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Red Alert

The Xiamen Ferry. Photo by W.J. Richter.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters… —Psalm 29:3

(ROCKWALL, TX — April 6, 2018) An awful image flashed before me like a snapshot, waking me in the middle of the night. Immediately, I left my sleeping husband and headed to our 17-year-old’s unoccupied room. In the darkness, I climbed into the empty bed to pray.

Wes was in China, alone, 7,000 miles away from our Texas home. Since he’d left in February to attend a nine-week Mandarin language program, the days had passed slowly yet peacefully for Jim and me.

By late April, we’d seen our son overcome many challenges: a dorm room that remained on the refurbish list, classrooms without heat, and language levels that proved either too easy or too difficult. Even so, our parental caution light began flashing when he asked for permission to travel south to visit the large coastal city of Xiamen before he returned home. We consented after Christian missionary friends in that area assured Wes of guest accommodations.

When his evening flight was cancelled due to fog, our son remained at the airport—alone—as other passengers left and the lights went out. He slept on plastic chairs.

After his arrival the next day, Wes soon connected with “English Corner” students at Xiamen University. He enjoyed attending the gathering where they practiced language skills.

He also appreciated the sight-seeing opportunities. With his large camera and zoom lens, Wes photographed historic landmarks around the colorful city. His favorite excursion was only a short ferry ride across the harbor to a vehicle-free island. There, he roamed brick streets that dated back to China’s British-colonial days and climbed a rocky outcropping to capture panoramic images.

While Wes seemed fearless in his adventures, we grew concerned about his new independence. We talked to him daily via Skype, but with the 13-hour time difference, our morning was the end of his day. At bedtime, Jim and I prayed, knowing our son would be out exploring—alone. I sometimes added a specific request for the Lord to wake me in the case of any urgent circumstance.

Now, as we counted down the days to his return, that dark image woke me and set off an internal warning. A prayer alert!

I propped two pillows against my son’s headboard and settled back to pray—anxiously but without panic. I believed the Lord woke me to intercede, not to make me fearful. When peace of mind returned, I fell asleep.

In the morning, Jim had already left for work when I opened my computer and heard the familiar Skype ring. Relief!

Wes sounded fine, with little to report about his day. However, as I prepared to sign off, he suddenly mentioned the high winds that day. And the awful image of the night flashed again: my son plunging head-first into darkness.

“Were you out in the wind?” I asked.

“Well . . . yes. I decided to visit the island again, but the ferry ride was rough.”

“Did you stand at the handrail?”


“Were others at the rails?”

“No . . . but it was safe enough.”

“Did you have your camera bag around your neck?”

“Yes. I wanted to get better pictures.”

When I told Wes about my anxious prayer vigil, he dismissed the idea of any danger. But I felt certain that God had spared us from something terrible.

After his flight back to Texas several days later, Wes sauntered out of the international customs area as if returning from a short trip. His longer hair and taller appearance said otherwise: Our son was finally—safely—home.

By Blue Ribbon News faith columnist Patti Richter. Patti lives in Heath with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits Christian faith articles for several publications. Read more of her essays at BlueRibbonNews.com.

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