Sometimes there are great revelations that come out of our storms. Let me tell you about a man named Tom White.
In the 1970’s when America was full of protest marches and flower power, stories began coming out of Castro’s Cuba of terrible torture and imprisonment of Christians there. Castro’s government denied all the allegations, but refugees who made the dangerous crossing to Florida’s shores told another story. In the winter of 1972, Tom White arranged for a fishing boat to sail along Cuba’s coast, and he and a few others dumped 50,000 watertight plastic packets into the sea to be washed ashore. The packets contained Spanish translations of the New Testament.
A year later Tom planned another similar boat ride, but the boat and captain became unavailable at the last minute. Tom found a Christian pilot who agreed to fly him over the island in the dead of night, and Tom dropped a hundred thousand more of the leaflets. If the story ended there it would still be good enough, but Tom’s life was about to take a drastic turn.
In December of 1973 Tom married, bought a home, and became a leader in his local church. Soon, he began to feel sick, grow weak and pale, and was unable to keep any kind of food down. The doctors confirmed stomach cancer, and Tom went through a long and difficult course of treatment. A little less than a year later, still too weak to walk by himself, Tom felt compelled to organize another air lift drop over Cuba. The leaflets were printed; the pilot was lined up, and Tom insisted on boarding the plane to help drop another load of Spanish New Testaments over Cuba.
Unfortunately another one of those severe storms at sea changed his plans. The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in Cuba, and Tom and two others were arrested and thrown into prison. All of them were tortured, starved, and accused of being U.S. spies. Tom never took his eyes off Jesus, and could be heard throughout the day singing hymns and reciting Scripture during his confinement.
Seventeen months later, Tom and his friends were released and he returned to the United States. Tom would later tell of seeing a ghostly figure in his cell with him almost nightly. When Tom would feel himself slipping into the dark hole of unconsciousness, the figure would reach for his hand and forcibly pull Tom back up to the confines of his cell. His jailer would command Tom to stop "talking to himself" but Tom explained he was talking with his "cell-mate," and praying to God for the jailer’s soul. The jailer would shake his head and walk away, but 17 months later, it was this jailer who opened Tom’s cell door and escorted him to freedom.
The storm that brought down Tom’s plane in the middle of enemy territory also served to strengthen Tom’s resolve to reach the citizens of Cuba, and to reach out in a much more personal way to a jailer who was lost. Tom later said that he was better able to face every challenge that came along in his life from that point on, because he had been to hell, and Jesus had pulled him out.
The storms in our life are not sent by God; but sometimes they allow us to see the God who reaches down to save us more clearly. Tom White, and the disciples on that day long ago saw a very real Christ reaching to them. Today, the image may not be as clear, but Christ’s actions in our life are happening just as often.
God does not wish the storms of life upon us, but when everything in our lives is going well, we often see no need to rely on our faith. We don’t see the point in crying out to God for rescue when rescue isn’t necessary.
Related Text Illustrations
Contributed by Brian Mavis on Oct 27, 2000
You share Christ by imitating Christ. A story is told – by Fredrick Beuchner I believe – called “The Happy Hypocrite." It is a story about a man who was born with an awful facial deformity. He grew up alone and lonely. When reaching adulthood, he decided to move from his town to begin a new life. ...read more
Contributed by Tim Zingale on Dec 12, 2000
Remember the opening scene: the village and you see a fiddler on the roof and Tevye says:"A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? but in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. ...read more
Contributed by Owen Bourgaize on Oct 18, 2000
Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ and he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change ...read more
Contributed by Philip Makari on Jan 17, 2001
Here I speak of a special type of giving, the giving of our total selves first to God. It is the giving of body, soul and spirit for God’s use that we may achieve, for ourselves and for others, the higher ends of God. This is not, as you can see, charity giving. This is dedication giving. ...read more