Happy we could enjoy this sunset on the ship off the coast of St. Maarten!
At first, I wasn’t going to write this story. It seemed somewhat trivial to write a spirit-filled blog about asking God to help us please get back in time to board our departing cruise ship. But then I recalled two things: First, a scripture,
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30
And second, God uses all things for His mighty purpose, and maybe this story will touch someone somewhere in ways that only He will know.
So here it goes.
It was a beautiful day on St. Maarten. Ten of us (all neighbors) had hired a private company to create a tour just for us, rather than buy one of the many tours available through the cruise ship (the only downside of hiring a private tour rather than taking a cruise tour: if you are late for final boarding call, the ship will leave without you).
We had a lovely day driving around the island, stopping at several magnificent beaches. Our last stop of the day was Maho Beach where we would stand at the end of the small island airport runway with hundreds of other tourists to watch the 2:50 Air France 747 land directly over our heads. The ship was docked about 35 minutes away from the airport and we had 2 hours from the plane’s touchdown to make it back in time for boarding.
We waited for about 15 minutes along the edge of the ocean at the end of the runway watching other smaller planes come and go. Disappointed, we left early when we could see on the arrivals board (yes, there’s actually an arrivals board next to the viewing spot on the beach) that the plane was going to be about 30 minutes late.
Before we could even get out of the airport, we were trapped in deadlock traffic—which we could see in the distance stretched all the way over the mountain road headed back to the ship. Must have been an accident, we all concluded.
Then to make matters worse, rain began to pour! We were in standstill traffic for at least 40 minutes with no hope of moving forward on the one road on the island that would quickly take us to the ship. We were down to about one hour before we had to board. So we turned around to head back in the direction from which we had come—about an hour’s drive back to port.
As we drove, it didn’t get any better—pouring rain, slow, slow traffic. Everything seemed to be going against us. At first, we laughed, joked…but the longer we drove, the more we began to realize we might not make it back in time to catch the ship.
One of our neighbors suggested he call the cruise line emergency number on the back of our SeaPasses (the stateroom keys). When he reached a person on the line in Miami, he very calmly and respectfully stated this was not a life threatening emergency, but that we were tied up in traffic and not likely to make the final boarding time for our ship. Could she contact the Captain and ask him if it would be possible to delay the ship’s departure? We have 10 people and will likely be 5-10 minutes late.
She said she would make the call, but couldn’t guarantee any result. “Understandable,” we all agreed after he hung up, “but certainly worth a try.”
As we drove along, our stress levels continued to increase, yet our driver remained calm and professional, even under our constant questioning—what’s the latest estimated time of arrival. (The neighbor sitting in the front seat next to the driver told us later, the driver was calm, but his hands were shaking just a bit).
At 4:40 (last call for boarding was at 4:45) we asked the driver yet again, “How much longer before we reach the ship?” And he said, “Another 20-25 minutes if we don’t hit worsening traffic.” Just then, a slow-moving truck pulled into traffic right in front of us—and the van became very, very quiet.
I prayed for a miracle—and I’m pretty certain others in the van did, too.
A few minutes later, suddenly, out of nowhere, we could see the ship in the distance and the tour company called the driver to say he had permission to drop us off directly at the pier. As we continued to move along through traffic, the clock showed 5:06 pm—6 minutes later than the 5:00 pm ship departure time. Hopeful that we were close enough to still maybe make it, one of our neighbors asked the group, “Can anyone here still run?” (we’re all in our sixties/seventies). Ron volunteered and was one of two designated runners prepared to leap from the van the moment we would come to a stop. When we finally did stop about 5 minutes later, we all grabbed our belongings and ran as fast as we could for the ship.
At the point of security, we were waved through and rushed to the dock. Unbelievably, the ship was still there and the gangway still extended. About 25 crew members greeted us, shouting, “Hurry!” Ron arrived first and they told him they were waiting for 10 people who had managed to get to the Captain. Ron simply said, “That would be us.”
And so we all squeaked on board.
As we sat on the top deck watching the ship slowly pull away from St. Maarten, several in the group commented, “I don’t know how we made it. We were 20 minutes away in heavy traffic, then suddenly, we were here!”
I whispered, “Thank you, Lord!” And I later found out, I wasn’t the only one.
To some, it may seem silly or a stretch to think the Lord was somehow involved in our stressful journey. You might even be saying to yourself: “Well, this is all just coincidence—or good karma. Besides, God doesn’t get involved in the little things in our lives.”
To this I would respond: “God is involved in the details of our lives. He hears and has an answer to our prayers. Sometimes He gives us what we ask for—often in a way that is mysterious or a beautiful surprise! Sometimes His answer may be no or not right now. And when that happens, instead of losing faith, we need to trust Him and His plan for us.
In hindsight, asking for help through prayer about our need to catch our ship was not a trivial matter. If we had missed this ship, some would have been without life-saving medications for several days, and without the identification necessary to return to the United States (most had left their passports, credit cards, and cash on the ship) travel home would have been very difficult. There would have been no way to just catch up with the departed ship at the next port—for it was sailing for the next 3 nights and days directly back to the United States.
Reaching the Captain, the Captain holding the ship when he was not required to do so, arriving at the port just in time against all odds—is it possible that God had a hand in the outcome of this journey? A response to our prayers? I happen to think so!