All the Merritts wanted was to enjoy boating on the lake after several days of rain. What they didn’t take into account was that the floodgates on the dam were open and the undertow would suck their boat onto the dam where it would be smashed, their family thrown into peril.
“The water was very calm on the surface,” Kelly Merritt says on a 700 Club video. “Our boat was being pulled without us realizing.”
Three days of rain had left the family stir crazy. So when the rains abated, the family of four thought to get out and relax on the lake, which was glorious and serene.
But all the extra water was the reason authorities, unbeknownst to the Merritts, had opened the gates to allow the overflow to run off down the spillway. It created an unseen undertow that sucked the Merritts toward danger.
The closer the Merritts got to the dam, the stronger the undertow. When the family finally realized what was happening, it was too late. The current was stronger than the boat’s motor. Try as they might, they could not escape.
“We had lost control of the boat,” Kelly says. “The motor didn’t seem to matter anymore.”
With mounting fear overwhelming them, the boat struck the concrete barrier on the lakeside of the spillway, quickly fracturing and coming apart.
Kelly grabbed her daughter and hugged her impulsively, but as they were pushed over the dam, her daughter was ripped from her arms by the force of the water.
“It was very much like I was dead,” Kelly says. “I dropped for what felt like an eternity. I reached up and felt the carpet on the bottom of the boat, and then behind me I could feel the concrete. I was pinned there. It was a horrifying feeling.”
She cried out to her Savior.
“Jesus, I need you to walk on the water right now.”
Suddenly the boat rolled, and she was freed. She rose to the surface.
The three swam to the shore. But there was no sign of their daughter.
Having survived the ordeal, father and son started running along the bank to find the girl.
Kelly just lay there on the sand next to the river.
“They started hollering back, ‘She’s not here,’” Kelly recalls.
“I was just screaming, ‘I need my child,’” she adds. “I thought at that moment we’d lost her.”
That’s when a stranger appeared. He wore a green tee-shirt with John 3:16 emblazoned on it.
“Ma’am, I think we have your daughter,” he said.
“All of a sudden, she was just there in the path,” Kelly remembers. “I couldn’t see even a scratch on her.
“It was at that moment, I realized we had experienced a miracle.”
“I felt like another person was holding on to me,” the daughter relates. “I knew it had to be God because there was no one else around.”
The Merritts returned home with no serious injuries.
And the stranger in the green T-shirt? He was never seen again.
“It almost felt like he was an angel,” Mr. Merritt says. “He had the biggest, prettiest smile. That smile came with a sense of peace.”
A year later in church, the pastor preached on Isaiah 43:2: I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.
“I knew that day that God had given us a verse for our family,” Kelly says.
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About the writer of this article: Alexia Hess studies at Lighthouse Christian Academy near West Los Angeles.