Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our Galilee Miracle

Answering Samuel's questions on the Sea of Galilee
Our internet is truly abysmal up here in the Galilee, so blog posts on most of our days here will probably need to wait until I get back to Jerusalem in a week and a half.  And this post may be mostly text, because uploading pictures even to Facebook and other platforms has been an exercise in futility.

But we had such a wonderful experience this morning that I felt impressed to share it with as many people as we could, friends and family foremost but also many of you who, for whatever reasons, have been following our adventures in the Holy Land on this blog.  I just told my students yesterday when we were holding a devotional in the Synagogue Church in Nazareth that they should be prepared for the Lord to touch them and talk to them in unexpected ways and at unexpected times, not just when they were at the big sites like Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, or the Holy Sepulchre.  And that is just what happened to us today with our sweet son, Samuel.

Those of you who know us personally know all about our family situation.  And those who have just started following this blog for whatever reason have probably picked up that our son struggles with the challenges of autism. This is always a challenge and there are frequent disappointments, among which is our sadness that he has not, by and large, been able to understand or appreciate what we have been experiencing here in the Holy Land.  There  have been a couple of experiences, such as when I read to him (and the rest of the family) about Jesus' experience in Gethsemane on site or when he sang so sweetly and with such joy at Shepherds Field on Christmas Eve.  And perhaps the most important experience, up til now, was when the Lord turned a disastrous experience at an Easter play into a wonderful teaching experience right at the Garden Tomb.  But I think that we witnessed the greatest miracle today.

Sam waiting for the Gamla, our boat
Today was the second day of my Galilee rotation with my students.  In past semesters, when the children have been in school, the faculty families have just come up to be with us for long weekends, but now that it is summer, they have come up for the whole 10-day rotation (and as I have mentioned in my previous two blog posts,  I brought my family up two days before that, mostly to spare Samuel the commotion of coming up on the bus with all the students).  So none of my family has ever had the opportunity to experience the second day of this field trip, which is arguably the best: we start with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, see a first century boat (which gives an idea what the boats of Peter and Andrew and of James and John would have looked like), go to the Mount of Beatitudes, visit Capernaum, and a few other sites associated with the Galilean ministry of Jesus.

On other occasions I have gotten my family to the Mount of Beatitudes and to Capernaum but never on the boat ride, and Elaine was intent on having all of us do that today.  Rachel is joining my class on most of our Galilee field trips, but Elaine really wanted Samuel to experience this too.  He has never been on a real boat before, but when we started talking to him about it, he did not seem that interested.  Last night, in fact, he began to express hesitation and some worry.  "Are there sharks in the Sea of Galilee, Dad?"

All my family together on a Galilee boat ride, where we could remember the miracles that our Lord performed on this very lake, calming the storm and walking on water
But this morning Elaine brought Samuel with us, planning to meet Margaret Ludlow on the other side for a ride back to `En Gev so that Samuel would not need to put up with the rest of the long, hot day.  Once he actually saw the boat come up to the dock, he started to get interested, and he wanted to be the first one on. And when the boat started to cruise towards the middle of the lake and the sea breeze picked up, he went to the front of the boat and did his imitation of the "Titanic pose," leaning out across the water and really enjoyed himself.

I came up to be with him, mostly to make sure that he did not fall in the water!  With one arm around him I asked him if he knew what Jesus had done here on the Sea of Galilee.  I told him that at least twice he had helped his friends when they were on a boat and a big storm scared them.  And then I said that on one of those times, Jesus actually walked across the water to help the disciples.

"How did he walk on water, Dad?"

"Well, Jesus can do anything, Samuel."


"He is the Son of God, so he can do anything that Heavenly Father can do, and he uses that power to help us, just like he helped his friends long ago."

Our precious Samuel, thinking hard about things on the Galilee boat
From this simple but actually quite profound exchange came our miracle today.  Samuel began to ask me a stream of questions about Jesus, about God, about blessings,about life and death, that I could hardly keep up with.  And I was able to give him a more-or-less satisfactory answer to each.

What you need to understand is that as functional as Samuel is, his autism continues to impact him severely in verbal communication.  He can understand pretty much anything we say to him (if he will pay attention while we are saying it!) and express most of what he wants to say.  But he just does not always have much of a desire to communicate, and he rarely asks the "how," "why," "what," and "when" kind of questions.  Further more, a conversation rarely progresses much beyond three or four turns (exchanges), but this morning he must have asked me at least 20 questions, each of them deep.

"How is Jesus the Son of God, Dad?"  Well, son, do you remember what we talk about at Christmas each year, how Mary had the Baby Jesus?  Well, his father was God.

