Adrift… Land, Ho!
Last week, as almost everyone in the world knows, the Carnival Triumph, a cruise ship that became stranded at sea during a voyage to the Caribbean, finally arrived in port at Mobile, AL on Thursday evening. With almost four thousand people on board, buses were waiting at Alabama’s only port, ready to take people the rest of the way back to Galveston or Houston, a seven hour journey. Others, opting for New Orleans, only two hours away, streamed on to other buses.
Needless to say, it was a horrendous experience for those who were involved. We are all aware of the lack of electricity, the spoiling of the food, limited water for human consumption and the order that prohibited people from flushing the toilets in their staterooms. Eventually, in case you didn’t know, the toilets pretty much stopped working and sewage was backing up through the staterooms on the lower decks and caused hundreds of people to abandon their rooms and pitch tents in the hallways and on deck.
Of course, there are conflicting stories of all the problems that arose and I am sure that the situation was much worse than most of us can possibly imagine. It was days before the ship was able to be towed to Mobile, and even several hours before arriving in port, additional problems still plagued the ship as issues with the tow lines delayed the arrival until even later than originally scheduled. At times, when it was even moving, the ship’s speed was under 4 knots/hour.
Among the stories that surfaced about life on the ill-fated ship, there were reports that Carnival opened the bar for the passengers after power was lost. Unfortunately, people were getting drunk and hoarding the alcohol. And we all know what happens when people drink too much. Tempers flare, fights break out and people become even more selfish. There were also reports of food being stolen and kept by passengers in their staterooms. Cereal and other items that didn’t need to be refrigerated were soon nowhere to be found – having been stolen from the pantries aboard ship.
But among all the problems on on the ship, there was a ray of light. Rev. Wendell Gill, of First Baptist Church, in LaPorte, TX, started to pray with a small group of people who were concerned with the various types of problems that plague all of us. They were concerned about getting sick, perhaps the loss of their jobs back home and their children. What started out as a small group wound up as a rather large contingent of people, more than 200 in number, who ended up praying together.
Aside from prayer, the passengers helped others by moving mattresses from the lower levels of the ship up on deck where the problem with the sewage wasn’t as bad. And when they realized that Carnival really didn’t know how to handle a problem of such magnitude, they handed out Tylenol and drugs in an effort to calm people who weren’t feeling well. They build a shanty town on deck and helped rescue people from staterooms where the sanitation and other problems became overwhelming.
Of course, rumors of people dying and breaking bones were everywhere, and Gill’s group apparently helped to squash the untruths. Although Carnival was trying to handle things, the crew just couldn’t keep up with the need and the group of praying passengers stepped up in a most unusual way – they are credited with helping the passengers and crew survive the unfathomable ordeal.
The actions of this group of praying passengers, acting at times as old friends when they passed in the halls and on deck, remind me of one of my favorite Bible verses. In Galatians, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that when adversity strikes we are to reach out and help others. And even though all the folks were in a similar situation there was a marked difference from the way the two groups acted. One group, drunk and disorderly, cursing and fighting, while another group promoted acts of kindness and helped passengers in distress make the best of a bad situation.
The verse I am reminded of, from Galatians 6:2, is the verse for tonight. Paul tells us, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” In the original Greek, this meant that in times of adversity, we are to surround each other, to make sure that in times of storms, we all make it back safely to port – together. Odd how the definition of the word “burden” was literally applied on this ship. Because the ship was no longer “seaworthy” as in the original definition and this group of Christ followers helped bear the burden of their fellow passengers.
My encouragement this evening is that when you see people suffering unusual adversity, you will pitch in and help. Because you can either be a part of the problem, or a part of the solution. And you will feel fulfilled if you choose to help others through their problems. My prayer is that God will fill you with a divine joy when you reach out to aid those in distress. Sooner or later, each of us will suffer problems. May God grant us the grace to handle them with dignity and respect for our fellow man. And what is the law of Christ? To love one another as He has loved us. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…