“Oh God, by your name, save me … The Lord sustains my life.”
Harrison Odjeba Okene, is an early riser. At 4:30 AM, one May morning, Harrison was getting a jump on his day as a tugboat cook on the Jascon 4, when his life turned into one of the great stories of deliverance.
The Jascon 4, one of three tugs hauling an oil laden tanker out to sea through Nigeria’s River Delta, with 11 crew, lurched, keeled over and sank into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, coming to rest in 100 feet of water.
God, for your sake, help me! Use your influence to clear me. Listen, God—I’m desperate. Don’t be too busy to hear me. Psalm 54:1, 2 MSG
Quickly coming to grips with an emergency he couldn’t describe but knew he had to survive, Harrison freed himself from the confined space, outlasting the thrashing he took from the debris of a sinking ship as he found a place where he could better breath. He grabbed two flashlights, his Bible, and a bottle of soda to sustain himself. And he started to pray.
Not indiscriminate prayers of a desperate man, but focused prayers that recognized God’s power, clearly identified what he knew of his situation, and how God could free him. And he prayed for the other crew, his family, and his wife of five years as barracuda and sharks wrestled outside the ship’s hull with what sounded like large prey.
Open your ears, God, to my prayer; don’t pretend you don’t hear me knocking. Come close and whisper your answer. I really need you. I shudder at the mean voice, quail before the evil eye, As they pile on the guilt, stockpile angry slander. Psalm 55:1-3 MSG
To ease his hard work on the tug, Harrison’s wife had given him Psalms 54-92 to pray and remember. Those passages carried him through 72 hours of terror, darkness, freezing water and ultimately to the point where a solemn recovery diver reached for Harrison in the cloudy water, and he reached back!
My insides are turned inside out; specters of death have me down. I shake with fear, I shudder from head to foot. “Who will give me wings,” I ask— “wings like a dove?” Get me out of here on dove wings; I want some peace and quiet. I want a walk in the country, I want a cabin in the woods. I’m desperate for a change from rage and stormy weather. Psalm 55:1-8 MSG
Here are three quick keys that Harrison Odjeba Okene’s experience with God and His power to deliver can teach us:
Start praying before you end up 100 ft down on the floor of the Atlantic… in your boxer shorts. Harrison and his wife obviously had a strong relationship with God that gave him the knowledge and experience to focus his prayer, use it for others, and survive his ordeal. No matter where or when, God wants you to know Him.
Recognize the emergency quickly and that to thrive you need God’s help. During the emergency, Harrison could not possibly understand all of the specifics. But he knew he needed God, air, light, and food. After he made sure he had all four, he faced the challenges as they came by following God.
God Knows the Power of Every Single Life! Harrison’s story, while terrifying, has now reached more people who never knew God than most global missions would be honored to reach. God knows the power of every single life and how amazing everyone’s story of deliverance can be!
Read about the story at The Washington Post and see a video of the rescue.