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Saved by the Father's Warmth

A seminary student experiences a crisis of faith when he finds his life in imminent danger.

By Haengso Hong, Seoul, South Korea

As appeared in

He was the only one who knew I was out here. I’d dedicated my life to serving him. Given sermons on the power of prayer. Trusted that he’d always be there for me. Now the one time I needed him most... Please God! I only have a few minutes left.

I thought of my parents and fiancée in Korea. Would I ever see them again? My heart ached with sorrow. I felt so alone. Forgotten. I wanted to cry, but no tears would come. I couldn’t move, couldn’t feel a thing.

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I gazed helplessly at the shore. I faded in and out of consciousness. It’s over. No one was coming to rescue me. My eyes closed. I forced them open. I felt the oddest sensation, not a voice, more like an insistent internal message: Make a noise, like an animal.

I opened my mouth and howled like a wolf. My tongue was so swollen I could barely make a sound. Why had God abandoned me? Was I that insignificant to him?

Everything around me was hazy. Soon I’d slip beneath the surface for the last time. Father God, I give you my spirit. Would he hear me even now?

What was that sound? Someone shouting? A man coming to me carrying a sled. I recognized his face. Robert, the caretaker from the retreat center. Someone had heard me. But it was too late. I was sinking, drowning. Everything went black.

I awoke groggy and disoriented. There was a nurse beside me. “Haengso! My name is Emily. You’re at South Bend Memorial. You’re going to be okay.” I looked around. I wondered how long I’d been here.

“It’s six,” she said. “Still Saturday. Everybody is going to be very glad to see you. You know a person can only last in freezing water for forty-five minutes. You must’ve been in the water that long.”

Friends and faculty from seminary came to visit me. “It’s incredible you survived,” they said. “When you got to the hospital your temperature was only eighty degrees. You’re lucky to be alive.”

I was grateful to have survived, but that’s what it seemed like to me, simply dumb luck. It couldn’t fill the emptiness inside of me. I needed to know my life mattered to God. If he’d been with me in the icy water wouldn’t I have sensed it?

The next afternoon I was released. A friend drove me back to the retreat center so I could retrieve my car. Robert answered the door. “Boy, am I glad to see you,” he said. “My wife and I have been praying for you.”

“Thank you for rescuing me,” I said. “They say I’m lucky to be here.”

Robert looked puzzled. “Luck? It wasn’t luck. It was a miracle. We’d just gotten back to the house at one forty-five when I heard a grunting sound. I looked and saw you out on the ice. I ran and got a rope and sled and made my way out to you. But I could only hold you. It was another twenty-five minutes before the paramedics got you out of the water.”

I’d been in freezing water for over 80 minutes! Far longer than humanly possible. I was stunned and a little ashamed. How could I have ever doubted?

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I’d come to the retreat center wanting to be closer to my heavenly Father, wanting to feel his love for me. When I fell through the ice, he drew me into his arms and held me close. The warmth of his love, that was what saved me.


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