A short, true story with a moral lesson.
Alone With God Part I
By David F. Garner
'It changed Moses' life, it renewed Elijah's spirit, and it prepared Jesus for ministry. Why shouldn't I try it?' I thought to myself. I was of course thinking of a solo wilderness experience. Time alone in nature, with God. 'But what if something goes wrong?' a voiced that sounding surprisingly like my mother's, echoed in my head.
It was spring break during my year as a student missionary in the Pacific Marshall Islands. I wanted to draw closer to God for my own personal relationship, and to be a more effective missionary. I decided to spend a whole week surviving alone on a small, uninhabited, tropical island.
I arrived with a hammock, knife, bible, and a few food and water supplies. As I stood alone on the island I realized I would have no human contact for 7 days, the longest in my life. I had no radio, no satellite phone, and no emergency signal. A feeling of true aloneness sank in. I prayed right then for God to be with me and to do what I had come to allow Him to do. I felt comforted knowing God was with me.
Remembering my training from Pathfinders and wilderness survival courses, I knew that staying busy would help keep me from feeling alone. So I set to work and put up my hammock and organized my wilderness camp. I recalled the survival rule-of-threes that says, three minutes for air, three hours for shelter, three days for water, and three weeks for food. This is a rule of thumb to help survivors prioritize what their body need most urgently.
Air, of course, was not a concern in this situation so I could skip to the next step-- shelter. I put my hammock under a large, low-hanging tree to protect me from the sun and rain. One purpose of shelter is to keep warm, so fire is an essential part of it. I needed plenty of firewood and kindling to start a fire. Dry coconut-tree branches and coconut husks were plentiful.
I gathered several armfuls to put in my survival camp. Since it was a small island there was not much protection from the wind. To make sure the wind didn't blow out my fire I built a fire ring and windshield to block the wind.
As the sun went down the first day, I sat on the beach listening to the waves and reading my Bible. I had hours to spend reading! I had never taken so much time to read the bible before. I did not rush through the reading as so often happens in my morning devotions. I was able to really contemplate what I read.
The next day the sun woke me early. However, I did not need to get up to be anywhere. So I prayed as I swung in my hammock and watched the sun rise. I realized that the sun comes up every morning with incredible beauty just for me, for us, God's children. He could have made it like an electric light that instantly comes on blaring in our sleepy eyes every morning. But he did not! He made it rise gradually so the light increases slowly enough that it does not hurt our eyes! What a loving, personal God!
With the new day I remembered the third step in the rule-of-threes--water. I estimated I had enough water for five days and I knew it would take a couple of days to catch more water to drink. I dug a wide, shallow, bowl-shaped hole and built a solar still.
To build a solar still, a container is placed at the center of the hole. The hole is then covered with a tarp tied to stakes at the corners and small rocks placed in the center to weight it down. It looks like an upside down umbrella. When the sun hits it, water from the ground condenses on the plastic and runs to the center and drips in the container. Also, if there is rain, as there often is on Pacific islands, the bowl-like plastic fills. That done I turned to my next task.
I had not eaten for over 36 hours and my stomach was reminding me very loudly. I wondered how Jesus made it forty days without food! Going just 36 hours gave me new appreciation for how temped He must have been when the Devil told Him to just turn some stone into bread. It would have been so, so easy. But he loved us too much! He preferred to go hungry than to give into temptation.
I decided to try to get food as the natives had done for hundreds of years. The primary natural source of food was the reef surrounding the island. I had learned to spearfish from some native Islanders in the proceeding months. The only problem was they no longer use the old methods to fish. They use modern spears and a snorkel and mask made with modern technology. I did not have that advantage.
I spent most of the day swimming around the reef trying to corner a fish and grab it. As you probably already guessed they were always quicker than me. I was like a fish out of water. Finally, I came up with a brilliant plan. I found a long straight stick. I would use it like a spear. I could thrust it much quicker than grabbing at a fish. I sharpened it with my knife. Swimming in a shallow part of the reef I was able to corner a large parrotfish and I was sure I finally had dinner. I drove my spear at it.
To be continued.
