The Survivors Club: Finding Faith to Carry You Through Disaster
- Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalms 23:4
In the past month, we've watched the international community endure one calamity after another. First, a devastating earthquake in Haiti. Now earthquakes in Japan and Chile. We've seen images of great suffering and heard stories of great faith and triumph. With each heart wrenching update, we wonder how we would cope if the places were switched. Could we endure the shock of having everything - and everyone - we loved gone in a matter of moments? Would we maintain hope and faith? Would we be generous to others?
Award-winning journalist Ben Sherwood, author of The Survivors Club, began asking these questions long before recent quakes crumbled the infrastructure of countries across the globe. After years of interviewing people who survived incredible catastrophes for human interest stories, he began to wonder: What enables these ordinary people to endure what most could not? Are there certain characteristics that set survivors apart from victims? And if so, can we learn how to become survivors?
Sherwood set out on a quest to find answers. He interviewed countless members of "the survivors club." He met with Brian Udell, the only pilot to live through an emergency ejection from a jet going faster than the speed of sound (Mach 1) at sea level. He interviewed Stan Praimnath, the only survivor from the 81st floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower. He spoke with petite Anne Hjelle, a mountain biker who survived a vicious mountain lion attack on the trail. He interviewed survivors of shipwrecks, plane crashes, the Holocaust, and those who beat difficult medical diagnoses.
Sherwood didn't just interview these remarkable men and women. He put himself through the wringer. He visited the Aviation Survival Training Center at the U.S. Marine Corp air station where he allowed trainers to subject him to military survival tests, including a frightening simulation of a helicopter crashing underwater (to his teachers' surprise, he passed all the tests). He also underwent emergency FAA training with airline professionals. Along the way, he spoke with the experts. Experts in medicine, military training, aviation, and psychology.
His findings? There's actually quite a bit you and I can do to join the survivors club when life gets rough.
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled (1 Thessalonians 5:6). The first factor in becoming a survivor is acknowledging a very biblical truth: At some point life's going to go wrong. As much as we don't want to admit it, the brokenness of this world will seep into our tranquil lives. In his introduction, Sherwood writes, "Almost everyone I know has faced - or is coping with - some kind of serious challenge or adversity." Part of what differentiates the victims from the survivors is a person's willingness to accept adversity and prepare before it ever becomes a reality.
Did you know that 96% of passengers in airplane accidents survive? Sherwood shares that the survivors who might otherwise have perished in plane crashes were passengers who kept their shoes on during flight, made note of the exits before take-off, and abstained from the alcoholic beverages on the food cart. In other words - these passengers were prepared.
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