The captain of The Lady Elgin ordered cargo and cattle to be thrown overboard, but the ship sank in less than twenty minutes, ten miles from shore in three hundred feet of water. Two lifeboats made it to shore, and other survivors were rescued from make-shift rafts and floating debris. More than three hundred people did not survive, either drowning in the open water, or being dashed against the rocks on shore.
A Northwestern University student named Edward Spencer sprang into action. Spencer, a ministerial student at the then-fairly-new university, tied a rope around his body and plunged again and again into the frigid waters. He swam to exhausted, frightened passengers, rescuing 17 of them over the next six hours. Finally reaching the limits of his strength and covered with bruises and cuts from floating debris, Spencer passed out. He woke up in his room in Evanston where his brother William was tending to him. Edward’s first words when he woke were, “Will, did I do my full duty—did I do my best?”
The physical and emotional toll on Spencer was severe, and he never fully recovered. He was forever haunted by the faces and cries of the victims he had not been able to save. He was unable to finish his education and dropped out of school, giving up his dream of serving as a minister. He remained a semi-invalid the rest of his life.
But here is why I tell this story on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Edward Spencer lived to be 81, and at his funeral it was finally told that of the seventeen people he rescued that terrible night, not a single one ever came back to thank him.
Those of us who know Christ have been rescued: “I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore.” The King James Version translates Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…”
This Thanksgiving and every day of the year let us not be like the seventeen, but let us be vocal in our thanksgiving and praise for what God has done for us. Are you thankful for your salvation and for the myriads of blessings God has showered on you? Say so!
--Rocky Henriques, www.uticabc.com