My first 11 years were spent living near Flathead Lake in Montana, the largest fresh-water lake west of the Mississippi. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in the water and also took swimming lessons from early on. During the summers of high school, after moving to Libby, Montana, I took water safety and life saving courses. Our classes were at the city pool (no longer in existence) which was drained and re- filled each week. My classes were on Monday evenings—just after the pool had been refilled and wow, was it cold. I got to utilize my training later as we joined Rocky Mountain Bible Mission and helped with and later directed a summer Bible camp. I was the life guard at the swimming hole. Fortunately, I never had to rescue anyone from a life-threatening situation.
One of the rules of life saving is that you do everything possible to rescue someone without going into the water with them. Many would-be rescuers have lost their lives in an attempt to save someone from drowning. A person who is in danger of drowning is usually not thinking logically, is in panic-mode and has extra strength due to all the adrenalin and will grab onto you and take you down with them. If you do have to go in the water after them, you dive before you get to them and while underwater and out of sight, turn them around and get them in a bear hug with one arm around their chest and then do the side stroke while swimming them to safety.
Dawson Trotman (March 25, 1906-June 18, 1956) was the founder of The Navigators in 1934. The Christian ministry, working especially on college campuses and in the military, emphasizes evangelism, one-on-one discipleship, and Scripture memorization. Dawson (known as “Daws”) lost his life on June 18, 1956 while rescuing a girl, Ailene Beck, from drowning while water skiing on Schroon Lake in Adirondack Park in New York. According to one story, he had already rescued two other girls who had fallen into the lake, lifting them back up into the boat, and had gone after the third and didn’t return. He died “lifting others up!”
Daws himself had to be rescued earlier in life, but not from drowning. In high school he was class valedictorian, student body president, chairman of the student council, and captain of the basketball team, but in the next several years his life drifted dangerously. He gambled, drank, and became a “pool shark.” A late night encounter with a local policeman was a catalyst for an encounter with Jesus Christ. Drunk and unable to find his car, Trotman was arrested at an amusement park. Fortunately the officer saw a deeper problem than alcohol and asked, “Son, do you like this kind of life?” Daws replied, “I hate it!” The policeman returned his keys and encouraged him to change his lifestyle.
Two days later, Trotman attended a youth gathering at a local church where contests were conducted for Scripture memorization. Given 10 verses on salvation, Trotman was the only person in the group who memorized them all for the next week’s meeting. Given 10 more verses to memorize on spiritual growth for the next week, Trotman quickly learned them as well. Several weeks later, the Holy Spirit used one of the verses on salvation to speak to Daws’ heart and he prayed, “Oh, God, whatever it means to receive Jesus, I want to do that right now.” He spent the next several years in intensive personal evangelism while committing himself to a discipline of prayer, Bible study and memorization. His sharing with a sailor, Les Spencer, in 1934 marked the beginning of the Navigator organization which has grown to about 3600 staff representing 60 nationalities and working in 101 countries. When Billly Graham spoke at Daws’ funeral, he said that he didn’t know anyone else who had touched as many lives for Christ as Dawson Trotman—a true rescuer of souls.
The greatest “Rescuer” of all time, of course, is our Lord Jesus Christ who came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). Dawson Trotman “lifted up” the girls who would have drowned in Schroon Lake. Jesus was Himself “lifted up” on the Cross and all who look to Him will be rescued from the judgment of sin, which is death (Ro. 6:23), separation from God eternally. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die” (Jn. 12:31,32). “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10).
We can all shout with the Apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:15). Amen!!
A blessed Christmas to you all,