Elder experiences miracle on the ocean near Panama
companion and I paddled out to the larger boat, which had a motor and was about It was like any other Sunday, except 15 feet long and wide enough to seat three this Sunday, I was on my own. I was running across (or two comfortably). It had a semi- Sacrament Meeting alone this week hard top to keep the sun and rain off the — well, without my normal companion, travelers and was used mostly for private anyway. One of the locals agreed to be my taxi service from island to island. companion for a few days while my regular I waved goodbye to my temp companion companion was off-island attending as he paddled back to my home island. some branch meetings. Sacrament went We didn’t get far before we started taking smoothly: I taught several lessons in both on water. I bailed water out with a make- Spanish and Kuna and we broke for the shift one-gallon milk jug as a bucket. Soon day. I wandered to the other end of the the water was above my ankles. I passed chapel, which had also served as my home the bucket to a forward elder and began for the past eight months. bailing water with my hands. Everyone
My companion called and said they was bailing with their hands. I looked were going to meet me at the shore line back at the driver just as a wave hit us to head to the next branch meeting on an from behind and engulfed the small outboard adjoining island - “Oh, and grab the life motor, flooding the boat. I looked jackets, it’s a little windy out today,” he at the branch president. Our eyes met, and said. I quickly changed into shorts and a we both had a look in them asking, “Is this T-shirt - I hated traveling between islands really happening?” in my Sunday clothes. I carefully folded As the water flooded up to my knees, them up and stuffed them into a garbage I realized the boat was going down, bag to keep dry on the boat ride. and I quickly grabbed my garbage bag
When I arrived at the beach, my companion of clothes and bailed out the side. We were fending for ourselves. I glanced out Suddenly I heard a motor. I saw a local and five other missionaries, including all huddled together watching in horror to the outer channel, saw a large Colombian fisherman waving me on. They pulled me a local who was the branch president, as the boat upended and went straight supply boat and realized we were in just outside the reef. They turned to the awaited me in a boat on the outer edge of down, leaving nothing behind except too far off from the shipping channel and beach - and I yelled, “MY COMPANION the break. The waves were pretty big, so some floating debris and the gas tank. We would not be seen by any passing boats. IS OUT THERE!” they did not want to drive into the beach prayed feverishly and vowed to be okay. Boom! A wave pounded me. I desperately “We can’t get him yet, the boat is riding to pick me up. They motioned to me to We were quickly separated by two large searched and found my companion, too low,” they said. row out in a small fishing boa. My temp crashing waves. Now in two groups, we and we both knew it was time to head I’m dropped on the beach 30 minutes for land. from my pueblo. I fall to the ground, my
I could see the beach in the distance - legs and body so exhausted I cannot stand. maybe two miles out - and kicked with all I lay on the beach for 30 minutes waiting my might toward it. Another wave and another for my circulation to normalize. I crawl to pounded me, and my companion and a nearby fresh-water river and spend the I were separated by a large distance. The next 45 minutes laying in the river, thanking motion of the monstrous waves hitting and Heavenly Father that I have lived tossing me to and fro made me nauseous. through the experience and praying for the I threw up again and again. Choking down safety of my friends. sea water, I threw up yet again. The life We would all come together later that jacket felt like a brick around my neck. It night and realize for the first time that we was water-logged and practically sinking, were all okay. so I took it off and added it to my garbage Thank you, Panama, for the experiences, bag of clothes that had enough air trapped and thank you, natives of San Blas. I inside to float. My legs were cramping at owe my life to you. this point, and I lost sight of my companion. Que Dios les bendigan siempre. But every now and again at the crest Elder Brannon McGraw of a wave, I could make out his figure before I was shoved down into the trough of the swell and saw nothing but massive swells and black seas.
Up ahead, I saw the reef of my island, the waves crashing against it like a head- on collision over and over. The violent spray and wash was eerie and devilish. There was a narrow slot about 20 feet across. “Could I make through?” I wondered. The waves were too big, the current too strong - I’d never get in place. I began back-stroking to jockey for position. I caught a glimpse of my companion; he was way out of position. He would never make to the slot. Suddenly, I saw a Colombian boat stopping to pick someone up, and the person was pulled in. I couldn’t see who it was. At the crest of a wave, I screamed and threw my arms in the air. They turned away from me. “Are you kidding? Why aren’t they picking me up?” I thought.
I had to get in position. Nobody was coming for me. I decided I’d swim all the way in. Four hours had passed and I was so sick. I would have been dry-heaving if it weren’t for the sea water I was chugging, and my legs were cramping so badly I wasn’t sure if they were even moving. For the first time, I begin to have serious doubts about whether or not I was going to make it.
Having strong roots is important in life, and it is aptly illustrated in this photo taken on a nearby mountain road. Aspen trees grow as a colony - young and old trees - from a common root system like a family. They stand tall and proudly reach for the sky. With their leaves shimmering in the wind, they have been given the popular name “Quaking Aspens.” Aspen trees are found in all 29 counties in Utah and are our Utah State Tree. For more information about landscape photography by Ed Hemlock, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elder Brannon McGraw near the ocean in Panama.