Not Missing the Boat



by Elizabeth Schenkel

Three times! I woke up from the same dream three times in a row. And now, early in the morning, I also had a song running through my head, “Michael, row the boat ashore, Alleluia!” I hadn’t heard that old spiritual since I was 10 years old sitting around the campfire at church camp in rural Wisconsin.

In my dream, my husband and I were driving into a small Third World city on the shore of huge lake or broad river. We were rushing, afraid we might miss the ferry we were meant to catch. Before we could get on the ferry, we had to turn in the aged rental car and walk quite a few blocks through this unfamiliar town to the docks. We both struggled with distractions. I was afraid we would get lost on the way. People were trying to sell us food and trinkets. At one point I turned aside and bought canned peaches in a zip-lock bag. Funny what I remember from that dream!

The entire time I was tense, pressured, upset by the threat of missing the boat. And all three times, before the outcome was clear, I woke up. Did we catch the boat or not?

“Lord, are you trying to say something to me through that dream?” I prayed. I was meant to give a devotional that morning at the beginning of our semi-annual board meeting. I had already decided to talk about the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.

Suddenly it all became clear to me. As if the Lord was speaking, I realized the question in the dream was not actually whether or not we would get to the boat on time, but rather, who we would be when we got there. Boarding the boat was symbolic of ending this temporal life, hence the old spiritual, “Michael, row the boat ashore.”

God had my attention. He was putting His finger on something that applied not just to that ultimate goal, but all the little intermediary goals before that. I need to be just as concerned with who I am when I arrive as I am with being on time, or jumping through all the hoops that my life demands. I need to resemble Jesus’ list in Matthew 5. I need to be poor in Spirit, mourning for others, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and willing to take the risks that bring persecution in obedience to Him.

Here in the U.S., all of those qualities are pretty countercultural. Jesus is challenging me to take the lowest seat at the dinner, to empathize with others, to listen more than speak, to be kind, to seek Him and His kingdom unreservedly, and to speak out as He leads me, regardless of the personal consequences.

Ultimately, only God knows how long I have here. Only He knows what time my boat is leaving. I don’t need to worry about that. He has my eternal itinerary firmly and well in hand. But He is asking me to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1) and BE a person who reflects His heart and character to my brothers and sisters and the world around me. Alleluia!




Elizabeth Schenkel has been actively involved in Christian ministry on four continents over the past 40 years. After a violent attack nearly ended her life in 2000, Elizabeth became a spokesperson for the persecuted church and for fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission through bold steps of faith. Elizabeth co-wrote the evangelistic, follow-up film series for the “Magdalena” film entitled “Rivka.” After serving overseas for sixteen years, Elizabeth and her husband Erick moved to Orlando, Florida in April of 2012, where Erick is serving as the Executive Director of Jesus Film Project®. The Schenkels have five grown children and three grandchildren.