storm, and redirected our course to head back upstream. We changed direction, or at least we attempted to: the current was driving us down the river. We were only three quarters of the way across, and the lightning was imminent.
Meanwhile, downstream on the ferry, my two friends gratefully gazed at the storm as it abruptly changed course and abandoned the lake, heading up the mountain.
Suddenly, when our situation seemed most desperate and the lightning had almost reached us, the sun exploded through the wind and hail above us! The storm, which moments before was beating down upon us, sounded distant and far away. It had made a sharp turn and was blowing off the lake behind us.
We returned to shore, led by the sun the whole way. Only when we had arrived and returned to our tents did it begin to rain again.
None of us will ever forget the day God turned the storm aside, just when we needed it most. Some of my friends will always recall God’s providence leading up to that day in ensuring that there were strong paddlers in their boats. Others will remember the strength that God gave them when they were at their weakest. We may never realize all the ways God blessed us that day, or what would have happened without His intervention. But we trusted Him, and He delivered us.
Just as God protected us on the lake, if you place yourself in His care, He will protect you. When our situation is most desperate, look up. God has not promised help before we need it, but when we do, help will be there. As the Bible says, “the angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear him, and delivers them.” Psalms 34:7.