Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Persevering Through the Storm

Episode Resources

Listen to: Cancer & Contentment with Scott & Karen Melby

Leslie Basham: If you’ve never seen Lake Michigan, it's not your average lake. Imagine standing at the ocean with water all the way to the horizon and a shoreline stretching as far as you can see in either direction. Lake Michigan can get as wild as the ocean, too. Over the last decade, an average of a dozen people a year have drowned in the dangerous waves and rip currents.

A few years ago a group of college students fought those waves for one intense twenty-four-hour period.

Craig Masselink: So I had climbed on the board. I stood up; fell in. I climbed back on the board; the paddle board flipped over, and I remember just looking up. You couldn’t see the waves that night; you could only just hear them. So you would hear the next white cap starting to build to your right, and you knew it was about to hit you.

Ginny Melby: They were three to five feet consistently the whole time, and sometimes much higher than that. So there was a lot of falling off the board, a lot of getting soaked, and losing track of the boat. So we had to stay focused and keep paddling as hard as we could.

Leslie: Why were they in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night? We’re about to hear the story on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender: The Heart God Controls. It's Tuesday, June 4, 2019.

This month, we are exploring the topic of perseverance here on Revive Our Hearts. And to kick off this month-long focus we’re hearing from a family that knows a lot about perseverance. Today we’ll hear from Karen Melby and her daughter Ginny.

When Nancy recorded this interview, Ginny was only a few days removed from a major accomplishment. If you missed yesterday’s program, you’ll want to go back to ReviveOurHearts.com and pull it up. The transcript is available there, but, better yet, listen to the audio, because it’s a great story. Now let’s listen as Nancy picks up the story with her longtime friends, Karen Melby and daughter Ginny.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Ginny, you were part of a trio, you and two of your friends from Maranatha Conference Center where you spend summers. You and your friends earlier this week did an amazing feat of paddleboarding across Lake Michigan.

We told the first part of that story yesterday, and we’re going to pick up with that today. But first, just thank you both so much for being willing to come in and add to a full week sharing here with us at Revive Our Hearts.

Karen Melby: Thank you, Nancy, for having us.

Nancy: It's been a few days now since you got off the water—the high seas of Lake Michigan. How are you feeling Ginny?

Ginny: I'm starting to feel a lot better. We got some rest. It's been a couple of days. I've been doing some shoulder rolling exercises and working on raising my arms above my head. We're feeling better. We're feeling physically more rejuvenated and in awe of what the Lord is doing through our story. We never could have imagined what could have happened the summer of 2013. The Lord is really using our story to bless others. He's blowing it up for His glory.

Nancy: Which is what you've wanted all along. That was the whole purpose of it.

This was not just a lark, for those of you who didn't get to hear yesterday's program. The Lord put it on your heart, Ginny, to do this as a fund raiser. Tell us about the organization that you were raising money for and why you did that.

Ginny: We decide to raise money for the organization called Restore International by Bob Goff. Bob had written a book called Loes Does. It had initially inspired us and got this whole activity rolling. Restore International works to get children in Uganda and also India out of sex slavery.

We decided to do what we love, which is paddleboarding, and use it to bless others in Uganda.

Nancy: What an effort it was! I followed this on the Internet. I followed it on Facebook. There was a tracker that showed your progress from Milwaukee, on the west side of Lake Michigan where you put in, and then all the way eighty miles across Lake Michigan until you got back to Muskegon, on the east side. I went to bed thinking about you guys Sunday night. I woke up early in the morning, turned on that tracker, wanting to see where you were. You were making great progress. It actually was a lot faster than what you’d expected.

Ginny: Yes. It was a lot faster than what we’d expected. I think part of it was your contribution through your encouraging texts sending Bible verses, as I’m up around the boat at 5:30 in the morning. So thank you for your all of your encouragement, Nancy.

Nancy: Well, you’re welcome. When you started out you thought it was going to be, what, thirty hours?

Ginny: We thought it would take us thirty hours, and it ended up taking us just under twenty-four. So we made great time, which is surprising because it was a lot wavier and stormier than we had thought it would have been. So if it had been calm, we would have gotten back in the middle of the night.

Nancy: To set the scene, there was one paddleboard. You, Craig, and Trent would take turns, shifts—what turned out to be thirty-minute shifts?

Ginny: Yes.

Nancy: One of you would be on the paddleboard, the other two would be in the boat that was following along. Then Karen, mom here, you were in the boat. We told yesterday how that happened. Your job was . . .?

