No, I am not talking about my husband. I am talking about a friend, and fellow missionary who just had a very harrowing experience. Seriously this should be on TV one day.
This is Chad. He is our friend and former neighbor. In this picture he is in Hewa (our tribe) helping to move our co-workers' house. (He is a man of many talents)
He is in the country serving as a missionary, doing what we call "People Group Assessment." Basically he goes into the jungle to check out places that are reported to have no Gospel witness. They hike into a village, stay in a tribal house, eat whatever the people give, and sleep wherever the people tell them to sleep. These guys are hard core. They seriously could hang with Bear Grylls on any of his adventures.
Chad with the green hat, and Tony, the head of the PGA department out on a survey. (Tony has many great qualifications for this difficult job, but my favorite one that people comment on is his iron stomach. He can eat anything that the people hand him without blinking an eye. That is a much needed talent for this type of work.)
Anyway, Chad recently went to the Islands region of PNG to assess some people groups, and find out if they need missionaries. As you can imagine with the name "Islands region" this requires a lot of travel by boat. I am not talking nice big yacht or speed boat. I am talking dingy...possibly something like this...
Ok, so he is on this small boat with at least 9 other people traveling from one island to the next when a big storm comes out of no where...fast. One big wave swept over the boat instantly sinking it. There was another boat traveling with them that circled when they went down, but did not grab any passengers fearing they would go down as well. When this second boat landed on the nearest island, they shared the fate of the the other boat, and the news eventually reached the missionaries on the island who then told our leadership...who then contacted Chad's family.
This is part of Chad's family...
The pretty blond is Holly, Chad's sister and they just happen to be our neighbors right now in Wewak, although, you may remember them from our time in Bush Orientation. They are the family that helped us learn what it would take to live in the jungle and plant a church there.
His mom and dad are also missionaries here in PNG. They work in Goroka at the mission headquarters.
He also has brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews back in the States who were rocked over the news.
So, at first, all this precious family knows is that Chad's boat sank. They have no idea where he is or what happened to him after that.
A few very long hours later, two men from the sunken boat drifted/swam ashore to the island where they were supposed to land. These men told the islanders and missionaries there that Chad stayed behind to help the other passengers who could not swim. He used his belt and shoelaces to tie some pieces of wood to the gas tank from the boat, so they could all stay together as they floated in the ocean. The family clung to this glimmer of hope that Chad was alive. They stayed up all night waiting and praying, knowing that they wouldn't know anything else until morning. But they weren't alone in this. Almost all the missionaries in PNG who knew about it were up all night praying as well. Along with many people in the States who received the news via the internet.
Meanwhile, the missionary on the island who received the news was this guy...
They were all Alive.
They were all uninjured.
After FIFTEEN total hours drifting in open ocean.
Chad lost all his gear. Including his clothes and computer, but God spared his life and the lives of the PNG citizens who were traveling with him.
Sometimes being a missionary is very difficult, and very scary. But nothing compares to seeing God's glory in the miracles He bestows on His people.
So today, we are praising a merciful God who rescued a prophet from the belly of a fish, a disciple from sinking in the waves that he once walked on, and a humble servant on a small boat in the Pacific Ocean, who was searching for lost the lost sheep that the Shepard wants for His own.
Thank you Jesus for the life and service of Chad Earl. And thank you Jesus for allowing him to continue to serve you another day.