When Things Don't Go Our Way: Awake Series, Part 22


Halifax's disasterHalifax's disaster

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 NIV)

That morning of December 6, 1917, Vincent Coleman said good-bye to his lovely wife, Frances, and their four children, and went to work at the Richmond railway station in Halifax Nova Scotia. His workplace was a small wooden station amidst the Richmond rail yards, in close proximity of the harbour. He was feeling cheerful that sunny morning, for he enjoyed his job as a dispatcher.

As he relieved the night dispatcher at the telegraph office that fateful morning, a muffled crash could be heard in the distance, followed by a column of black smoke rising off the harbour to fill the horizon.

A naval officer suddenly appeared at the dispatcher's shack, warning them of an imminent explosion. The noise and smoke had been caused by a collision at sea: After a series of misguided manoeuvres, the French ship Mont-Blanc, loaded with tons of ammunition, had been struck by the Norwegian vessel Imo.

Vincent and his boss, William Lovett, immediately left the premises, heading to safer grounds. Vincent had only taken ten steps however, when he returned to the telegraph office. He had just remembered Passenger Train #10, the overnight train from Saint John, New Brunswick, carrying 300 passengers. It was due to pass directly in front of the blazing Mont-Blanc within minutes. Unless they were warned, these people faced certain death. Risking his own life, Vincent sent the following now-famous message:

"Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbour making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Goodbye boys."

At 9:05 am, just after Vincent had sent his message, the Mont-Blanc exploded. Vincent's station was obliterated, so was a large part of Halifax. Vincent had sacrificed his life so that others would survive.

Vincent loved beyond what was humanly possible. What about us? Would we have done the same? Yet we are urged to love even the unlovable. We are encouraged to share the message that Jesus has given us with those around us in order to save them for certain destruction. We are directed to love beyond what is humanly possible!

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35 NIV)

This is only possible if we are united in love!

"Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one." (John 17:11 NIV)

Rob Chaffart

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