During a Tragedy at Sea

by Pastor Tim Edwards

By 6:00 am on Sunday, the 30th June I996, it was National News across Australia on every major Radio and Television Networks that about midday the day before (Sat 29.6.96) a fishing boat had sunk in deep water 8 miles out to sea off the coast of Mourilyan Harbour near Innisfail in North Queensland, Australia. In this particular news report it was revealed that out of the 5 fishermen involved in this boating accident, there were 2 men presumed drowned, 2 survivors still lost at sea after 18 hours in the water, while Pastor Tim Edulards of Cairns was rescued at 2:00 am that morning after 14 hours in the water, then recovering in Innisfail Hospital.

I am an Aboriginal Pastor currently on staff at Emmanuel College Cairns. My wife Dianna and two daughters Melissa 17, and Makita 14, have ministered with me throughout Australia for the past 13 years.

Since coming to the Lord in 1979 and being filled with the Holy Spirit in the same year, I've enjoyed many wonderful experiences in my Christian life and the Person of the Holy Spirit has been no stranger to me, He is a close and dear friend.

There have been many times I've seen Him come to my rescue and comfort me - when our children were sick He came and healed; when our fridge was empty, He sent help with food; when our ministry seemed to be struggling, He opened the doors of opportunity "that no man can open"; and when I was lacking in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, He always revealed to me the truth of 1Cor. 2.3 ("eyes have not seen, neither have ears heard nor has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them that love Him"). So as a Comforter, I've really had to trust in the Holy Spirit to show up many times before in my life, family and ministry, turn my mourning into dancing and sorrows into joy. During 14 hours in rough seas I knew He was there all the time.

The morning we went fishing, there was lot of joy. The water was beautiful and I was in the company of some great mates: Alex Damianopoulos who serves on our church leadership team and college staff; also his son Nathan; my brother in-law, Tom Ambertel who served on the Innisfail Radiant Life Assembly Board and a champion prayer warrior; and my youngest brother, David, who wasn't walking with the Lord that morning but just being my youngest brother was always special. Each of these men enjoyed life, worked hard, had a good sense of humour, loved God, provided for their family and gave liberally of themselves to church and community.

No one ever expects the worst, specially when you're having fun, but it happened. It happened to us when we least expected. When we were pulling anchor to go home, the anchor became snagged in over 30 metres of water. After several attempts to free the anchor we cut the rope and the stern of the boat turned into wind. This caused the raging waves to come over the back of the boat and within moments the 5.6 metre vessel was under water with some of us being almost trapped in the boat.

Without going into a lot of detail the worst of the worst happened. My brother in-law, Tom, and brother David drowned. The peace of God that goes beyond my human understanding came over me at this tragic moment remembering their Iast words. Tom cried out for the Lord to take him home into His presence peacefully and David cried out "Lord Jesus save me!"

At this time there were just three survivors in the water with only one life jacket which Alex and Nathan shared and I didn't have any assistance. We all sang 'Amazing Grace' together before the winds and seas separated us.

"I believe that both at that point, and even when the boat sank and we were in the water, the Holy Spirit- The Comforter began to minister to myself, Alex and Nathan while taking my brothers on to meet our Heavenly Father face to face."

The Comforter - Holy Spirit ministry to me that day was as follows - He was bringing all things to my memory concerning the attributes and goodness of God, renewing my mind, ministering supernatural measures of hope to keep me believing in going home to my family, giving me supernatural strength to swim 8 hours to get to a buoy in the sea and cling on for another 6 hours, inspiring me to speak out words of persistence which encouraged my own spirit to keep on going for God, filling my mouth with songs of continuous praises, intercede through me with prayers for Alex and Nathan, imparting tremendous degrees of love and peace which made my relationship with the Lord secure, comforting me all the way home to Dianna, Melissa, Makita, my Dad, sister Karen (who lost Tom) my other family members, friends, Christian family, and community.

Between 1:30 am and 2:00 am while clinging to the buoy in the water I watched the Coast Guard vessel about 2 miles away searching for us. I remembered getting really cold and I began to sing a song that says, "I feel Jesus, I feel Jesus, I feel Jesus in this place yes my soul does burn within me I feel Jesus in this place.

At that moment I felt like fire burning in my belly and tremendous heat flooding every part of my body; I got warm alright.

Also Darlene Zschech, thank you for your song "Shout to the Lord" the line that says 'Let every breath all that I am never cease to worship you' kept me going all day. Even though I had been in cold water for 14 hours there weren't too many signs of me giving up.

While I kept praying and singing, caught up in praising the Lord, the Holy Spirit was really at work, behind me I could hear the sound of the Coast Guard Vessel drawing near to the buoy and I prayed "Lord give me the loudest voice so they might hear my cry for help when they get near"- then I cried out "HELP! HELP! HELP!" repeatedly until they heard me.

When the Coast Guard threw out the life line and pulled me up and on board their vessel, I was overwhelmed. After reporting this tragedy, we continued for an hour to search for Alex and Nathan who weren't sighted until 10.00am Sunday. They were taken aboard a trawler working further out to sea, they then radioed the Coast Guard Helicopter who flew them to the Cairns Base Hospital.

I was taken to shore after 2:00 am and greeted by Dianna, Melissa, Makita, our current Senior Pastor Jack Briscoe, his wife Pam, the Police, my nephew Jason (being one of the officers) and other searchers. Then an ambulance transported me to Innisfail Hospital where I thank the Lord for recovery after 3 days.

On behalf of all our families and myself I thank God for the many hundreds of Christians around Australia who prayed for us at that particular time of great tragedy and also for their continual prayers and support.

Since the time of this tragic accident I've ministered across Australia. Through this powerful testimony many have come to Jesus, others have received a wonderful touch from God, and many have been baptised in the Holy Spirit. You too can know 'The Holy Spirit The Comforter' in a much real way in your life.


Tim and Dianne Edwards and Sue and I have ministered together on numerous occasions in Aboriginal communities and in Churches around Australia and I have always been blessed by Tim's uncluttered presentation of the Gospel.

His tragic and yet profoundly inspiring testimony presented here, tells it all. Tim Edwards spends his life, "Hanging around with Jesus". Isn't this what being the Church is all about, helping others to find Jesus, know Jesus, grow to be like Jesus and then to share the life and love of Jesus with others!

My niece (whose amazing dream I wrote about in the last newsletter, directing ne to look afresh at Ezekiel and to be a Watchman to the Nation) has started reading the Bible. She started reading through Matthew and is being greatly challenged. As we spoke together on the phone she asked me, "Uncle Dan why is it that knowing Jesus is so clear in the Bible but when I go to Church it's so confusing and unreal?"

I suggested that perhaps she had gone to a service that, for whatever reason, had missed it on that day! I encouraged her to keep trying.

However, when I put down the phone I reflected, "How often is Jesus clearly seen and heard in a Sunday Church Service? Especially to someone who is tentatively reaching out to Him?"

I thought, "How often does a Christian's lifestyle (including my own) reflect clearly and cleanly the presence of Jesus!"

All around us people are struggling and drowning on the sea of life while so often we present a very ineffectual rescue operation.

When next you are planning to be part of a Church Growth Seminar or a Personal Development Convention or a Worship Seminar or a Church Building and Renovation programme or taking a Spiritual Revival Course, keep in mind the words of Jesus:


If you would like to meet Pastor Tim Edwards and family, click here. If you would like to meet the Jesus who gave the perfect peace to Tim Edwards during the sea tragedy, click here.

Source: Dan Armstrong of Kairos Ministries Inc.

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