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Saved from a Raging River

Posted on: August 7th, 2012 by Lisa Van Wyk No Comments

Two thousand and ten. The sun was bright, the air dry, and the rivers raging. It was one of the most exhilarating times of my life and one of the deadliest.

I embarked on a Colorado trip with 11 other adventurous women.   It was a June summer day as a big yellow school bus brought us to our destination: Class IV and V advanced white-water rapids. I thought I was in for a fun ride after the tour guide gave a most hilarious, side splitting, last minute training, on how to hang on to your oars, ride the river, and stay alive. I exited the bus, unconscious of the fact he wasn’t kidding, more concerned about hitting the outhouse before squatting in a raft for four hours.


I was blissfully unaware that I was in for the ride of my life. Six of us more daring girls corralled into the same boat, with an oar in one hand, a sticky wet suit, a blue helmet, and an uncomfortably large inflatable vest. Our guide, a single 23-year-old young lad, maneuvered the boat from the rear. His clothes looked dirty, tattered and slept in. I just hope you know what you’re doing, I thought.

I started our journey in the front of the boat riding these unexpected 5’to 8’ high treacherous waves, banging into the rocks, soaked through from head to toe and chilled by the 45 degree water. Wet suits are just that. Wet and cold. I held on to dear life with my oar, while we all ironically laughed and screamed “go faster!” Each time we came to a calm section of the river, we all giggled with glee never having experienced this swelling of fear and fun in combination before. This was definitely the most fun I had ever had in my life.

The second half of the tour wasn’t nearly as exhilarating. I moved to the back left of the boat where there was less impact and less fun. I reluctantly gave up my spot. I did want my other girlfriends to experience the thrilling sensation the few of us already had in front. Be nice and share Lisa. I plopped onto the large inflatable rubber side of the raft with nothing for my legs and feet to brace myself. Hmm. This doesn’t seem right. Even though the few of us girls didn’t feel as much of the impact in the back, the jarring from the waves continually threw us off our hind ends and into the boat. We quickly replaced ourselves and maneuvered the boat around huge rocks with unison paddling for what seemed to be a good half hour.

As we dipped into a new large swell, our raft came out of it half-cocked, turned to the left, crashed into a substantially large boulder, causing the right side of the boat to jet high into thin air, tipping the raft onto its left side and in my direction. We heard our guide yell “High side”! We all leaned to the right, but with nothing to grip onto, the momentum of the impact sent me careening over the edge and into the raging waters.


No! The power of the cold river and waves crashed over me and pulled me under every second as if I had thirty-pound bricks pushing down on me. Every time I came up for air, I swallowed a breath full of water and was slammed back down. Like a rag doll with no bones, I was spun around and dunked over a half-dozen times.

Panic stricken and shocked, flashes of the tour guides instructions slapped through my mind as I tried to calm myself amidst the turbulence. But with every passing moment, I swallowed more and more water and saw my life raft full of friends float further and further away. I kept as calm as possible and put my feet forward so I wouldn’t smash against the penetrating rocks jutting out throughout the flowage. I held on tightly to my oar like I was taught, but I didn’t know what would happen next.

It was hard to concentrate, but I knew the only safe place was in the boat. I allowed the waters to pull me in my friend’s direction, but as the lack of air and uncertainty floated safety and life away, many thoughts raced through my mind, “Did I do enough for God? Was I in His will? What of my family?” Life’s final thoughts when there didn’t seem like there was any hope of tomorrow. Nevertheless, one certain thought flashed through my mind. God was with me. This I found comfort in, and I knew for sure. God was with me. And it made all the difference in the world.

I had only one chance for survival: my crew of five girls and our guide. They were determined to paddle towards me and pull me in. I could see them in the distance as they scrambled to reorient themselves after the crash. Through a lens of water, I saw their terror stricken eyes. Could they get to me in time before the waves swept me past the boat and into the next trough of rocks?

The rivers separated us so quickly, and grew the distance between us. Doubt filled their minds, uncertain they could reach me, and unsure what action to take next. The guide only confirmed their fears as he screamed at them “Start paddling! I’m trying to save a swimmer! If you don’t paddle, we will all fall in!” They hastily positioned themselves and their oars, paddling in sequence and in tune with the guide’s chants. The tick of time was relentlessly slow. They had to paddle fast enough to the middle of the river to cut me off and grab me. I couldn’t bear to think the ensuing danger that laid ahead if they didn’t accomplish their mission.

I am now beginning to understand, there is always hope when things seem to be hopeless. We met in the middle of the river as if the arms of God wrapped around us all and brought us together in perfect unison. The embrace was a bit much for me to bear though, as the rushing waters slammed me against the boat. I threw my arms up trying to grasp onto any bit of hope I could. My girlfriends Amy, Terri, and Donna all tried pulling me in, but the guide only screamed, “Only one person…keep paddling!” What?!!  Didn’t he know? All I wanted was to be in the boat with them, but I was helpless to pull myself up. The top of the large raft was too high and too slippery. My thoughts repeated please, please get me in the boat, get me in the boat! I just want to be in the boat! I couldn’t bear the thought of living another few seconds in this fear.

