A group of young Christian surfers saved the lives of a mother and her two teenage sons after they were pulled away from the shore by a riptide on Christmas Day.
The New Zealand boys, part of the Oceanic country's North Shore Christian Surfers Group, saved the family with their surf boards after learning that they were stranded far from shore, according to a report at the New Zealand Herald. Darren Celliers, 20, Caleb Lemkus, 21, Olly Mason, 23, Lewis Mennie, 16, and Troy Duckworth were alerted by a fellow beachgoer that a family was struggling out in the water at New Zealand's Bethells Beach, located about an hour west of Auckland.
"The younger brother was just freaking out. He was scared and in shock," said Celliers, a part-time surf-shop worker from nearby Browns Bay.
"We spent the first few minutes trying to calm him down and explain that he was going to be all right."
The surfers believe that the three family members were only minutes from drowning before they came along. "They were pretty exhausted and pretty far out, and weren't making any progress towards land. It was pretty freaky," Celliers said.
But thanks to the use of the group's surf boards and some quick actions, the mother and her two teenage sons made the 30 meter trip back to shore safely.
Christian surfers are nothing new, as groups around the world have assembled to use the art of surfing as a place to evangelize God's Word for generations. According to the Christian Surfers International website, groups "are mobilising surfers to reach surfers using their surfing. We are an authentic surfing movement. We are showing how our surfing is submitted to Christ as a servant not a master."
These surfing groups partner with local churches to take the Gospel to the beach, where the surfers believe that the Word of God is sadly lacking. "We are called to the world surfing community and will seek to facilitate surfing outreach to every surfing nation," the group's website describes. "We are also an international family of missions committed to the common good."
According to the international club's statement of faith on their website, they believe that the Bible is God's infalliable written word and that there is one true God existing in the Holy Trinity. "Jesus is perfectly God and perfectly human, united as one person. He lived a sinless life. Jesus died on the cross as our substitute, taking upon himself the punishment which we deserve. By his death, Jesus made a once-for-all atonement for sin. We receive forgiveness of sins by turning to Him in faith. He rose from the dead bodily, and ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father. He is the only mediator between man and God."
But despite the nature of the beach ministry, the young surfers who saved the family on Thursday warn that ocean water can be dangerous. "Even being an experienced surfer, I wouldn't just go swimming out on the west coast without flotation," Celliers added.
New Zealand has seen a string of water tragedies in recent days, including a 16-year-old who was swept out to sea on Ninety Mile Beach, a 47-year-old man who was killed trying out his brand new Christmas surf board, and a one-year-old who drowned in a makeshift pool at the family's home.