By JOHN DE SILVA
How many professions are there in the world? Let’s forget the one which is said to be the oldest! Lets consider one of the noble ones; doctor of medicine. The sick consult a doctor and the doctor with his medicine cure the sick But, how many of the doctors would be rational and have the openness to talk about their experiences, in Gods hands by way of miracles, when they treated patience, performed operation on them…
Yet, one doctor prayed prior to commence surgery on a patient faced with inevitable death due to an acute neurological disease.
Doctor prayed,”Lord, I need a (booster) helping hand here. You could do a wonder for my faith now. Somehow bring Joe out of this impasse”.
Two days following the surgery Joe recovered; few days later he went home.
One of the neurosurgeons, an exceptionally brilliant man, and one does not acknowledge belief in God, pondered this matter about Joe and questioned the doctor who performed the operation to figure out an answer. The doctor said “Absolutely none” No proper explanation could be offered with regard to recovery of Joe.
Then the neurosurgeon said, “I know, but I think I’ve finally figured it out”. All agreed that it was a miracle.
I am a professional, too. A Master Mariner and this is my story:
In August 2007, I worked on a small container ship. The ship carried cargo between Townsville and few ports in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Around the coast of PNG and its islands the passengers and cargo are transported by sea. Due to difficult terrain across the mountains that extended right across island, construction of good roads would not have been possible.
Our ship called at Vanimo at-least once a month.
Vanimo is a port in PNG, situated on the Northern coast near the Indonesian border. To my knowledge, only two ships called at port of Vanimo monthly. The entire Sandaun state was served by this port. The people living there depend on these ships to bring their daily needs, from medicine to alcohol. Therefore, maintaining the schedules of the two ships has been of paramount importance. Although significant in nature, it is a very small port.
For a captain of a ship the port was a nightmare. No pilots to guide him, no tugs to assist in berthing the ship. In comparison to the 80 meters length of the ship the jetty is only about 35 to 40 meters long. Also the approach was a very difficult one due to a partly submerged wreck on the approach route and shallow water throughout the port.
As a result, there was very little space to maneuver. As there were no mooring-men, someone would stand on the jetty to collect one end of the ships mooring lines and put it on a bollard ashore. The mooring-men were usually supplied by the port. However, at Vanimo it was different. Some of the laborers engaged in discharging cargo assisted the ship in this matter.
Basically, the berthing was done by using short engine movements and controlling the mooring lines. Having examined all those limitations and difficulties, on my maiden trip to Vanimo, I berthed the ship, and sailed t out, without any problem.
However, it was not plain sailing during the next call at this port. Having done the job ones without any problem, I would have been over confident, too.
The ship was about two nautical miles away from Vanimo at 7.00 AM on August 6, 2007. It was low tide. The lowest for this area recorded for that time was below chart datum. This means, around 8.30 AM, there was very little clearance under the keel (the structure at the bottom of a ship). I had no way of delaying for the reasons already mentioned. Nevertheless, a captain of a ship is authorized to take any action for the safety of ship.
By 7.30 am the ship was making perpendicular approach to the jetty. This was normal. Due to rising sun, my front view was obscured. But the second officer who manned the forward stations advised me that, there were no one on the jetty and on the yard to take the ship’s mooring lines. I maneuvered the ship and kept on approaching even after I was repeatedly advised that there wasn’t a soul to assist us with the lines.
When the ship was about 20 meters from the jetty, I was able to see the jetty and the container yard very clearly. Yes, there was no one there! The depth sounder on the bridge indicated the under keel clearance was about 35 centimeters. It was a grueling situation
Just like the doctor who put his hand to perform the operation which was an impossible task, I too turned to God and prayed:” Lord my God, I am in the most difficult situation that I can think of. Please help me. It’s only you could do it for me!”
The situation was getting worse, with the tide reaching the lowest ebb. If the vessel touched the bottom the situation would have been precarious.
At that time, the chief officer, chief engineer and the helms-man were the others who were on the bridge. All four of us were silent, and were staring at the jetty. Suddenly I saw a man running towards jetty. He was wearing slacks and a red ‘T’ shirt. From his behavior it appeared that he was coming to help us. In-fact, if the man takes one mooring line and put it on a bollard ashore, it would solve my problem.
I turned around and saw the others on the bridge too looked relieved.
I was awestruck and thanked God.
In the meantime, the second officer confirmed that, the man had taken one line and put it on a bollard. So we could berth the ship. Thereafter the same man was running towards after part of the ship to help us with after mooring lines. While maneuvering the ship to berth alongside I called the second officer and said,”Eddie, call the man who helped us and ask to him see me after berthing.”
He replied, “Captain, I do not see the man around”. I said, “This is ridiculous Are you trying to tell me the man who was wearing a red ‘T’ shirt and ran across the container yard is not around?” He replied once again, “Captain I do not see anybody wearing a Red ‘T’ shirt.”
Then I immediately called the third officer who was manning the after stations. He said, “Captain there are two security guards here helping me with the ropes and there is no any other person around.” Security guards had arrived at the scene much later, and they were in there uniforms I reiterated, “Please look for the man who was the first to come to help us.”
I repeated, “There was no way a person who was wearing a ‘T’ shirt with such a conspicuous color could disappear in that empty yard.”
Upon berthing the ship I called all crew who manned forward and after stations.
In the meantime I re-checked all the others who were with me on the bridge about the man, and all of them confirmed that they saw him. But when the others arrived on the bridge, I asked the same question. It was a mystery that, none of them remembered seeing the man No such person.
Then who on earth came to help us?
Just a little while later, like a flash it stuck my mind that it was an encounter with the Holy Spirit All others agreed.
If the ship remained in that position for another half and hour, there was a good chance of stranding.
Copyright 2009 John De Silva