Our Storm at Sea


The look on Larry’s face confirmed our desperate plight. He exerted all of his human strength to steer the boat upright and to keep us alive. He cried out, “Oh Lord, SAVE US, PLEASE, SAVE US!”

And it all happened so quickly.

Our family enjoys sailing, and three members possess their International Sailing License. To be honest, for me sailing represents glorified camping on water. But I consider myself a team player, and my need for inclusion motivates me to participate.

We spent several years praying over and planning for our customized adventure to spend a week together on a sailboat. Finally, the dream was realized, and we set out. Budapest, our home, was within driving distance to Croatia with its rugged coastline along the Adriatic Sea. The breathtaking topography with a thousand islands jutting up from the deep azure-colored water awaited us.

The initial days seemed idyllic. As we approached mid-week, we basked in the joy of ongoing outdoor togetherness. This particular afternoon, the weather was spectacular. Calm seas, light wind, warm sunshine … I even enjoyed a turn steering at the helm, and admitted this portrayed family time at its best.

Suddenly, without warning, three independent storms converged in uncharacteristic fashion and created the perfect storm. Black, eerie darkness descended, and we instantly became the victims of a phenomenon at sea that no meteorologist could have predicted.

In the blink of an eye, our lives were in grave and serious danger. Being 10 nautical miles out, we lost hope of finding shelter. Gale force winds, 60-75 miles an hour, threatened to crash us into one of the rocky islands. Howling wind swirled in a 360-degree motion; vicious waves soared 16 feet high; visibility was reduced to 50 feet. Lightning danced all around our craft, and our overwhelming feeling was one of utter helplessness.

The look on Larry’s face confirmed our desperate plight. He exerted all of his strength to steer the boat upright and to keep us alive. He cried out, “Oh Lord, SAVE US, PLEASE, SAVE US!”

This boat contained the six people that I held most dear; apart from a miracle, we faced a certain death at sea. The sense of isolation gripped us, and with each merciless wave, we braced for capsizing. Struggling to control her panic, my daughter verbalized what each of us felt, “I am doing everything I can not to cry.”

Never before or since have I lived through such an ongoing and extended period of dramatic threat to my life. I felt on the brink of eternity, and wondered which monstrous wave would be the one to take me to Heaven.

It’s odd the details one remembers of a crisis.

I remember the consuming darkness.

I remember the ongoing struggle of wrestling with the sheer panic.

I remember the mental tenacity required to focus.

I remember the horrific sound of the glasses crashing together inside the cabinets.

And … I remember the life jackets were stowed in a completely inaccessible place.

Another detail – I remember feeling compelled to sing. Yet, somewhere into my list of hymns, a spokesperson for the group asked for my singing to cease. The seriousness of the situation mandated silence.

And then … I remember … without announcement, an unsuspecting sliver of light broke through the ink-black darkness. Oh the glorious, blessed effect of God’s gift of light! With this tiny break in the clouds, a ray of hope emerged that we actually might survive. Though danger still taunted us, we at least sensed the storm beginning to subside.

As the wind and lightning diminished, Larry navigated the boat into a protected cove. Once anchored, we breathed a collective sigh of relief and waited out the rest of the storm. Our lives stood on the brink of destruction, but God spared us.

With trembling bodies and frayed emotions, we finally ventured from our protected cove, and we slowly sailed to a marina where we docked and set about putting our lives back together. The aftershock was extreme. We shivered, though bundled in blankets. We stared wide-eyed awake, though exhausted. Individual reflections from each of the six of us made it abundantly clear that the storm’s impact on us would last long past the crisis itself.

Later, the news bulletin classified this as the worst storm in 25 years, with the epicenter being at our exact location. Reports confirmed that eight boats sustained hull damage, three suffered broken masts and three actually sank. We felt fortunate to have survived without tragedy.

Our storm at sea left me with a sobering life principle:

In the face of a storm, there is no time for preparation. Preparation must precede the need.

Larry called upon every ounce of his strength, training and skill to handle the boat in this storm. Not a nanosecond existed to grab the manual and read the instructions.

Storms of Life, headaches and heartaches, inevitably crash upon us, and show no respect for timing. They leave no time for preparation. I now live with a conviction:

Readiness comes from living a life of leaning on
The Lord.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.

They were glad when it grew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven. (Psalm 107: 28-31) 


Debby Thompson and her husband Larry have served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ for 42 years, with 33 years living abroad in Eastern Europe. Currently living in Cincinnati, Debby is a grandmother of six, a global ambassador to women, a writer and speaker. Subscribe to her blog at DebbyThompson.com, GPS for the Woman of Purpose, Living with Eternal Intentionality, and follow her on Twitter at @Debbythompson17. To contact Debby Thompson, email Debby.thompson@cru.org.