But fear gave way to hope as I saw the hands of my girl Amy Samarzia reach down and grab hold of my life vest.

In Amy’s hands, I knew, once she grasped onto me, she would never let go. With all her might and determination, she used the strength in her legs and the weight of her body to pull me up and out of the water and backwards into the boat. Finally. I was in. Safety. Inside the boat. I took a deep breath of newfound humility as peace and thankfulness washed over me. The only thing I could be proud of in that moment was that I saved the oar!


Silence fell among us. Without a word, we replaced ourselves and paddled into the calmer section of river. Fifteen minutes trickled by and the silence grew dim as we floated into the final section of our tour. I was overwhelmed with a bittersweet relief and a trailing sensation of fear.

We asked our young guide if this type of incident was normal and he told us at least one person falls into the river per ride, and on this particular stretch of rapids, there had been three commercial deaths so far. As the enormity of the danger became my reality, my eyes swelled with tears; I was deeply grateful for the friends who saved me from the raging river.

Digging Deeper

Each of us will have to face a raging river one day, sometimes more than once. These are the times when things seem to fall apart, when our journey seems too hard to bear and we lose all sight of hope. There will be days when we feel as if we are drowning in despair and uncertainty, burdened by the weight of our circumstances, and we realize there are truly only a few things in this life we really have control over.

Theresa Noye said, “We can get so lost in despair; it can overwhelm us. But if we are able to be still long enough, we will recognize that we are really not alone.”

When life gets the better of us, and it will, it’s then that it may be all we can do to reach out in desperation and cry for help. When the journey seems unbearable, HELP and HOPE is always there. It can be found in a sister, a mother, a father, counselor, mentor, teacher, colleague, friend, and even a child. And when you are alone and think you have exhausted all your options, or need something more or deeper, there is always God: All knowing, All loving, Almighty and Always there.

When Amy grabbed hold of me determined never to let me go, it clearly reminded me of how God pursues us with all HIS power, determined to save us and hold on to us with all His might, determined to rescue us and never let go. We are deeply and intensely loved by Him. He is always with us and we can consistently count on Him.

In the midst of our raging rivers, God our Savior wants to save us and help bring us to that truth (I Timothy 2:4), the truth that says He loves you and will save you (John 3:16). He is willing to do anything and everything to hold on to you. Christ said that once we accept His unfailing love, “God gives us eternal life, and we will never perish; neither will anyone snatch them out of My hand (John 10:28).”

My deepest longing for YOU dear reader is to fully “GRASP HOW WIDE AND LONG AND HIGH AND DEEP IS THE LOVE OF CHRIST [for you], and to KNOW THIS LOVE that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

I pray you know in full God is with you, you understand the depth of love God has for you, and that you live in the center of the power God gives you. May you know this love well and share it with others.

To My Sisterhood: Thank you for being there for me, unselfishly displaying the love and might of Christ. I am humbly and deeply thankful for all your friendships and wise counsel. To Amy, you know I am forever your friend ☺ I will always be here for you sweet sister.

To Our New Friends: Welcome to The Sisterhood. YOUR SISTERHOOD. I pray you find encouragement, healing, and friendships that go beyond these pages. But I pray even more, that you participate in encouraging one another with the gifts God has given you. May the bonds of your Sisterhood strengthen over time.

Through the power of Christ’s love and truth, I pray you gain everlasting HOPE, JOY, PEACE, and PURPOSE.






Action Point

Keep an eye out for women or girls who will make your journey safer and sweeter. Walk with a friend, a sister, a mother, a mentor, or a daughter. To those around you, LOVE them deeply CARE for them intensely. Learn from them and teach them. Stay alert! You’ll never know when you will need each other. Christ put it so well when he said, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 HCSB)

How about you? Have you ever been saved from a “raging river”?

What have YOU learned on your Journey through Life?  What wisdom could you share that could help make a difference in the life of a young girl, friend, or co-worker?  How about skills or tips to be successful?  What difference has someone made in your life?

Join our online CommunityFacebook page, follow us on Twitter, and post a comment to a blog and start sharing!

Once a month we will be giving away a free item to help you along your journey in life.  This month our free item is a musical CD recorded and produced by a special lady I absolutely adore: Ms. Cheri Keaggy.

 Share your comments to be entered into this month’s drawing for one of four copies of 

Cheri Keaggy’s new music album “So I Can Tell”


Lisa is our founder and visionary. In the summer of 2010, she founded the Sisterhood with a heartfelt desire in mind: to see women reach their maximum potential by living for God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). She is passionate about encouraging women to use their God-given talents for the kingdom.
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