Karen: Yes, I was. My job was to keep food in them and keep them hydrated and encourage them as much as I could.

Nancy: And pray!

Karen: Yes, I prayed a lot!

Nancy: Craig's friend's dad was on the boat, some other relatives, and the captain.

Karen: The boys have an Uncle Rob who was their unsung hero. He sat on the very back platform on the fiberglass, as close to the kids as he possible could, to protect them. He was ready to dive in. Ginny, what did he tell you?

Ginny: He told us that he would give his life for us. He said, "If they are going in, I'm going in. If they fall in, I'm falling in after them. Even if I don't make it out; they'll make it out."

Nancy: Wow! If you are going to paddleboard across Lake Michigan, you want a friend like that!

So you were pretty much dependent upon weather. For those of you who aren’t from this part of the country, Lake Michigan is not a small lake. It’s not something you toy with. We hear about deaths in Lake Michigan; we hear about drownings. Karen, we talked yesterday about how you had to work through some fears, but there’s so much that’s dependent upon the weather.

When you got started from Milwaukee, how was the weather at the beginning?

Ginny: When we were driving over to Milwaukee initially, we had water that was like glass. It was as calm as could be, and we were cheering. We were so happy that we were going to have weather like this for paddling. When we started off on Sunday morning, it looked great. But as the day went on, it just kept getting wavier and wavier and wavier, and the current was pulling us north, and we just wanted to keep going east. It seemed like it kept getting more difficult. It was cloudy and rainy.

One of my fears, my biggest concern in the weeks leading up to the journey was weather—too wavy, too windy, then it would be hard. It was a point to pray every day leading up to the journey. I'd be begging the Lord for calm water. Craig and Trent would just be thanking the Lord for good weather He would give us. They were encouraging me to have faith in that area.

As we were heading over there. It looked like that's what would happen. But the Lord had other plans. He decided that what would make the trip most meaningful for us was actually a storm.

That's a good life analogy too. The current and the waves were pulling us in the wrong direction. The were pulling us away from the boat. In order to stay close to the boat, which was taking us home, we had to work really, really hard to paddle towards the boat.

If we took just one stroke in the wrong direction, our board would go off course and go in with the current. And if we just stopped paddling and didn’t do anything, we would just drift and drop back behind the boat and be going in the wrong direction. So we had to work pretty hard to stay focused on one spot on the back of the boat, and not take that our eyes off that spot until we were home.

Nancy: And the analogy to life is . . .

Ginny: In our culture, in the society that we’re growing up in today, for all of us young women, we’re being pulled in a direction that’s completely counter to everything Christian, everything that the Lord wants us to do. In order to stay on track and be following the Lord and go where He wants us to go, we have to work really, really hard to keep our eyes on Him.

On the back of the boat was the words, “Wolf Gang.” That was the name of the boat. We all found our focal point on the “F” in Wolf Gang. We did not take our eyes off the “F,” and as soon as you did, you started to go in with the current.

Nancy: So if you just drift, you’re going to go in the wrong direction.

Ginny: Right. If you drift, if you stop paddling, if you aren’t moving forward in the right direction, if you take one stroke in the wrong direction, you automatically just go off course.

Nancy: And so the waves picked up—how long had you been out there before you realized this was not the sea of glass you’d had coming over?

Ginny: I’d say just maybe a few hours in the waves started getting pretty bad.

Nancy: When you say, “Pretty bad,” tell us what was the worst of the waves?

Ginny: They were three to five feet consistently the whole time and sometimes much higher than that. Craig’s about 6’ 1.” He said at one point he was in a trough and couldn’t see over the top of one of the waves—just two waves on either side of him.

There was a lot of falling off the board, a lot of getting soaked, and losing track of the boat. So we had to stay focused and keep paddling as hard as we could.

Nancy: So it was a lot harder than what you’d expected?

Ginny: It was a lot harder. None of us had said this during the trip—we were trying to keep a good attitude—but we all agreed there was just this unspoken we did not want to get back on the board when it was our turn. We knew in order to get the person who was on the board off and give them a rest, we had to go back in the water, exhausted and sore, and keep pushing and give it all we had. But I think we were all just kind of wishing we could just throw the board in the boat and head home. We didn’t want to go any farther.

But we also all just sort of knew we had to and we could. That’s when we started to feel everyone’s prayers. We started to just pray and sing while we were out on the water. My verse was Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I just kept repeating that, “All things . . . all things.”

Nancy: You’ve got that verse down!

Ginny: “All things” including paddleboarding across Lake Michigan. There are no conditions in that verse, so I believe we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Nancy: Now, I hear that you got seasick on the boat and couldn’t eat.

