Surviving the Tsunami
I remember that day very clearly, that day when 186,983 people died and 42,883 went missing. People started running and screaming. My wife came to me while I was on the deck of a cabin on the Phi Phi Islands of Thailand. She told me we should go. Of course I’m the kind of guy that just rolls over when a fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night so I didn’t want to go yet. I started asking people what was going on but nobody would answer.
Then it hit me. A huge wave of water smacked me and I was turned upside down and caught in a huge washing machine. I thought I was going to die for sure. It’s too soon to die, I thought. There’s still so much I want to do for God before I die.
When I was 17, I had my future planned: play professional hockey, do commercial artwork and practice law. I was an adolescent with a clean life. Playing Junior A Hockey kept me busy and out of trouble.
One day my English teacher invited me for a weekend retreat. I didn’t know what I was getting into exactly, but I went anyway. That weekend, each person at the retreat had some time to be alone. I sat alone with a Bible and started looking through it. I read the invitation of Christ and was blown away. God gave up his son Jesus to die on the cross in order to pay for my sins—the times I lied, cheated, hated, felt guilty. Jesus offers me forgiveness and a better life, not an easier life, but a better life. Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteous” in Matthew 6:33. The words spoke to me as never before. My worries about accomplishing my future plans in hockey, artwork and law were gone. Those things didn’t matter anymore compared to having a relationship with God. I felt a sense of freedom. I was free and didn’t have to worry; I just wanted to live for God.
I realized that hockey isn’t what makes me who I am. I continued to work hard in it because I loved the sport and I played the best I could. Because there was no more bad pressure or stress, I played even better. My teammates and coach even noticed the difference.
Finding my passion
A few years later, I met my wife Jamie in Minnesota and we got married. We discovered we both loved working with children Jamie was a teacher and I loved taking kids to watch hockey games though I was busy practicing law at the time. We both helped lead kids’ clubs. We would get so many kids who were interested that some had to peak through the windows into the house because there wasn’t enough room for them inside!
Because of my passion for kids, I decided to stop practicing law and start teaching hockey and skating. I now have my own skating school with skating camps where kids all over the world come to learn how to skate, play hockey and know more about God. People recognized me as a skating coach and I had the opportunity to coach the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Canadian National Team and Canadian Women’s Olympic Team. I’ve also worked with many professional hockey players from various NHL teams like the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightening, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, and San Jose Sharks. I chose not to practice law, play professional hockey or do commercial artwork because God guided me elsewhere. He showed me what my passions were and gave me opportunities to pursue them.
Safe after the storm
When I was in Thailand on vacation with my wife in 2003 and the tsunami hit, I couldn’t breathe as tables, chairs and doors moved on top of me. I wasn’t able to swim or float as the water rushed past me. I thought I was going to die.
Miraculously, I was able to somehow get my nose and mouth above the water to breathe but I knew that if someone didn’t find me and save me soon, I wouldn’t last very long. A man saw me alive but struggling, and he called out to an Australian man nearby to help me. I was taken out of the water and to a hospital.
I was devastated when they told me I lost muscle in my leg. I couldn’t walk for two months and didn’t know for sure if I would be able to skate again. If I couldn’t skate then I definitely couldn’t continue teaching people to skate. It would have been so easy for me to blame this all on God. Why take away something so important to me? But I continued to have hope, because Jesus is my hope.
I stayed in a hospital in Bangkok for three weeks. At the hospital, I’d still teach the kids classes, but through a video. I told them I may be in a hospital in Thailand unable to walk or skate, but I still had hope. God is in control of all things and I do not have to worry. He had a plan for my life and always will have a plan for my life. I just need to have faith and continue believing. I didn’t ask myself, why me? Rather, I asked, What can I do with what’s happening? The kids were so encouraged by my positive outlook and I think they understood that it was because I knew Jesus Christ.
After three weeks in Bangkok, I went to a hospital back home in Kelowna, British Coloumbia. I spent a week there and couldn’t walk for a month after that. It was very tough, but I continued to pray and have hope. Soon after, I was able to walk again. It was such a luxury! However, I was determined to skate again, and I prayed I’d be able to skate by May that year so that I could teach the skating camps during the summer. The doctor said I would have to wait until September, but I was hopeful and kept praying. God answered my prayer and I was able to skate and teach by May. What a miracle!
I see families who lost their loved ones in the tsunami and I just can’t believe that I am still alive. I am so grateful that I have another chance to live and that I can continue to live for God. I learned two very significant lessons from the tsunami:
- We don’t have a lot of time on Earth and we don’t know what day we’ll pass away.
- God didn’t save me so I can go golfing all day. I have a responsibility to the people around me. I want to share the message of Jesus with them so they too can have a relationship with God.
Do you know about Jesus? He is God’s Son and my hope. God sacrificed his Son on the cross for our sins because he loves us. All the times we lied, stole, hated, cheated—we are no long guilty because Jesus died on the cross and paid the penalty for us. He rose after three days and continues to live today. If you believe in him and accept him as your Savior, you accept his gift of grace and can come to a personal relationship with God. He has a perfect plan for your life and he has a place for you in heaven.
You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as he is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.