In 1966-1967, our church in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. had a telephone ministry that allowed people to call a special telephone number at the church and hear a message of hope and encouragement. I wrote and recorded 135 of these messages, which were changed daily. Later I compiled them into a book, which, however, was never published. The following is one such message. It would have been included inThe Really Great News (TRGN), except that it was put away and forgotten about until after TRGN was published:…
“Several times throughout the Bible the Lord has prevented someone from being humanly strong, so that his victory could be attributed to the intervention of God and not to human strength. For example, in the book of Judges is the familiar story of how the Lord whittled down Gideon’s forces to a mere 300 and then allowed this handful to route more than 120,000 Midianites.
“Another example is in Genesis, where we read how Abram with only 318 relatives and servants routed the armies of not one but four kings who had captured his nephew, Lot.
“I believe that the Lord still does this today to prove that he is able, willing, and ready to help us.
“Not long ago [this would have been the mid-sixties] the two youngest of our three boys bought an ancient boat with which they hoped to earn money by clamming. The strange and curious way in which we were led directly to that boat in an obscure boat yard 40 miles east of our home in a rural part of The Hamptons on Long Island–a part that we had never visited before–is a story in itself, and at the time I attributed the finding of this particular boat to the leading of the Lord.
“After the purchase, I worked like a dog trying to get this old ark in good enough shape to float and then in condition to run under its own power. I know virtually nothing of engines, and this mass of rust with its dangling wires, broken pipes, and missing parts would have struck terror in the heart of any skipper who had to depend on it. However, I had a very dear friend [long since passed on by now] who happened to be the world’s best, most honest, most reliable automobile mechanic–owned his own auto repair garage in Sayville–and I kept consoling myself with the thought that I would prevail upon him to help us sail back home. I knew that he could solve any engine problem that might arise.
“But when the time came to make the voyage, he was out of the state for a week and there was nothing to do but to proceed without him. We did, and safely, too, and in the four hours and 15 minutes that the trip took we learned a lot about engines and about how the Lord takes care of His own.
“For example, we had trouble getting the engine started before the trip, and, in trying to do so, I made the terrible mistake of spilling gasoline into the bilge while trying to drain a flooded carburetor. (Even the boat-yard owner from whom we had bought the boat had to squirt a shot of ether into that temperamental carburetor to get it started.) [As a chemist, I knew then how extremely explosive ether is, and the fact that I tolerated this kind of a “fix” is proof of the extent to which I was relying on the Lord to keep us safe. I am not sure that I would be as trusting today, because this is almost like putting the Lord to a test, something that the Bible says we shouldn’t do, but it was not a deliberate test–just one born out of desperation at the time.]
“Nevertheless, we left, knowing that the generator was not working (because the voltage regulator was missing) and that we therefore would be running only on the battery (which, in itself, later turned out to have a bad cell in it), and that, furthermore, because of this we could not count on being able to restart the engine more than a few times if it stopped for any reason.
“As we were about to leave I realized that our marine charts were badly out of date, because where our charts showed a dredged channel our dockside friend said was all shoaled up–the channel had recently been moved. When we got out into the bay we found that extra navigation buoys, not shown on our charts, had been added, and, mind you, the Eastern half of the trip was on water that we have never seen before.
“We found by trial and error that if we kept the engine speed at exactly 1950 rpm we could keep the temperature down to 210º F., which we thought was good. [Remember that water boils at 212º F.] Afterward we learned that 155º F. is normal and that all the way we had been on the verge of having to shut down from overheating. Slower speeds didn’t run the water pump fast enough to pump the maximum amount of cooling water to the engine, and faster speeds created so much friction that the maximum flow was still insufficient.
“In order to hold the engine speed at 1950 rpm we had to maintain a constant boat speed of about 10 knots even through canals in which the posted speed limit was 4 knots. However, the design of the hull was such that we threw up almost no wake and hence didn’t disturb any of the fishermen in the little rowboats anchored in the channel.
“When we got out into the deep water some distance from shore, a water hose blew off, and the cooling pump began pumping a one-inch stream of water into the bilge. We had been riding with the engine cover removed [to keep the engine as well ventilated as possible and to watch out for problems such as this]. Since we had been looking at the engine at the moment the hose blew, we had the damage repaired in a few seconds–well before we had taken on a dangerous amount of water. Nevertheless, this incident occurred just after we had decided to plug the scuppers with rags, because, with virtually no free-board in a boat of that design, the little wavelets from the open water in the bay had already started lapping at the sides and were threatening to wash into the cockpit.
“That trip took us four hours and 15 minutes. Although we made it without any real difficulty, the boys got only one more hour’s use out of the engine at home, before it broke down completely and had to be replaced by another engine.
“You just can not convince me that the Lord did not have his hand on the wheel on that trip. He, not we, brought that boat home.
“And I might add that, as I recall, the only time that I ever got afraid was not during the trip itself, but after we got home and I was describing all of the things that went wrong. That was the scary part!”
This was a “little miracle” that did indeed get written down right away, and retold on more than one occasion. However, the fact that it was not written in any kind of formal diary or journal was the reason that it got overlooked when it came time to write The Really Great News.
To add a little post-mortem perspective to this, we probably were not in too much danger from drowning because both boys could swim well and we were never more than a mile or two from shore (more often only a few hundred yards), although at the time my own limit in the open water would have been not more than an hour. However, I still can’t get over how I ignored the implications of the dock-hand’s having to use ether (of all things!) to get the engine started. Just a little too much ether could have made that engine into a big bomb. And, given all of the other problems, if the engine had ever quit, we would never have gotten it restarted by ourselves. We would have had to depend on getting a tow by another boat, and I don’t remember that we had a towline aboard–just a relatively short bow line; (although, I am sure that I didn’t know it at the time, I now think that the rules of the sea require that the stricken vessel rather than the rescuing vessel has to be the one to supply the towline).
There probably were many other dangers that I haven’t mentioned, simply because we were not aware of them. I am just very glad that we were very much aware of the presence of the One who can calm the waters by simply saying “Be still”.
— Louis G. Stang, Jr.