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It was a chilly spring morning, many years ago… It wasn’t raining at that moment, but it had been raining pretty constantly, as is usual for Western Oregon in the spring (and every other season).  I was home sick with a bad cold, but had gotten up for a bit when I noticed emergency vehicles streaming down the road in front of our home in Turner, Oregon.  I peeked my head out the front door which faced the road, and I could see that they were congregating just a few hundred yards down the road at a point where the road crossed Mill Creek.

We rented a lot for our mobile home from our pastors, who owned a small farm in Turner. Mill Creek bisected the property, and it would often flood during the spring rains. I looked out our back door, and heard a chilling sound from the creek — a child crying.  It sounded like he was quite a ways upstream from the bridge (and the emergency vehicles on the road).

I ran out the back door, jumped the fence, and ran the 100 yards or so towards the sound of crying. (My wife hadn’t heard the crying — she was in a different part of the house, taking care of our small children — and I think she thought I was crazy when she looked out the back window and saw me sprinting across the field.)  When I reached the creek, I could see that it was indeed flooded, and flowing at a dangerous rate. The water that was normally 3-5 feet deep at that point in the stream was now over my head.  I crossed a flooded ditch and saw that an elementary school child was perched on a bobbing log in the creek that had jammed into some bank side brush; he had pulled himself up on the log and was clinging to a piece of brush, terrified and crying.

None of the emergency personnel had heard him, and they were a long ways away. I considered for a few seconds my options; if I left him to call the rescuers over, and he was swept from the log and drowned…

I went a few yards upstream and entered the water, where I could drift/swim down to him.  I made it to the log, where I could stabilize him and call out to the firemen and police that were beginning to make their way up and down the stream searching for him.   They were able to reach him (and me) through the brush and retrieve him. I walked with them partway back to the road, and before I could avoid the crowd and head back to our house a reporter from the local newspaper snapped a picture.  Somehow they got my name and the picture made it into the local paper’s article about the accident.

Apparently the child had fallen (or was pushed) off a bridge a ways upstream, but his puffy winter jacket acted as a life jacket until he was swept into the log and was able to climb up on it.  Some local people thought that some other child may have pushed him because of his ethnicity (he was an immigrant).

A friend of mine told me he would have never have gone into the water like I did, but I bet he would have; what would seem like a more rational decision at the time was secondary to the cry of a child, and the chance that he might be lost.

I began this blog to pass onto my children and grandchildren something about my life, and stories they may never had heard. Why this memory came to me during my morning devotions I have no idea; I hadn’t thought about this in years, but I felt I should relate it.

So I began to write this blog article, but my eyes began to well up when I remembered the feeling I had when looking at that crying child and made the (perhaps foolish) decision to enter the water rather than to stand on the shore.

I am so grateful to be a part of a church here in South Florida (Christ Fellowship) that is both listening to the society and culture around them and responding to the cries for help that are all around us, whether it’s the cry of foster children, victims of trafficking, the homeless, or victims of earthquakes and floods (and many others).  I am also grateful to all those who work in those ministries that don’t get a picture in the paper, don’t receive recognition, but still enter dangerous waters to respond to a cry, even when they’re feeling weak, or suffering themselves…

One translation of Acts 16:19 (Paul’s Macedonian vision) says Paul saw a vision of a man pleading for help — a cry for help.  I pray that I maintain open ears to the cries for help around me, that all of us keep our hearts and ears open for those cries…

I also pray that I will never forget that One who answered my desperate cries…