Tragedy and ‘Triumph’

Carnival Cruise Ship_TriumphWhat started out as a dream trip turned into a nightmare for over 4200 passengers and crew aboard the Carnival cruise ship Triumph this week. Little did anyone imagine that when the pleasure ship set off from Galveston, Texas on Thursday, February 7, for a four-day cruise on the Gulf of Mexico that there would be tragedy on the Triumph. A fire erupted in the aft engine room on Sunday knocking out the ship’s propulsion system. The 839-foot vessel was left drifting aimlessly 150 miles off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Conditions went from bad to worse. When passengers initially saw smoke arise from the ship, many confess they were unnerved. Although the fire was extinguished and, thankfully, no one was injured, those in the lower deck complained of the smoke.

Passengers were alarmed when the power and the plumbing were knocked out. This left the passengers suffering from brutal conditions including no air conditioning, stopped up toilet facilities, and scarcity of food since it had spoiled.

Passengers complained of overpowering stench as toilets and drainpipes overflowed, and many cabins and interior passages were soaked with raw sewage. Some became sick to their stomach, adding vomit to all the mess. Many of them moved their beds out on deck to find a little fresh air and some relief from their predicament.

In reading many reports of this harrowing incident, I was curious to know how it affected the morale of the people on board. As you would expect, passengers dealt with it from one extreme to the other. Some took it in stride; others freaked out. Some kept to themselves; others kept busy helping others. Of course, as you could imagine on such a big ship with all those many passengers and crew, there was a lot of stress, anxiety, fear, anger, and uncertainty. Naturally, there were moments when people got on each other’s nerves.

But at the same time, there were those who were able to make the best of a bad situation in spite of the horrendous circumstances. They did what they needed to do to make the time pass. And while some complained, others chose to handle it with a sense of humour. A woman passenger was seen wearing a hat she’d shaped out of one of the unused red bags which the crew handed out for collecting human waste. She explained later that she was wearing it as a “souvenir” of her voyage.

When wearied yet jubilant passengers finally disembarked the disabled ship that was rerouted to Mobile, Alabama on Friday, Feb. 15, many testified how their faith helped them endure their long ordeal. I read about persons on board who turned to the Lord in prayer and Bible study.

They were not only able to handle their predicament by trusting in God, but they were able to help others cope as well. Christians came to the aid of others whenever someone was in need. Strangers became friends. They found comfort, encouragement, and hope amidst horrible situations. Many were said to discover a new-found gratitude after surviving the disaster. This is true Christianity in action.

Two of the passengers were so happy to stand on dry land again when they got off the crippled ship that they literally kneeled and kissed the ground, thankful to God that the nightmare was finally over. Kendall Jenkins, a 24-year-old Houston resident, and her friend, Brittany Ferguson, who were wearing identical white robes Carnival said they could keep for helping them to stay warm, could not have looked more relieved and grateful.

“I’m so happy to be home!” exclaimed Jenkins. “There’s a great God, and he is in complete control.”

She was one of those who testified how her faith helped her get through it all. She said there were Bible study groups on board leading prayer sessions. She started to choke up when she recalled a passage she had read from Joshua 1:9 – “…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

There were also reports that another passenger and his wife, Joseph and Cecilia Alvarez of San Antonio, said some passengers passed the time by forming a Bible study group. He estimated there were around 45 in the group. He is quoted, “It was awesome. It lifted up our souls and gave us hope that we would get back.”

Among the other passengers who came ashore, Julie Hair from Lake Charles, Louisiana, reunited with her husband, Jon, who didn’t make the voyage. They were planning a stay at a motel that night. Upon their reunion, Jon told reporters, “It’s the best Valentine’s ever.”

Their 12-year-old daughter, Julianna, who also accompanied her mother on the trip, described her struggle during the experience. “It was very scary,” she recounted. “One time, I just broke down and started crying. And my mom prayed with me.”

A pastor who was on board described the situation as “a tale of two ships.” According to one report, Wendell Gill, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Laporte, Texas, said his congregation sent him and wife, Cindey, on the cruise to relax. But there was no one to lead the ship after the fire erupted.

According to Pastor Gill, the unsanitary conditions on the first level forced them to look for places to stay at the upper level where it was a little more livable. Passengers from that level offered to help the elderly and sick get around, moving their bedding and mattresses from the lower decks. Gill credited the passengers for saving Carnival.

He began gathering in a prayer group that Monday with people who were worrying about getting seasick, their kids and jobs back home. Gill said by that Wednesday, 200 people had joined in the group..

Citing how he was encouraged that so many of his fellow passengers helped out, the minister said that most people will rise to help in an adverse situation. “That’s just the human spirit.”

I might add that it’s the way God’s Spirit works, too. I can’t help but think that there was a Higher Power at work during this whole voyage, that God was using believers in Christ to keep the ship safe and the people calm, even though conditions could have been much worse. God brings out the best in us when we’re faced with adversity, as we see from the reports of what took place.

It’s a good lesson for all of us: To discover that even when tragedy strikes in our lives, we can also triumph over it united together through our faith in God and His Word. And when our ship finally comes in we too will be able to rejoice and be thankful we’ve endured our voyage of life arriving in Triumph.

Good News to you!
Pastor Michael

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