On May 26, 2002, a towboat was pushing a barge through the swelling waters of the Arkansas River when it accidentally rammed into a concrete pillar supporting I-40’s bridge, 62 feet above. Within moments, cars, trucks, and eighteen-wheelers began plunging into the river, claiming the lives of their passengers.
Fortunately, Alton Wilhoit knew exactly what to do.
Earlier that Sunday morning, Kirk Washburn and Alton Wilhoit had piloted their boat out to what they hoped would be a “hot spot” for the fishing tournament they were competing in near Webbers Falls, Oklahoma. They thought they’d found the perfect spot near the I-40 bridge until the morning’s tranquility was shattered by a roar they described as a sonic boom.
They looked back just in time to see a 600-feet-long section of the bridge slam into the water…leaving a deadly gap in the heavily-travelled highway above. They instantly tossed their fishing rods aside, donned their life vests, and raced their boat back to the scene of the accident.
Washburn dialed 911 and relayed the story to the sheriff who had difficulty believing their report. Meanwhile, other anglers had also abandoned the competition in order to save lives.
Brings a whole new meaning to “fishing for men,” doesn’t it?
But Wilhoit knew that something more important had to be done. No matter how many survivors were pulled from the water, unless someone warned the motorists about the dangerous gap they were headed for, a steady stream of vehicles would continue careening off the highway above. Remembering that he had flare gun on board his boat, Wilhoit grabbed it and aimed it where it would get the most attention…then pulled the trigger.
The burning projectile screamed toward an eighteen-wheeler, striking it squarely in the windshield. The driver slammed on his brakes and came to a stop just a few feet from the edge, forcing all those in the lanes behind him to stop, as well. Because of Wilhoit’s decisive action, no one else fell to their death that morning.
Sadly, 14 people did die that day. But how many more would have died had Alton Wilhoit not warned the helpless motorists speeding toward their demise?
Like Wilhoit, Christians should also warn those who are unknowingly headed toward their death. God has given us the responsibility of pointing out the dangers – and consequences – of a sinful life. Listen to what He told the prophet Ezekiel:
I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself. (Ezekiel 3:17-21)
Who will you warn today?
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