Last August, a number of people from our church decided to go kayaking on a river near Paris, Ont. We all thought it would be a great opportunity to build relationships. It was—but not in the way we expected.

I was especially happy that Howard was coming along with us. Howard’s life had been interesting. He’d lived on the streets before meeting Captains Ron and Linda Farr, my predecessors at The Salvation Army’s Warehouse Mission in Toronto, and his faith and church involvement had continued to grow since my arrival.

I wasn’t as certain about his seafaring abilities, however—he’d never kayaked before—and no sooner had the seven of us adventurers climbed into our crafts and drifted out of sight of the kayak rental facility than Howard’s paddle snapped in two. We joked later that he was up the creek without a paddle, but at the time, it wasn’t anything to laugh about, especially as we were heading down the river toward a waterfall a short distance ahead.

A Wet Reunion
Even veteran kayakers such as myself would have experienced difficulty at this point. While Howard gamely tried to keep his craft seaworthy in the fast-moving current, he wasn’t able to avoid a large rock. With his life preserver keeping him afloat, Howard abandoned ship and clung to the rock for dear life.

We could see that Howard was getting a little agitated, so I sent Rob, one of our number, to paddle over to watch him. Meanwhile, Howard’s kayak started filling up with water as it drifted downstream, so after collecting the broken oar, Sam and I paddled over to retrieve it.

All the while, we had drifted further away from Howard, who was stranded on the rock. We had to paddle upstream, kayak in tow, and figure out how to get Howard back into his craft.

I was exhausted but relieved by the thought that the worst was over. Up until now, Howard had been perched safely on the rock next to Rob in his own kayak. All we had to do was steady the kayak so Howard could safely climb back in. But when he saw us labouriously paddling toward him, he couldn’t resist jumping in the river to meet us!

When we finally managed to get Howard back in the kayak, we paddled down the river to reunite with the rest of our group.

Never Too Late
As it happens, our church had been looking at the story of David, the humble shepherd who became the king of Israel (see 2 Samuel 7). Some in the congregation had gotten a less-than-favourable impression of King David and wondered how God could love him despite the choices and mistakes he had made.

In my sermon the Sunday after our outing, I contrasted that with the choices and mistakes made by Howard on the river: breaking his paddle, capsizing his boat and jumping back in the water to swim out to us.

Despite all that, we had been willing to do anything for Howard, because we love him. Yet God loved David—and loves us—infinitely more than we could ever love Howard. And there is nothing we can do that will ever cause God to withhold the eternal joy of salvation. But like Howard, all we need to do is reach out and make the choice—hopefully without getting waterlogged in the process!

Captain Michael Ramsay is the corps officer at The Salvation Army’s 614 Warehouse Mission in Toronto.

Feature photo: © gaspr13/

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