Every year from 1977 through 1986 I taught a weekend seminar called Sonship Convention usually on Easter weekend. This seminar concentrated on understanding what Jesus Christ did for us and what we have in and through His finished redemptive work. The highlight of each year for me was when I could present this material I had studied so much and loved to teach. The convention in 1979 had added significance due to the state of mind I was in spiritually and the general level of faith among the believers in the state.
On April 13th, 1979 I packed up and said my goodbyes to the gentleman I had spent the night with in Meridian and took off for Columbus, Mississippi to pick up some women who attended a woman's college there who wanted desperately to attend that year's convention. I had a deep connection with the believers in Columbus and looked forward to them sitting through the weekend seminar.
It must be remembered that in 1979 there were no cell phones, computers or weather channel . There was not even any cable television. I was aware that it had rained all night but I was totally unaware that in central Mississippi it had rained 22 inches in 12 hours. This amount of rainfall, which shattered all records, was bound to produce significant flooding, which it did. Being unaware of this, I took off on the 90 minute drive still savoring the thrill of the evening before and the tornado.
About 50 miles into my trip, the traffic started slowing and then came to a complete stop. I was aware of a lot of water in the fields on either side of the road, but I was unaware of any rivers. As it turned out, a very small river had been inundated with runoff from the storms overnight and had turned into another Mississippi River. As the cars in front of me crept along at a snail's pace, I could see that the problem was water from the river was flowing across the road. To me, this was a minor inconvenience since I had driven through water many times without incident. Not this time.
The State Patrol had been stopping each car and warning them of the hazard the flooding presented. Many cars turned around, but a few decided to drive through the water to the other side (about a mile). When I finally reached the stop point, the officer said the road was now closed and it was unsafe for anyone else to go. I argued vehemently that I HAD to get to Columbus and besides, my ministry car was a 1976 Ford station wagon which was built like a tank and had plenty of weight. Finally the officer relented and allowed me to drive through the water, but he made sure I understood the risks involved and how no one could rescue me if I was swept away.
About half way across the bulging river, I understood why they were closing the highway. Not only was the water deep, the current was incredibly strong. I was honestly amazed that the car kept running though water that was lapping on the driver's side window. A smaller car would have been lifted off the road and sent tumbling down the river to a not too pleasant future. I just kept praying that since I was doing God's will, He had to keep my car on the road and get me to the other side. I kept remembering the night before and the tornado.
I finally reached the point where the original river was and the current was VERY strong. I felt as though some giant was pushing with all of his might against the side of the car. It was then I made the mistake of looking to my right at what the future held if I were swept off the road. My best guess was certain death. In the few moments I had before catastrophe hit, I forced my mind to lock into the promises of God and I literally placed my life in the hands of God. Unlike the night before, there was nothing to rebuke. All I could do was to literally have faith that Almighty God would somehow keep that car I was trying to drive through nearly four feet of water on the road for another 500 feet.
To be honest, I thought it was all over when the car started to drift to the right toward the edge of the pavement. As I fought the current and the panic rising inside of me, I understood I had reached the moment of truth in my life wherein I would be forever known as a foolhardy kid or a true believer in God's power. I deliberately made the decision that I was indeed a true believer and stubbornly steered the car back onto the road. Incredibly, it responded and almost instantly all four tires were once again on solid ground. A few minutes later it was all over and I was out of the water.
The officer on the other side stood there in utter shock that I had made it across that raging river. He was shaking his head as if to say, 'you are the luckiest man on earth'. If the window would have worked, I would have corrected him by telling him that God pulled me through that river and not luck.
Standing in the path of a tornado was easy compared to making it across a raging river. Nothing in life, before or since, produced the feelings inside of me when I realized this is it , either I believe God or I am dead. As I conclude this blog, I am overcome with thanksgiving that God did indeed send some angels to rescue me that day. How they kept that car on the road and running through nearly four feet of water I will never know. All I know is that God heard my plea and saved me from certain destruction.
I did indeed pick up the women and we took another way back to Jackson. As we drove, it looked like we are on a bridge over the ocean. Miles upon miles of water covered what had been farmland 24 hours earlier. Some of the worst damage was in Jackson, but thankfully we lived on high ground to the east of the city. The Easter flood in Mississippi that year was the greatest natural disaster the state ever knew until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I can certainly say that I saw it all firsthand and if possible, I pray that I never again in this life have to do it again. Thank God for His mercy, grace and power in all He did those two days in April 36 years ago that allowed me to still be here today writing blogs that hopefully bless your lives. Thank you for allowing me to share these two incidents that greatly changed my life.