There we were, in a sinking boat, in treacherous water – my family, and the people who were rescuing us from Hurricane Harvey flooding.
We were in very real danger.
My wife and daughter were holding our dog and cat and we were all moving along the water just fine in the rescue boat when, very quickly, conditions changed, and as we neared the take-out point at a nearby bridge, our boat lost control in a rip current of receding floodwater. We were slammed broadside into several trees, the boat made a huge cracking noise, water rushed in over the sides, and we had a minute or two at most before the boat sank all of the way.
Someone quickly dialed 911 and was placed on-hold (the number of calls that came in during Harvey was huge), so I grabbed my cell phone in my pants pocket-which was already starting to get wet-and urgently texted the last three people who had texted me and just said “In danger, please pray.” I didn’t have time to look up names or write any explanations.
I came to find out later, that several of those folks did pray and asked others to pray.
I knew that there were no boats on the water near us, and we were looking everywhere up and down the water, and yelling for help.
Nothing. Just nothing.
We were fast with Fast-moving water, danger with tree limbs and all kinds of stuff in the water, lots of opportunities for our life vests to snag on things and pull us under, and a sinking boat. There was no help on the way.
It doesn’t get any more “real” than that moment.
I’m thankful our story didn’t end with that moment.
Out of nowhere God showed up as Rusty and his friends on a jon boat. They performed a dangerous, and very skillful rescue, ramming their boat against ours at just the right angle, with the right speed, in treacherous water, so that we could get on their boat. I practically threw my daughter onto the bow of their boat, and as we were leaving in their boat.
We watched our boat go under.
People can say whatever they want about good ‘ol boys in bass boats, but I will always have a huge spot in my heart for all of the Harvey heroes, out making rescues. Rusty, Jeff and friends had been told to go home hours before. The dramatic helicopter rescues, etc., that had been show on national TV, had all happened the day before and they said, “No, we’re going to stick around and see if anyone needs us.” God heard everyone’s prayers, and he sent a volunteer boast to rescue us. There’s not a doubt in my mind God had us.
After our rescue, when the water had receded and we came back to our house to see what was left, we had our ugly cry. I think it was in the evening, after the second day of demo-ing the sheetrock and cabinets and “stuff” in our house after everybody had left. If your house floods like that, you know that taking sledge hammers and crow bars to your home has to be done, and done quickly, to save the house, but you go from a beautiful home and a normal life, to just mud, water, and destruction, pretty quickly. It’s a lot to deal with.
There’s some shock. It’s overwhelming. I know I’ve got some Harvey PTSD lingering.
Hurricane Harvey was catastrophic. It dropped 40-61 inches of rainfall in four days (33 trillion gallons of water) on SE Texas and Louisiana. “Harvey was the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes which displaced more than 30,000 people and prompted more than 17,000 rescues” (Wikipedia).
During Harvey, we lost the bottom floor of our house to 4 1/2 feet of water, many of our possessions, both of our cars, our lives were put in extreme danger, we faced many financial question marks, we moved 1,500 miles across the country, I wrapped up my job in Houston with people that I love and care for, to start a new job in the Pacific Northwest, with new people and new challenges.
All at the same time.
God brought us a buyer for our damaged house. Literally at the point where we needed a buyer, a lady walked around the street corner from our neighbor’s house and said “we’re flipping houses in your neighborhood, and we just finished your neighbors … we need another one, would you like to sell us yours?”
God brought us joy through people. The outpouring of love and support right after our home flooded, was unimaginably, overwhelmingly good. It’s hard to describe how much we appreciate the help we received. This was my first experience of really, truly, being in real need and humbly receiving help, and you know what? It’s awesome. People are awesome. People care. People come out in hot, sticky “August in Houston” weather to help you muck out the mud and stinking drywall in your home, and they do it with joy.
People we knew, people we’d never met, people from all over Texas, all over the country, gave and gave and gave, and helped us get back up on our feet. Unbelievable.
God met our immediate needs. We received temporary housing from our friends, our immediate needs, food, water, shelter, prayer and words of encouragement were right there.
There was grace at work when I was off my game and not adding much to anything, and people pulled together around to support me.
We received help from the radio industry where I’ve spent my career.
I learned real empathy for people who go through trauma.
Our lives were saved as a direct answer to prayer.
So … gratitude. I have learned how wonderful it is to simply receive and be grateful. Being strong sounds great, but sometimes the best thing is to simply acknowledge that you’re weak, and to receive, with real gratitude. Being “strong” and self-sufficient sounds like a great American ideal, but in my own life it’s sometimes been a great excuse for me to hold onto pride, and I don’t want to be a proud person, I want to be a grateful person.
It’s a wonderful thing to simply express your gratitude. I am TRULY grateful for all of the help that we received. I am so grateful to God for his faithfulness and for hearing and answering our prayers, right on time and not a moment later.
Ty McFarland is the Program Director for SPIRIT 105.3 and PRAISE 106.5. Tragically, Ty became so increasingly difficult to work with as a DJ, that his bosses decided to solve their recalcitrant staffing problem by promoting him, instead of telling him that he could no longer be on the air. They told him that he was a “straight shooter with upper management written all over him” and invited him into the wonderful world of leadership. This worked. Ty has been a “Program Director” now for most of his career, and he is simply amazed that it’s considered a real job. Ty’s been married to his wife Tonya since 1995, and he absolutely loves being a dad to his daughter, Audrey. He loves the Lord Jesus, and is profoundly in awe of what God has done for all of us, through the cross and resurrection.