May 22, 2008
By Solomon Rudy, Manheim, PA


My lungs screamed for air as I hit the second wall behind me. A thought flashed through my mind, “I’m trapped!” My better judgment fought hard to keep my mind calm and clear. The internal battle between it and the gripping sense of panic raged within me as I thrashed around for an escape. I did everything I could from exhaling that one precious breath left inside my lungs. My eyes, which were usually shut tightly, now flashed open. Murky grey water filled my vision, and the cool water around me seemed to turn icy. I pushed off the bottom only to hit the ceiling above me, the solid rock that lay between the air and me. Now I was truly disoriented, and scared. “God help me!” I screamed in my mind. “I can’t die! Not now!” Pushing off with my feet, I tried once again to find a way out, a way I knew existed. If only I could find it.

“An underwater tunnel?” I repeated back to my friend who was now grinning at me with that adventurous light in his eyes that I so often saw. Born in Colombia, and a certified dive master, Felipe would never pass up the opportunity to explore the land and try new things, even if they were crazy. I had gone scuba diving with him many times, and I trusted his knowledge of water.

“Yea that’s right, it’s underwater but it isn’t very big.” He replied with a hint of Colombian accent. “Frasier, Isaac and I”, he explained, referring to his friends from New Zealand, “found it a couple years ago; we know how to get through it. You can hold on to my foot when we go through first if you like.”

I looked around at the jungle environment. This spring was such a place of tranquility. The many waterfalls and rocks made a perfect place to come and cool off after a hard days work on the church building. But I also knew of the dangers that lurked underwater. Worn away by decades of flowing water, many other tunnels wound themselves through the soft rock. However, I trusted Felipe, he had lived in the Philippines longer than I had, and really knew the land well.

I agreed to go with him. He instructed me to hold onto his foot while we went through. And I did it with him the first couple of times. The tunnel started underwater, and then veered off to the right and started slanting upward, where I finally emerged in front of a waterfall. After a while, I got comfortable doing it myself and going through the way he showed me. However, I always had to get out of the water and go around to the entrance because he had not showed me how to go through the reverse way.

My friends all gathered around as I spoke from the water, in front of the waterfall where I usually exited the tunnel. “I am going to try and go through backwards this time.” I said, with a hint of apprehension. I had my doubts, since Felipe hadn’t shown me how to go this way. But I figured it couldn’t be that complicated. So I took a deep breath and dove down into the water and found the tunnel entrance. Arms outstretched, and using my legs as propulsion, I felt my way along. Suddenly I hit a wall. Confused, I decided to abort this dive to get more air. And as I tried to swim backwards, out the way I came, I hit the second wall. That’s when I knew I was trapped.

The gloomy blackness that I saw behind my eyelids slowly absolved to light. I opened my eyes as my head broke the surface of the water. I sucked in a breath of air and tasted sweet as it filled my lungs. I saw my friends with concerned faces around me; I was at the other end of the tunnel. My shoulder was scraped and I didn’t remember scraping it. But the pain I felt didn’t matter. I was alive. For the first time in my life, my eyes were opened to how precious the life God gives us really is.

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