Lillian and the children removed life jackets and
crawled back into their bunks, thankful that the night’s
disturbance had been only a bad scare, not any real
But the following
morning Lillian made an urgent visit to the purser's
office. During the scare, Lillian had discovered that
her family had only six life jackets. They needed one
more. Looking at toddler Lois whom Lillian was holding,
the purser tried to dismiss Lillian, saying, "If
anything would happen, the baby would drown anyhow."
But, Lillian was determined. Reluctantly the purser
finally found another jacket and handed it to Lillian.
Returning to her
cabin, Lillian took out a sewing needle and strong
thread. She began mending, not only the jacket just
given to her but all the life jackets. They were in
terrible condition, full of holes. Shoulder straps and
side ties were loose and even missing. Also, Lillian
realized that all the jackets were adult size, so she
shortened some straps. For most of the morning she sewed
and sewed, making all seven life jackets as serviceable
as possible. Then she stuffed them under the bunks,
hoping she would never again need to see them.
However, a few
mornings later, as exploding shells bombarded the
Zamzam, those life jackets were hurriedly taken out
and again pulled over heads. This time the danger was
real. With lights dimming and broken glass scattered
across the cabin floor, Lillian tied the life jackets
and comforted her children with prayer. Finally the
shelling stopped. Lillian led her children to their
lifeboat and climbed in. Soon they were lowered to the
water, and the strong arms of crew members rowed them
away from the crippled Zamzam.
But, help! The
lifeboat was filling with water. It was like a sieve!
Shrapnel had riddled the boat with small holes. Suddenly
the lifeboat capsized and submerged, dumping all its
passengers into the South Atlantic Ocean.
Lillian held her
baby more tightly as they went down. Soon they all
bobbed back to the surface. Coughing and sputtering, the
children tried so hard to be brave. Lillian reminded her
children again and again that Jesus loved them. God was
a very present help.
As she saw the
life jackets keeping the children afloat, Lillian felt
so grateful for that scare a few nights previously. What
if God had not nudged her to mend the life jackets?
"God is often at
work in ways we do not know at the time. He can even use
a bad experience to bring about good. Thank you,
You may read the
story of Lillian and her children in the book Miracle
at Sea. See and hear Lillian on the DVD/video
"Zamzam, A Missionary Odyssey". See
"Resources" on this Web site.
As the Zamzam
pulled away from its berth in Hoboken, New Jersey, it was not carrying
sufficient life-jackets. Cabins should have provided as many
jackets as bunks, one for each passenger. It was not
that there were only a few jackets missing -- the shortage was severe.
The shortage was noticed by two of the men passengers, Robert Muir and
Curt Morrill. The situation could have very serious
consequences, they knew. So, when the Zamzam docked at Baltimore, Maryland, these two gentlemen quickly headed to the harbor police to report the shortage.
The police told Mr. Muir and Mr. Morrill to report back to the police
at midnight, saying that, if sufficient jackets had not been secured by
then, the Zamzam would not be allowed to leave the harbor the next day.
Midnight came. There had been no increase in the number of
life-jackets. So the two men quietly returned to the harbor
police to report.
Sometime during the night hours, however, more life-jackets were brought on board the Zamzam,
and, as Mr. Muir and Mr. Morrill came out on deck in the morning
sunshine, there were the ship's officers, busily handing out
jackets. Now with sufficient life-jackets, the Zamzam soon sailed again, on her way to Africa.
In view of what later happened in the South Atlantic on April
17th, without the observation and persistence of Mr. Muir and Mr.
Morrill, the Zamzam story could have been a horror story of the worst kind.
Thanks be to God for alert and faithful helpers.
Other events in the story are
summarized in "Survivors & Reunions".