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The 700 Club

A Moonlight Rescue in Gator-Infested Swamps

“He never answered me,” says Mike. “I was convinced that he was gone. There was no doubt in my mind that I killed my friend. And I was –it –it’s a bad feeling.”  

Friday night of Father’s Day weekend 2016 Mike got a late night urgent phone call from his grandson Landon asking for help. Mike remembers, “He said, ‘Me and Daddy’s frogging at Ruddock and we broke down. I need you to come get me.’ I said all right.  I’m going to call your other Papa and get him to ride with me so I won’t have to come by myself in the middle of the night. And he said, ‘okay’. So I hung up.”

Soon after, Mike picked up Billy; Landon’s other grandfather who had been in poor health since he had open heart surgery; they launched Mike’s boat after midnight in the swamps near Baton Rouge and began searching for Landon’s disabled boat.

Mike says, “It was a bright moonlit night, so I didn't use my light to drive the boat. And you could see pretty good, but there were some stumps in the water that we could not see. They were submerged about 6 inches. We were running about 38 the last—38 mph the last time I looked. And then –and then bam! The big bang and all I knew was it was dark. I couldn’t see and couldn’t breathe, didn’t know which way was up. Didn’t know what happened. And I hit my head on something and it was the steering wheel of my boat. Then I realized we had flipped the boat.”

Mike was trapped under the boat, and Billy was nowhere to be seen. “And when I got my bearings back,” says Mike, “I started hollering for Billy. And I hollered about three times. He never answered me. And I just knew, there was no doubt in my mind, he was gone.”

Billy had been tossed from the boat. He wasn’t wearing a life jacket and his rubber boots pulled him under. He struggled to breathe and prayed for his life. Billy says, “My boots felt like two cinderblocks pulling me down. I said, ‘Lord, if You don’t get my head above water, You can take me home now, because I’m spent.’ The stamina is gone. And it was just like He put His hands under my boots and just raised me up.”

Mike could now see Billy struggling about 40 feet from the boat. Mike says, “He was wearing out quick. And he told me he wasn’t hurt, but he wasn’t going to last much longer with these boots on. So I swam back under the boat, unlocked the compartment, got the lifejackets out.”

“He threw a lifejacket that landed about 4 foot from me. And it was all I could do to get to the lifejacket,” says Billy. Mike was able to reach Billy and slowly pulled him back to the boat. They rested together on the capsized hull, both thankful to be alive.

Mike says, “How we made it through the initial wreck without getting hurt, only God knows. That’s the only thing – that’s the only thing it can be.”

They tried to signal trucks on a nearby overpass with mike’s flashlight, but no one stopped. Billy says, “When he shone his light in the water, it revealed a new problem. Billy remembers, “He said look over your left shoulder. So I turned my head and looked and there was three alligators like forming a semi-circle like 10 or 15 feet from the boat. And he says now look over your right shoulder. So I look over my right shoulder and there was three more.”

“This is 1:30 in the morning and this is their feeding time,” says Mike, “They’re nocturnal. And they was just making me nervous. Because when I started shining the bank, there was tons of them on the bank and they were all coming in the water, coming—they were curious as to what we were doing and what we were, as if we had food for them. Those alligators had me thinking they were coming to get us.”

Billy says, “I’ve been around gators all my life, but never in a situation like that.”

“I was doing some heavy, heavy, heavy praying to myself while I was in that water. Asking God please, get me out of this,” says Mike.

While they waited and prayed, Mike says he later found out Landon was also praying. “He said God, please help me get this motor started. Because He knew something had happened to us. It’d been hours and we hadn't shown up yet. So, but they didn’t know what. So after we –as soon as he said that, the next time he tried to crank the motor it cranked.”

Landon drove back towards the boat launch. Around three thirty in the morning Billy says he saw a light on the water as Landon’s boat slowly approached. “I wanted to cry when I saw them. It was—it was very emotional.”

“I think we’d have been there all night. And I did not want to spend all night there. You know, it’s just—they were God sent,” says Mike.

Once back on shore, they knew God had answered their prayers as they tested Landon’s motor. Mike remembers, “I said, ‘Landon, crank that motor, see if it will crank’. And it was locked up. It wouldn’t turn over. So you tell me what it was. There's no doubt in my mind what it was. Nobody’ll ever change my mind. It was God. It was God.”

That Sunday after church Mike and Billy gathered with their family and celebrated Father’s Day, thankful God was with them in their time of need, and had heard their prayers. Mike says, “It was good; it was almost like the first Father’s Day I ever had.”

Billy says, “To me it was like a rebirth. The good Lord had given me a second chance because Mike and I both could’ve lost our lives the night before. And Landon would’ve lost both his grandfathers at the same time. And so everybody was very, very joyous over what had happened—how it ended up. And it brought my family closer together. It made them realize that you can be here today and be gone –it might not be a tomorrow. But I look forward to every day, thanking Him for what He’s done, what He’s going to do and what He hasn’t done yet.”

Mike says, “Jesus Christ was watching over us right—you could almost feel Him when we were in that water. I knew He was helping us. If it wasn’t for Him, we wouldn’t be here talking to you right now.”

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