Lay cowboy church pastor, wife save two drowning children

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by John Hall — August 15, 2013

GARNER STATE PARK – Rebecca Strange prays for God to use her and her husband “for your will.”

On Aug. 6, it was God’s orchestration of small events that led them to be exactly where God wanted them, the couple said. Visiting Garner State Park on their honeymoon, Richard and Rebecca decided to stay a day beyond their initial plans. They were enjoying the trip, and one more day would be wonderful, they thought.

The extra time gave them a chance to go fishing that evening. They hadn’t caught or seen anything of significant size, and the couple was about to pack up for the night. Then Rebecca spied “biggest bass I’ve ever seen in my life,” which encouraged her to keep casting a bit longer.

After a bit, she didn’t catch anything and went to sit on a park bench as the sun set and Richard cast four or five more times in last ditch attempts to catch the bass. When those also failed, the couple visited for a few moments on the picnic bench – right where they were supposed to be, they said.

They were the only ones to hear screaming coming from the lake.

They discovered an elementary-age boy yelling and thrashing in the water while his two parents screamed from the bank. The father jumped in to save his son, but clearly could not swim and had to jump back out.

Richard, a lay pastor at Cowboy Church of Tarrant County, and Rebecca jumped in. They soon discovered the boy dove in to save his sister, who also could not swim. The couple began working their way to the children.

Just as they began to work the young people to safety, the boy let out another scream. His mother had jumped in to try to help Richard and Rebecca and was going under. Quickly, Rebecca held the children, and Richard grabbed the mother, then Rebecca and the two children and walked them toward and shallower part of the lake that was further from the shore.

By this time, other people had gathered. Rebecca and Richard borrowed some inflatable rafts from those who had congregated and floated the children and mother back to shore.

The experience was physically and emotionally trying.

“We got back to the campsite,” Richard said. “Rebecca cried. I sat there numb.”

Six days after, Rebecca still cries when recounting the tale. Richard stammers a bit when talking about it. The entire day, God was guiding them, they believe, so they would be at the lake at that moment.

“I just don’t believe it was God’s will for those kids to drown that day,” Rebecca said. “We were just the people to make sure that didn’t happen.”

Everything that happened – from deciding to stay the extra day to seeing the large bass to casting a few more times to talking on the picnic bench – were God moments, they agree. God uses small decisions and events to accomplish significant tasks.

“I feel really blessed,” Richard said. “My family feels blessed.”

The couple was there to get the family to safety. But when it comes to who receives credit for saving the children, they point to another source.

“We’re not the hero in this. The hero in this God.”

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