Trust in God and Row for Shore

There's a story I heard many years ago that has a great lesson. You may have heard a version of it.

One day, a man who loves to fish decides that it's a perfect day to enjoy his hobby on the large lake near his house. His wife begs him to stay home. "A storm is coming! I can feel it in my bones!" she declares. Unmoved, the fisherman gathers his gear and sets off in his rowboat to his favorite spot in the middle of the lake.

It's a good day for fishing -- the catch is quite large -- until, suddenly, the weather turns. When he realizes a storm is coming with thunder and lightning, he understands his predicament and begins to pray. "Please God, save me!"

Just then, a man in a motorboat pulls up and says, "If you give me half of your catch, I'll take you to shore." The fisherman refuses, trusting his prayers will be answered. Next, a person on a jet ski arrives, offering a ride. "Hurry! We can beat the storm!" he announces. Still, the fisherman is unmoved. "I've trust in God," he says. "I'll wait for Him."

Rescue upon rescue is turned down. Finally, a massive lightning strike takes the man's life.

At the funeral, would-be rescuers greet the widow. The one on the jet ski tells her of her husband's last words to him: "I've trust in God," he says. "I'll wait for Him."

"What a foolish thing!" the wife cries. "Did God not give him two good arms? Trust in God, yes. But row for shore in the storm!"

Throughout my life, that punch line has become my go-to answer when faced with problems, large or small. I've shortened it a bit -- "Trust in God and row for shore."

I relied on it recently as I set off for a mission visit to Malawi and Zambia. My ticket was bought, my hospitality secured, medical insurance and shots in place, and my multi-entry visa application was filed and paid for.

My approaching storm? Ready to board the plane in New York, my connection to Malawi, my visa was still pending! What to do? First, I prayed. Then I contacted the National Director of The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS) in Malawi, my host bishop in Zambia, and anyone else I could think of with contacts in immigration.

Then, I got on the plane. I did all I could in the thirteen hours to Malawi: I prayed more. As I entered immigration, the Malawian TPMS National Director greeted me with the words, "Maureen! Your visa was granted -- five minutes ago!"

Trust in God and row for shore.

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.