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Island Hopping

God has a plan and sometimes the plan includes a storm.

I have found myself saying, “It’s a small world”, a lot recently. We typically comment that way when someone tells us they bumped into a childhood friend at the Dalles Airport, or something like that. (One of my favorite rides at Disneyland as a child was It’s a Small World. If you find yourself humming that song all day, you’re welcome.) But it is a small world.

It did not always feel that way. In the 15th century it took Columbus two months to cross the Atlantic. By the 18th and 19th century it took an average of 6 weeks. Now you can cross the Atlantic in 6-8 hours! In fact, the flight record is just under 2 hours!

Can you imagine? What once took 2 months by ship, took 2 hours by plane when USAF Major James V. Sullivan, and Major Noel F. Widdifield flew a Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird on September 1, 1974. The average speed for the New York–London flight, which was 3,461.53 miles, was 1,807 mph. They only slowed to refuel one time from a specially modified refueling tanker aircraft. (Source:

It is a small world.

There is an American island that rises in the middle of the bearing sea. This island is closer to Japan than it is the west coast of the United States. It is prone to large earthquakes, brutally cold temperatures, harsh winds, and extensive cloud coverage, which often make it difficult to see even a few feet in front. It has no supermarkets, its vegetation is mainly tundra, and there’s only a single operating restaurant in the entire vicinity. Most residents have relocated over the years — according to the official Decennial Census, the region’s total population went down from 326 in 2010 to 171 in 2020. It’s Adak, Alaska.

Not only is Adak Island near the westernmost corner of Alaska’s Aleutian archipelago in the Bering Sea, but it is closer to Japan than it is to the west coast of the United States. It was transformed into a military base during World War II but closed in 1997.

Let’s talk about another location on the map. Did you know that during certain times of the year, you can walk from Russia to the United States? And it would not take very long. Maybe a couple of hours.

According to the narrowest distance between mainland Russia and mainland Alaska is approximately 55 miles. However, in the body of water between Alaska and Russia, known as the Bering Strait, there lies two small islands known as Big Diomede and Little Diomede. Interestingly enough, Big Diomede is owned by Russia while Little Diomede is owned by the US. The stretch of water between these two islands is only about 2.5 miles wide and actually freezes over during the winter so you could technically walk from the US to Russia on this seasonal sea ice. Who knew you could walk from country to country?

There is yet another island located in the central Mediterranean Sea, just south of Italy, that played a vital strategic role in World War II as a base for the Allied Powers. It was heavily bombarded by German and Italian aircraft, and by the end of the war, was devastated.

In 1942 the island was presented with the George Cross, a British award for great gallantry, in recognition of the wartime bravery of the Maltese people. Malta is the largest of three major islands that constitute the Maltese archipelago.

The people are renowned for their warmth, hospitality, and generosity to strangers, a trait that was noted in the Acts of the Apostles, with respect to the experience of St. Paul, the Apostle, who was said to have been shipwrecked off Malta in 60 CE.

Adrift at sea after days of gale-force winds and battering waves, 276 men are hoping and praying for a break. Let’s look at the snake bite, the healing of many, and the generosity of the Maltese people and what a difference in made for the lives of many.

“At daybreak, no one recognized the land—but then they did notice a bay with a nice beach. They decided to try to run the ship up on the beach. They cut the anchors, loosed the tiller, raised the sail, and ran before the wind toward the beach. But we didn’t make it. Still far from shore, we hit a reef and the ship began to break up.

“The soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so none could escape by swimming, but the centurion, determined to save Paul, stopped them. He gave orders for anyone who could swim to dive in and go for it, and for the rest to grab a plank. Everyone made it to shore safely.” Acts 27:39-44 The Message

“Once everyone was accounted for and we realized we had all made it, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The natives went out of their way to be friendly to us. The day was rainy and cold and we were already soaked to the bone, but they built a huge bonfire and gathered us around it.

Paul pitched in and helped. He had gathered up a bundle of sticks, but when he put it on the fire, a venomous snake, roused from its sleepiness by the heat, struck his hand and held on. Seeing the snake hanging from Paul’s hand like that, the natives jumped to the conclusion that he was a murderer getting what he deserved. Paul shook the snake off into the fire like it was nothing. They kept expecting him to drop dead, but when it was obvious he wasn’t going to, they jumped to the conclusion that he was a god!

“The head man in that part of the island was Publius. He took us into his home as his guests, drying us out and putting us up in fine style for the next three days. Publius’s father was sick at the time, down with a high fever and dysentery. Paul went to the old man’s room, and when he laid hands on him and prayed, the man was healed. Word of the healing got around fast, and soon everyone on the island who was sick came and got healed.

“We spent a wonderful three months on Malta. They treated us royally, took care of all our needs and outfitted us for the rest of the journey. When an Egyptian ship that had wintered there in the harbor prepared to leave for Italy, we got on board. The ship had a carved Gemini for its figurehead: “the Heavenly Twins.” Acts 28:1-11 The Message

The ship that wrecked was taking Paul to Rome for his trial before Caesar. In fact, there were many prisoners aboard that ship. Instead, the winds began to blow. I have often wondered if God caused that shipwreck. It looks like it. Paul sailed for Italy after leaving the Maltese people. He went on to do many wonderful and miraculous things.

God has a plan and sometimes the plan includes a storm.

By – Jeanette Stark – Wednesday, August 31, 2022.

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