Alone With God Part II
By David F. Garner
Alone on an uninhabited island, I was beginning to feel the effects of my solitude. I had ventured out to gain a closer experience with God by spending seven days alone in this remote island wilderness. With no means of communication I had prayed and God had reminded me He was with me.
On the second day I was trying to acquire food like the natives had for generations. I had a stick for a spear and was trying to get a parrotfish for dinner in the reef just off the island. I had it cornered. As I drove my spear at it I blinked, and missed. 'Lucky for him,' I thought. As it was too dark to try any longer I went to bed with just the granola bar I had planned to eat along with the fish.
The next morning I awoke to my growling stomach. Drinking some of the water from the solar still I had made the previous day helped to quiet my stomach. I took a walk around the small island and prayed in the cool morning breeze.
I remembered hearing that the Garden of Eden was probably similar to the tropical climate. The nights on my island were cool but not too cold due to the warm breeze blowing off the ocean. I needed no blanket to sleep. The mornings and evenings were nice as well. While the days could get pretty hot, the shade of the coconut trees and the ocean breeze blowing over the small island kept it from being unbearable. As I prayed on my walk I thanked God for this glimpse of what heaven must be like.
Upon my return I decided it was time to get some food. Step four of the rule-of-threes (mentioned in Part I) says a person can go three weeks before they really need food. My stomach said otherwise. If it is possible to get food in a survival situation there is no need to wait to eat some. If food is limited it is wise to ration it. That is what I had been doing with the supplies I brought.
I had seen how the Islanders climb the coconut trees. I decided I was ready to try. Hugging the base of the tree, I clung to it and pulled my bear feet up as high as I could and put them on either side of the tree. I was able to sit with my feet clamped on the tree and let go with my arms. It was felt like sitting on the floor with the bottoms of my feet together pulled as close to my hips as possible. Reaching my arms up and pushing up on my feet a bit I slowly climbed up the truck on the coconut tree. It was tiring and it hurt. The Islanders made it look so easy.
When I reached the top I cut down some coconuts. The first one I opened was not very ripe or flavorful. The second one had sweet coconut water inside and the meat was very tasty. I have never eaten as much coconut in one meal as I did that day.
The next day, after another meal of coconut, I saved some of the coconut meat to roast over a fire. I gathered some more dried branches and coconut husk which is very fibrous. I pulled the fibers apart and put them in a loose bundle that fit in one hand. This I lit with a match and blew on to get a flame going. Laying this in the fire ring I placed kindling on top the size of tiny twigs. I fanned the flame and continued to blow on it. As it grew I placed slightly larger and larger twigs on. When I had a decent fire going I placed a grate that I had found on the island over top to roast my coconut meat.
I began to follow a routine each day. The next few days went by rather quickly. I tried to stay busy so I would not feel lonely or board. I found that I prayed so much that I started to run out of things to pray about. My prayers became more of a conversation with God. Instead of just asking or thanking God for things, I began to talk to God more like a friend. I told Him how I felt about things. If I was worried or if I was happy, I told Him. God began to seem much less distant. He seemed more like a person than a distant being hundreds of light-years away. I had always been told God is like a friend, but experiencing it makes it much more real!
As my week began to draw to a close I realized it had not rained once! I went expecting to be soaked at least once during the week. The sky in the tropics can turn from sunny to cloudy in half an hour. Rainstorms come seemingly out of nowhere and drench everything in torrential downpours. I knew if it had rained I would have been ok. But I probably would have grown chilly and uncomfortable in wet cloths. With no rain the whole week it was a reminder that God cares about more than just our basic needs. He cares about how we feel too!
For the last day I had brought food to make a wilderness banquet. For dessert I made a pumpkin pie in a portable solar oven. It took the whole day to bake. But at the end of seven days it was well worth the wait! I don't think pumpkin pie has ever tasted so good as that one did! As I dined watching the sun sink in the sky I thought about all God had shown me.
Spending time with God's word in His creation is surely the best place to grow closer to Him! Going to church is important. But sometimes it is good to get away from friends and even family to be with God alone. Even simply finding a quiet spot for half an hour in the backyard or while at the park can help us grow closer to Him! Talk with your family about how you can spend more time with God.