Ginny: I did.

Nancy: Karen, your job was to be on the boat and keep them fed. So what do we do for poor Ginny?

Karen: Well, I remember at one point—just kind of kidding around—Uncle Rob was just throwing her carrots off the back of the boat.

Nancy: While she was on the paddleboard?

Karen: Yes, while she was on the paddleboard—just trying to keep things light because it was so intense at times. This was before dark that he was just trying to make her laugh a little bit. Well, unbeknownst to us, she’s got a pretty good catch, even in the waves. So we realized that she was going to have to eat on the paddleboard.

Nancy: Because you weren’t seasick when you were out on the water?

Ginny: Right. For whatever reason, as soon as I got in the water, I was perfectly fine.

Karen: I knew her strength was kind of waning, and at dinner time she just could not eat. I had some grilled chicken on board. I really wanted her to get that protein in her, and she said, “Mom, I just can’t.”

I said, “Well, you’ll have to take it out on the board with you.”

She said, “Well, how am I going to do that?”

So Uncle Rob said, “The same way she ate the carrots. We’ll just throw it to her bite by bite.”

Nancy: I’m trying to imagine this. Wow!

Karen: It was humorous, but she ate.

Nancy: And then you went through the night—this was a twenty-four-hour trip. I remember texting you, Karen, and asking, “Are they going to do this through the night?” I just couldn’t imagine this was happening.

Tell us what it was like during the hardest part of the night hours.

Ginny: I started to get worried when I realized I had never pulled an all-nighter in my life.

Nancy: For any reason.

Ginny: It’s pretty common in college for college students to pull an all-nighter. I’ve never been able to do that. I just fall asleep by 2 a.m. I’ve just need my sleep. That was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done physically: trying to stay awake on the board while paddling hard against the waves to keep up with the boat. I mean, we were practically paddling zombies. We were all sleep paddling, I think.

Nancy: Did I hear it right that it was raining out there?

Ginny: It was raining—usually as I got on the board! When I got on the board it would start raining and then stop when the boys got on.

Nancy: So you got those middle-of-the-night hours, and, Karen, I assume you stayed awake through virtually all of this.

Karen: I did, I did. At one point I did go down below and just tried to lay down flat while Ginny was resting. But I felt guilty because I felt like I needed to be a team player even when the boys were out there, just being there, watching them, supporting them. I just wanted to be awake and be there.

Nancy: Tell me a little bit about your prayer life during those hours.

Karen: Intense. I was literally on my knees when Ginny would go out. I wanted to be as close as I possibly could, so I knelt down and put my knees on Trent’s life jacket that he had just dropped at the back of the boat. Because the water was rough, I knelt on the squishy life jacket, hung over the back of the fiberglass boat with my raincoat on, and as the rain was coming sideways on me, I was miserable. But I’m looking at my daughter, and I’m thinking, I’m on the boat. She’s out there working hard.

It was intense. I was looking at her face. As I had mentioned earlier, it was very difficult to see your daughter go through something so physically, emotionally, and mentally hard as it was. I remember just praying, “Lord, please, why does this have to be so hard? Please calm these waves just for a time. Give them a break. They’re so tired.”

I could sense in my soul that He was saying to me, “My strength is sufficient for them.” I felt in my heart at that moment, The waves are not going to diminish. This is a lesson for them, and for me, and He—God—is going to show them Himself strong to these kids.

Nancy: Was that your perspective, Ginny, as to what the Lord did?

Ginny: Yes, absolutely. We can honestly say that it was literally impossible without the Lord’s strength. As we were getting closer, the days before the journey, it started to really hit me that I’m in no shape to paddle one-third of the way across Lake Michigan. So I think that’s when faith started to really kick in that. If this is going to happen, we were going to be able to say at the end of it that we did it on the Lord’s strength because there’s no way that any of us could do this on our own.

Nancy: Any reflections on your part as to why God might have had those waves not subside as your mom had prayed?

Ginny: Yes. Mom was actually journaling, and she came up with a few really good thoughts that I added to. So she wrote down:

  • If this was an easy trip, you might not have desperately needed Him.
  • If this was an easy trip, we might not have recognized the miraculous provision of His strength. (Which is so true.)
  • If this was an easy trip, we might not have been made stronger through it. 
  • If this was an easy trip, the sweetness of His presence may have been missed.
  • If this was an easy trip, we might not have said while we were out there paddling, "Well, the kids in Uganda don’t have it easy, so whoever said that our trip would be easy either?"
  • If this was an easy trip, I don’t think at the end that we would have so willingly admitted that we did it all on the Lord’s strength.
  • If this was easy for us, and we could have done it, and it was smooth waters, we would have felt like it was a great accomplishment on our part. We would have felt it wasn’t really that hard. But with all the wind and the waves and the rain, there’s no way that we did that on our own. In the middle of the night paddling hard against the waves, that’s impossible on our own strength.