"How did that happen, Dad?"  Any of you try to answer that one to a nine year old!  It was a miracle, Sam.  But it really happened.

"Why does Jesus bless us?"  Because like Heavenly Father, he loves us and wants to help us.

"What is Jesus' power, Dad?  How much is it?"  Jesus has the same power that God does.  It is the same power by which the world was created, so he can do anything to help us.

"How did God create the world?"  Well, buddy, you know how you like to make things out of play dough?  God take dust and gas and stars and space itself and makes stuff out of it.

"Thousands of people have died, Dad."  I know, pal.  That is why we like Easter so much.  "But if they all come alive again, where will they all live?"  We are so overwhelmed with the sentiment of the resurrection, I do not think that most of us think much about the practicalities!

Finally Samuel said, "I know I am asking a lot of questions, Dad.  But I just need to know stuff."

And then the miracle was over.  Some water sprayed up and a jet or something flew by, distracting him.  And then he was just a cute but autistic boy again, staring absently at the water as the boat cruised along.

I am amazed at God's love for my son and his mercy to all of us.
Elaine came up to us.  I turned to her and the immensity of what had just happened hit me.  I could not speak.  Finally, through sudden tears, I blurted out, "I have just had the most miraculous experience of my time here.  We have been praying and praying that Samuel would have experiences here that would help him understand and know the Lord, and it just happened."

I could hardly talk, and less than ten minutes later the captain cut the engine so that we could have our traditional devotional in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.  We read Mark 4 and sang.  We read Matthew 14 and sang.  But most of all I testified, testified of the miracle that had just happened to my son and the miracles that could happen to each of us.  And now I have testified to you.

The Sea of Galilee is the scene of miracles, even today, not just in the time of Jesus (click to enlarge the panorama)
"Our God, is an awesome God! He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love, our God is an awesome God!"


  1. I love, "I know I am asking a lot of questions, Dad. But I just need to know stuff." Thank you for sharing this!

  2. What a truly amazing experience!!! Thank you for sharing!!

  3. Eric, Martine and I made a trip a couple of years ago to Egypt and Israel and saw some of the sights that you have been writing about. It was a great trip. I have been following your year with interest, but this seems to be such a wonderful experience that I had to tell you how moved I was. The Lord does answer our prayers with tender mercy.


  4. What a beautiful post! I have the chills. I love your family and the Sea of Galilee! That is truly amazing. I cannot wait to see you all next month!

    And that was the perfect final line :)

  5. What a beautiful story - thanks, Eric, for sharing your miracle. We can't wait to see you and your wonderful family in just a few weeks!

  6. Huntsy! Thank you so much for sharing that incredible story. Our God IS an awesome God! Can't wait to see you all next month!

  7. Beautiful story--I always love reading about sweet Samuel. That was one of my favorite days in Galilee, and I'm glad for Samuel's miracle in that wonderful place.

  8. Thank you for sharing this story Bro. Huntsman! It was such a treat to teach Samuel in primary. I only had a few interactions with him there, so I can only imagine what it was like to have such a in depth conversation with him about the Savior. What a beautiful place to finally have them!

  9. How deeply touching and profound. And with your usually elocution, you have touched my soul. God bless you many more times like this.

  10. Makes it worth every sacrifice or inconvenience this trip has entailed. Everyone needs a reason for the faith that is in them, and you have just given Samuel his. What wonderful questions; what wonderful explanations!! So glad for these blessings.

  11. Thank you for sharing this story Papa. I cried as I read from it to my roomate. Our God is an Awesome God, and his tender mercies are shown through Samuel. Thanks again.

  12. My dear friend, Jill Judd, referred me to this entry and I just read it. I cried. I know the Lord is aware of us individually and will give us our own miracles which touch us to the very core. Thank you for sharing.

  13. So grateful for your comments here. Happy your son had such an amazing experience along with you, and touched at the memories that surfaced of my own boat ride on the Sea of Galilee four years ago. Thank you!

  14. Bro. Huntsman, what a wonderful experience! Having worked with Sam in the primary, I can understand what a big deal this must have been. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get around to reading this, but today as I was praying I remembered that this was on my mental "to do" list. I then wrote it down so I knew I wouldn't forget. But then I just decided to read it right then and there, and it felt so good to read it. I was feeling quite heavily the weight and stress of school and work and relationships, and how wonderful it was to be able to read about modern-day miracles and hear the testimony that Jesus has the power of God to bless us in our lives. I need to remember that, so thank you for sharing.