The Helper

The Helper

Jesus Did It!

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)

My foolishness has often caused me great distress at times. Has yours? It seems that God purposely allows us to experience "narrow escapes" so that we might see the frailties that are involved in our self-dependence and prove to us just what an "ever present help" He is in times of trouble.

The Copper River is a 300 mile gloriously awesome body of water. It is filled with whirlpools and eddies that can spin a raft around for an hour before spitting it out. There are hidden sandbars on which to run aground, and ever-changing channels to sort out. It is a notoriously swirling mass of boiling, raging silt-laden rapids located in the remote wilderness of eastern Alaska, a river which claims the lives of several people each year. The river water is bitterly cold. But when the salmon begin their run, this river has the world's best -- hench fishermen drive the hazardous road along the mountain just to get their share of this prize fish. The east side is even wilder, within the border of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, at 13 million acres the largest national park in the United States.

A few years back, I went fishing there with some friends. Now, normally I am what they call a "bank fisherman"...someone who just stands by a calm little stream and wets a hook. We were at a place Alaskans call Chitna along the Copper River and camped on the western side near the waterfall. An eddy had been created there in which salmon paused for a rest before resuming their way upstream. Perfect for "my kind" of fishing.

But most of the fishermen there were dip-netters. Armed with long poles with nets attached at one end, they would wade out a few feet from the river's edge and plunge their dip nets into the water and catch the salmon swimming upstream close to the banks. It was called subsistence fishing, and was for Alaskan residents only. But I was not interested in that at all---too much hard work for me.

However, my friend Sandy was also along on that trip and she heard that the salmon were running hot and heavy across the river.  Would I go with her over there? A riverboat could take us and drop us off.

I thought about the time I went out with her on a boat at Homer. We were out on the sea, fishing for halibut in her Boston whaler boat when I suddenly had a terrific tug on my line. As I struggled, it felt like I was pulling up a car from the bottom of the ocean. When I finally got the monster up to the surface, we realized it was going to be a real struggle to get it in the boat. Here were two women, alone, with a whale of a fish! But Sandy bonked it on the head with something until it quit moving, and then we both managed to get it gaffed and and over the side into the boat. An 82 pounder! I trembled for an hour out of sheer exhaustion. What an ordeal! But this was not that kind of fishing Sandy had in mind now. It was dip-netting. I argued that I didn't care to go. I wouldn't be dip-netting anyway. But her pleading got the best of me and I went with her, with assurance in my mind that this lady could handle any situation.

The riverboat had two massive outboard motors that groaned and strained against the current as we headed upriver. We would then drift down to the place where they would let us off---but on a ledge along the cliff!! I watched in horror as it suddenly occurred to me what I had gotten myself into. First, I had to jump off the boat as it reved up and got me as close as it could onto a ledge, which was about two feet wide. Then I had to tie myself to the rocks and stay there two hours until the boat returned to repeat the process in reverse.

After I set my feet on the rock, I looked below me. I should never have done that. There was a whirlpool of silt-laden water churning like the vortex of a hurricane. One slip into that abyss and your clothes would be instantly weighted down to take you under. If your body ever surfaced, they might find it floating somewhere around Cordova at the end of summer. My stomach churned. I was frightened to death. Sandy had found her place a few feet beyond and began to fish...but me? I was in no fishing mood at all, all I wanted was OFF THAT ROCK!! I never wet my hook! I simply stood there frozen in fear for two hours!

So I had nothing to do except wait...and pray. It was during that time I thought of another similar circumstance. Once, I had thought of learning to ski. So I went to the bunny hill and started practicing. It took awhile, but after I learned how to turn and make a few runs, I felt confident I could take the lift up to the summit and I would master the sport. So off I went. It was only after I stepped off and turned to look at what lay below me did I realize I had made one BIG mistake---I was definitely not ready to ski! The valley below looked a thousand miles away--straight down! I could not shake off that terrible fear which suddenly convinced me I would glide off the mountain at 100 mph and be unable to stop. It was then that I made a promise to God. "If you will get me safely off this summit and back down to the bottom in one piece, I will NEVER put on skis again." Well, He did get me down that hill safely, and I had never attempted skiing again.

I knew then what I needed to do. I made another promise to God. "Lord, no fish is worth my life. If you will get me off this perch and back safely across the river, I will never do this again." And He did.

And so did I.

"Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." (Psalm 50:14-15)

Time and again I have had to call upon God. In times of sickness, times of sorrow, times of grief and despair. Times of terror, times of great fear, times of weakness and times when people you love turn from you.  Do you see why it seems so incredible to this old woman why we now have in America so many who would take "in God we trust" out of our vocabulary?

Just hoping that none who subscribe to this notion ever find themselves tied to a 2-foot ledge on the Copper River...



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