Nancy: What a powerful life lesson that is for somebody who is pulling hard against the current right now in their life circumstance. It may not be paddleboarding across Lake Michigan, but maybe they’re dealing with a prodigal child or grandchild, or a marriage that’s on the rocks, or pressures and temptations in the work place, or the challenges of singleness and God not bringing a mate.

Life is hard, and we want it to be easier. We want the waves to go away. I keep quoting what a pastor friend said on the broadcast not too long ago. He and his wife had lost a child, and I just can’t forget this. He said, “Hard is hard, but hard is not bad because (as I often tell women) anything that makes us need God is really a blessing.” Sometimes that means the journey has to be hard or that it is hard. Out of that we get stripped of self-reliance and have to cast ourselves upon the Lord. So you’ve really just illustrated and explained that so beautifully.

Ginny: Right, and some of the sweetest moments for me was when it would be my turn to get back on the water, and I knew that I couldn’t do it. I thought I was going to fall asleep and fall off the board. And then thirty minutes would go by, and I’d realize that the Lord had continued to give me His strength. He was faithful, and He was blessing our efforts.

It was really one stroke at a time because as we were going, one stroke got us a little ways. We didn’t feel like we were getting very far, but soon we could look back and see how far we’d come by taking one stroke after another in the right direction.

Nancy: You and I were texting about five minutes before you got on one of your last shifts, early Monday morning.

You said, "We're falling off. We're getting really exhausted. That's when Scriptures starting coming in to my heart . . . and I was here safe in my bed in Southwest Michigan. I was just carrying you guys on my heart. I was following that tracker and cheering for you.

Boy, when it got really hard, and throughout that trip, did you think about those kids in Africa a lot? Did that cross your mind?

Ginny: We did, we absolutely did. I think that was one of the things that really kept us going. We would say to each other, “No one said that this would be easy, and the kids in Uganda don’t have it easy. This is not going to be easy. It’s not an easy trip. You’re doing a good thing, but it’s hard.”

Nancy: Ginny, tell us just for a minute, based on what you understand of this work in Uganda, what kind of ministry is going to happen with these kids? What’s being done to help them? I think some of our listeners would like to be praying for those kids and be a part of this journey with you.

Ginny: Right. Bob Goff, who’s the founder of Restore International, is actually the counsel for Uganda. He’s in the legal system over there. He’s a lawyer. He helps to get cases for these kids to get them out of child slavery and to prosecute their traffickers and put them behind bars as well. He also started a school over there to get them an education and help with their future.

Nancy: So at this point of your life, you’re a college student. You weren’t able to go over there and do something—hands on—to help with that situation, but you could raise awareness and raise funds that could end up helping those kids by doing this amazing adventure.

Ginny: Yes. That’s one of the coolest things. We were able to use what we had, which is so completely different from anything over in Uganda, from anything that they would have. They probably don’t know what a paddleboard is.

Nancy: Listen, most of our listeners don’t know what a paddleboard is.

Ginny: Right. So it’s just something that we already enjoy doing, and it’s something that we have, that we’ve been given, and now we have an opportunity to use that and bless others, which is kind of amazing.

Nancy: What I love, too, is that you and the guys that you did this with are looking for opportunities to invest your lives and not just spend them. Karen, this is something that you and Scott have really wanted for your five young-adult kids. Just talk for a minute about how you’ve tried to cultivate in them a heart for the world, for spreading the gospel with their lives. That’s something that you have really wanted for them.

Karen: We have. I have to give my husband, Scott, a lot of credit, for he’s such an intentional planner. You know how people have different personalities. He is a planner, and that carried over into the intentionality of planning and raising our children.

So one of our desires for our children is for them to be mission minded. Some of that certainly comes from my background with my parents and his as well. His grandfather started a mission, and I was raised in a home that was mission-minded. We just saw the benefit personally, and we really wanted that for our children.

As far as what we did, I would say that we intentionally tried to put before them opportunities. We took them on a lot of mission trips. Oftentimes our family vacations turned into a mission trip. And the kids caught that. It’s nothing really that you can teach per se. They have to catch it. They have to see it firsthand.

