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In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl and five companions sailed from Peru on a crude boat made of balsa logs held together by hemp rope. Heyerdahl believed Polynesia was settled in pre-Columbian times by native South Americans. Using pictures drawn by Spanish Conquistadores, the Kon-Tiki expedition made a raft with the construction techniques of people indigenous to that time and place in order to sail exactly as they would have. They spent 101 days in the Pacific Ocean, covering more than 4,300 miles before arriving at the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. Heyerdahl’s book describing the experience, Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, was a bestseller and the documentary film won an Academy Award in 1951. A museum in Oslo displays the raft-boat.

In the book, Heyerdahl explains that they had little ability to steer and no way to stop the raft’s forward progress. Early in the voyage they discovered that things dropped overboard could not be recovered once they passed behind the raft because the current carried them forward faster than what was lost.

Two months into the voyage and thousands of miles from land, the unthinkable happened. Herman Watzinger lost his footing and fell overboard. The raft, driven by a strong wind in heavy seas, moved ahead faster than he could swim, though he tried valiantly to catch up. Every attempt to throw him a life preserver was blown back by stiff winds. Watzinger would soon drown in the wild waves and the five remaining men could do nothing by stare in horror.

Suddenly Knute Haugland grabbed the life belt and dove into the water. He swam back to Watzinger and wrapped his arms tightly around his exhausted friend while the rest of crew back on the raft pulled them back by the rope tied to the life preserver. All six men landed in Polynesia alive.

That story illustrates something about evangelism and something from our text. We are safe on the raft while people drown. Effective evangelism requires risk for the work of Christ. Haugland risked his life to save Watzinger. Epaphroditus risked his life for the work of Christ.

(From a sermon by Glenn Durham, Christian Heroes, 8/3/2010)

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