Sometimes it seems like fate has a really good sense of humor.
It was “Senior Skip Day,” so a group of teens from Christ Church Academy headed for Vilano Beach, near St. Augustine, Florida, for a day of fun in the sun. Heather Brown and Tyler Smith were among the group of teenagers enjoying their day off. On a whim, they decided to try to swim to a nearby island. That’s when the day could’ve turned deadly.
The sea was choppy and rough that day. They had been swimming for hours when they got disoriented and lost sight of land. Before they knew it, they were two miles from shore and had no life jackets or floatation device. Although they were both good swimmers, they became exhausted, and Tyler got a painful cramp. With no one around to hear their cries for help, things looked bleak, so they started to pray out loud.
“While I was laying on my back, the best I could, floating, I just called out, ‘God, please don’t let this be the end. I still want to see my family… send someone to save us,'” Tyler recalled.
The rough seas meant far fewer boats were navigating the channel. In fact, there was just one vessel on the water that afternoon, on route from Delray Beach to New Jersey. Captain Eric Wagner was at the helm when he heard a fragment of a call for help and saw a lone arm waving above the swells.
“Over all the wind, waves, and engines, we thought we heard a desperate scream,” Eric said. “Exhausted and near the end, the boy told me he called out for God’s help. Then we showed up.”
In the water, Tyler begged Heather to keep crying out for help.
“He said, ‘Heather, just keep screaming, just keep screaming,'” she remembered. “I see this shaded hand through the screen waving back at me. I was like, ‘This is it, this is it, we’re getting out of here!'”
Eric called the Coast Guard, then turned his boat around. He assumed they’d been boating in a kayak or small boat that had sunk. When he arrived and found them without any floatation devices at all, he realized how bad the situation really was.
After pulling the two exhausted and dehydrated teens from the sea, Eric welcomed them aboard. That’s when he told them that the name of the boat that had rescued them was, serendipitously, “Amen.”
“I told them the name of the vessel, that’s when they started to cry,” Eric said. “The young couple was gracious and grateful to us and to God. It was the latter all along. I don’t want to call it dumb luck, it wasn’t, it was the hand of God.”
Tyler and Heather couldn’t agree more.
“From us crying out to God, for Him to send someone for us to keep living and a boat named ‘Amen,’ there’s no way that it wasn’t Him,” Tyler said.
What a delightful conclusion to a terrifying ordeal! We’re so grateful Eric happened to have his aptly-named boat in the perfect place at the perfect time.
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