We liked to invite people to our home that are the heroes of the faith. We let our children hear their stories. We created conversation around the table and let our children hear God stories. As you know, since you’ve been in our home.

But I think it’s the purposeful, intentionality of the vision and the mission that you would have for your children and to raise them with that end goal in mind.

Nancy: Well I’ve loved watching you and Scott do that, and, Ginny, I’ve loved watching you and your siblings grow up and catch that heart. Your parents can’t do it for you, and you have really . . . you’ve got your own faith now, and I’m very excited to see what God’s going to do with your life and how He’s going to use you in the future.

Now, we’ve posted on our website a video clip of when you and Craig and Trent made the landing at Muskegon, not in the boat—you got off on to the paddleboard. The paddle board is intended for one person, but tell us how that looked. I think some of our listeners will want to go to the website and see that footage themselves. But tell us what it was like just coming on shore, how you did that and what the greeting was like. But tell us what it was like just coming on shore, how you did that and what the greeting was like.

Ginny: When we got close enough to shore, we all three jumped on the board together, which is the first time all three of us had been on the board, and so it was very difficult to stay on the board. We kept falling in the water.

But we paddled to shore to see about a hundred of our friends and family and even strangers who had come into town just to see us. We made it to shore with everyone cheering and giving us hugs and telling us how much they’d been praying for us, and there was a news crew there.

I think three weeks ago, looking ahead to what we might have come back to, that was way more than I had ever could have expected or hoped for. That just goes to show how the Lord is using this story in the hearts of other people and encouraging them with what we have done.

Nancy: How do you think your life will be different—long-term—as a result of having had this experience?

Ginny: I had prayed from the beginning that whatever came of this the Lord would give me greater faith from it, because I think I was really fearful at the beginning that we were going to go forward with this idea and get people on board and start fundraising and then it wasn’t going to happen.

That was a lack of my own faith in the Lord’s ability to do great things because that’s such a crazy idea. No one has ever paddleboarded straight across Lake Michigan. But we had faith. We stepped forward and did what we could, and He blessed our efforts and actually increased our faith.

So I think going forward I will always remember that it takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains, or faith the size of a mustard seed to paddleboard across Lake Michigan.

Nancy: That’s because we have a great, great big God. You have experienced that in a fresh way, and you’ve helped us see that in a fresh way, too, those of us who were watching and praying along the way.

Karen Melby and daughter Ginny, thank you so much for sharing this with us. The guys are in the background in the studio here today listening. You’ve been doing a lot of interviews together, but we let them listen in on this one. But they have been a big part of this story, too, and I’m really grateful to see in those guys’ eyes the same heart and fervor that He’s put in yours.

So thanks to all of you. Thanks for helping raise awareness for this cause for these kids in Uganda. We just pray the Lord will take those funds and multiply them, and that there will be lives that will be saved, literally and spiritually as well for all eternity, as a result of your willingness to be willing to step out onto the water and do this for the Lord’s glory. Thank you so much.

Karen/Ginny: Thank you, Nancy.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth recorded that interview with Ginny Melby just days after she finished paddle-boarding across Lake Michigan. We heard from Ginny’s mom, Karen, as well. These two women are an example of persevering through strenuous circumstances. That took place a few years ago. In more recent years, the Melby family crossed through much deeper waters when Scott Melby, Karen’s husband and Ginny’s dad, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

Scott displayed patient endurance during that intense season of pain and suffering. He went home to be with his Savior just a few years later. You can hear more about Scott and Karen’s journey in a series we aired called, “Cancer and Contentment.” We’ll provide a link to that series on today’s transcript.

We're able to bring you conversations like these and teaching based on God's Word, thanks to listeners who believe in this ministry and keep it going. Karen Melby believes in Revive Our Hearts and gives financially so you can hear it each weekday. How might the Lord want you to give so others can hear Revive Our Hearts?

When you donate any amount this month, we'll say "thanks" by sending you a new book by the late Elisabeth Elliot. It’s called Suffering Is Never for Nothing. This book is filled with biblical encouragement birthed out of Elisabeth’s journey with suffering and perseverance.

Request your copy when you make a gift of any amount online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for Suffering Is Never for Nothing when you call us with your gift at 1–800–569–5959.  

Tomorrow, we’re going to hear from this author. Imagine your husband of two years is murdered, and you feel all alone in a foreign country. Elisabeth Elliot knows what that’s like. As she tells the story, you’ll get valuable insight on how to handle suffering in your life. Hear about it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to know God’s strength is sufficient for you. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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