A few years ago we had the opportunity to visit the Philippines, meet many of Karen’s relatives & see where her mother grew up. There were so many unique experiences, it’s a trip I will always remember. However, one experience in particular forged a deep and lasting memory, a memory that even today I’m able to look back on and see God’s amazing provision.
This day started like most days during our 3 week visit, but little did we know what was coming. We decided to visit the island of Corregidor, which held significant military value during World War II and its capture led to the death march of Bataan. There were many interesting places to visit & things to see, but it was the mode of transportation that left the greatest impression.
Before we arrived at Corregidor, we had to decide how we wanted to get there. It was on a different island. We were fortunate to have a driver during our vacation that knew his way around and would provide advice as we traveled. He said he knew of a quicker way to get to Corregidor, one that would save us hours of driving around the Bay of Manila. Who doesn’t love a short cut, we were all in! Until we arrived at someones house, a shack. At the end of their backyard were several “banca” boats which are the traditional form of transportation between the 1000’s of islands in the Philippines.
As we all looked at each other and at the backyard banca boats, there were many thoughts going through my head. Mainly “I’m not getting in ‘that’ to go there!” After much discussion, Karen’s mom said it looked good to her, so with that & the confidence in our driver we said “yes”. We boarded the banca and headed out to cross the water between the Bay of Manila & the South China Sea. Did I forget to mention Karen’s mom has a degenerative eye disease and has limited vision? What could possibly go wrong?
The ride over was quite scenic, the tour of Corregidor extremely informative and the sense of history was all around us. As we prepared to head back we noticed the skies growing darker and the winds picking up. What was once a calm, smooth surface of water, was now very choppy. After only a few minutes into the bay, the rains, winds and waves really kicked up! What started as a banca ride filled with smiles and laughter had grown eerily silent with a noticeable air of concern. That is except for our then 6 year old son who’s yelling “BIGGER WAVES, BIGGER WAVES! THIS IS AWESOME!”
It’s about now that I’m questioning all my previous decisions. Getting into a backyard banca boat, wearing life jackets that don’t tie or zip, and traveling on the ocean late in the afternoon (we later learned it’s not wise to travel the bay so late in the afternoon). A ride that took 20 minutes earlier, was seeming to take an eternity. Speaking of eternity, I’d say it was about now that I was in serious conversation with God. I’m literally thinking to myself – “we are going to die, I’ve led my family to their death!” I’m looking at my family, evaluating the situation, asking myself “what would I do if this backyard banca boat tips?”.
By now, we are violently crashing up and down over 5-6ft waves, holding on for dear life. I look back at our “captain” who’s steering the banca with a tiny motor, standing on the round wet wood edge – without shoes! I’m now thinking, “what happens if he falls off the banca?” (by the way he’s not wearing a life vest.) If this isn’t bad enough, I realize we aren’t even heading toward land, we are heading away from the coast where we need to be. We are 45 minutes into a 20 minute banca ride, soaking wet, in a crazy storm, headed away from where we needed to go.
Then our “captain” turns the boat to begin his very deliberate and planned path back to shore. Traveling with the waves, not against them. He rev’d the motor and then stopped it over and over again, skillfully maneuvering this tiny banca over each set of relentlessly oncoming waves to guide us back to our destination safely. We laugh about it now. We survived. Believe it or not we were back in another banca a couple days later. That time in a different banca experience, we asked about the best time to be in the water, of course a different man suggested, “yeah, you don’t want to be out on the water late in the afternoon, it’s not safe”. Really!
As Christ followers, He may be asking you to leave your comfort zone and to step into something that seems crazy. When Jesus said to Peter, “Come”, Peter got out of the ship and walked on the water, but when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and saw the boisterous wind, he was afraid and began to sink. The good news is that the story doesn’t end with Peter sinking, the Bible says that when Peter cried out “Lord, save me”, immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him. In a way, when Jesus said “Come”, he was asking Peter “do you trust me?”
In our journey to move our family to the Dominican Republic I’ve never thought “bigger waves, bigger waves” but there have been times when I’ve thought “please, no more waves, these waves are big enough”. I believe God allowed me to have the backyard banca boat experience as a reminder that it’s not about the size of the waves, it’s about the size of my God & that keeping my eyes on Him through the storms of life is what ultimately gets us where He wants us, where we need to be!
Interestingly enough, Corregidor comes from the Spanish word “corregir – to correct”. One story says the island was called Isla del Corregidor (literally, Island of the Corrector) due to the Spanish customs system, wherein all ships entering Manila Bay were required to stop and have their documents checked and “corrected”. I can tell you with absolute certainty that God used this experience to “correct” my understanding of His plans for my life.