Community Bible Church

“Setting the Prisoner Free”

“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives…” Luke 18:18

    The names Bonnett and Crossbeak may not be readily remembered, but in 1988 they were the center of international attention. All eyes were on two California whales up in Alaska, trapped in breathing holes many miles from the ocean. It all started when the gentle giants of the sea overlooked the fact that winter had set in early that year in northern Alaska. This mistake left them trapped, stranded inland by an ever-increasing cover of solid ice that prevented them from swimming to freedom.

At first few bothered to notice—only a few compassionate Eskimos who decided the creatures needed help. In a rather primitive fashion they hauled their chainsaws and dragged long poles to the sight and began to gouge out the ice holes, enabling the whales to breathe en route to open water. Crude, rugged, and tiresome though the work was, they were determined to work their way toward the open ocean.

The weather wasn’t cooperating. During some of the days, the temperature dropped below zero. That meant the small band of rescuers had to add some water churning devices to keep the surface of the water from freezing over, especially during the screaming winds of the night.

Interest in the project intensified once it caught the attention of the media. Other volunteers joined in the efforts. Because the original plan wasn’t moving along fast enough, in rolled an Archimedean Screw Tractor, an enormous 11-ton vehicle that rode on two screw-shaped pontoons, resembling something taken from a sci-fi movie set. That clumsy behemoth would clear away the ice after it was broken up and push it aside inch by inch, slowly grinding out a pathway to the sea. But that, too, proved to be too tedious and excruciatingly slow.

Next came the National Guard who brought in two CH-54 Skycrane helicopters that systematically dropped five-ton concrete bashers onto the ice, mile after mile, so the journey to freedom could be accelerated. The Soviets joined the fray, having dispatched two of their ships to the scene. One was a mammoth 20-ton, eleven-story-tall ice breaker, and other was a smaller version with similar equipment. Interestingly, two flags flew on the stern of the Russian ships. Perhaps for the first and only time, the US stars and stripes flew alongside the familiar hammer and sickle. All political contrasts, economic differences, and military challenges were set aside for this unusual mission—so a couple of whales could be free.

It finally happened at Point Barrow, Alaska. The world cheered as the exhausted creatures silently slipped intothe sea (Adapted from Charles Swindoll’s Book of Illustrations).

Amazing that so much time, energy, and money was used to free two creatures of the sea. July affords us the opportunity to stop and ponder our own freedom, at the time, energy, and expense of a generation so many years ago. But more than that, the freedom that is ours purchased as it was by the sacrifice and blood of Christ. The passage mentioned at the beginning from Luke 4 is Jesus’ direct quote from Isaiah 61—The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed…”

That is now our mission—no time or energy or expense too great to diligently present the good news those in captivity. Use this month to reorient your life to Christ’s great salvation mission!

Blessing on the Journey, Pastor Dewayne