Not So Lost Boys

Hello all,

Something has crossed my desk recently that I think needs sharing.  It may be particularly apropos if you’ve been watching all the world news lately.

How many of you were forced to read The Lord of The Flies in school?  I don’t know about Australia, but in America, it was required reading. It’s a cautionary tale helping us all remember that when left alone, especially without adults, there’s going to be trouble. As I was a timid girl to begin with, reading this only drove home the fact that I couldn’t be trusted to take care of myself without a Speaker’s Conch and a lot of bloodshed.

And as much as that book impacted our lives, I remind myself that it was actually a fictitious story written by William Goldburg in 1951.

A few days ago, a tiny blip in the Australian newspaper, the Guardian, showcased an article written by a Dutch minister’s son, Rutger Bergman. Himself a non-believer (it happens) but somehow he still retained an intuitive feeling that man wasn’t all that bad after all.

So in a humanistic approach he set about to find some tender stories about man’s kindness and he wrote a book.  In this book, with quite a bit of research, he discovered and published the tale of a bunch of boys, a real life Lord of the Flies story, from back in the 60’s.  It goes something like this:

In 1965, six boys who were residents of a Catholic boarding school in Tonga got bored and decided to “borrow” a boat and sail to either Fiji or possibly New Zealand.  The oldest boy was 16 and the youngest 13.  They were, on the whole, good boys, but as I said, a bit bored. Their biggest fault was that they were just looking for a challenge. They were not particularly known as great planners, had almost no navigational skills (as evidenced by the fact that Fiji and New Zealand are in exact opposite directions from Tonga), or appropiate tools for such an undertaking. They set sail with great pomposity and not-so-great preparation, carrying only enough supplies for a few days at best; and after a seamless departure, they were already congratulating themselves on what a great adventure they had begun.

… perhaps a bit more of an adventure than any of them planned on. After the initial departure, boredom set in, and soon all six were sound asleep in the warm afternoon sun.  Water splashing into their faces woke them up to the reality of darkness and a bad storm. They survived the storm and then were adrift for eight grueling days, finally spotting an island. By this time, they were sunburned, dehydrated and starving, but they decided to elect one person to try and swim to shore and check it out.

When it was dark, in order to give them some advantage of surprise if the island was hostile,  one of the boys slipped over the side of the boat and started swimming. He was so weak, he barely made it, collapsing on the sand and sleeping until morning.  He had a quick look around and signaled the rest to come ashore. It was just as difficult for them, but eventually they were all safely on the beach. The island was clearly uninhabited, but they found some plants to eat and with fresh water they gradually began to revive.  Some time later, they were able to climb to the top of the island where they found the ruins of a civilization, which history recorded as having been abandoned by slavers some 70 years previously. In the vicinity of the ruins, they ‘inherited’ some feral chickens (still going strong after 70 years) along with some rudimentary tools.

And so, after a few weeks of hoping and then despairing that they’d ever be discovered, they began to live there, establishing order, learning to focus on what they were good at and more importantly, wait out their differences until they could fall into a system of conflict resolution that worked.  They fed themselves, had lots of projects with assigned responsibilities for building a shelter, keeping a signal fire going etc.  One of the boys fell and broke his leg, but when they were finally rescued, doctors discovered that it had been  set perfectly.

In comparing this true story to William Goldburg’s fictional piece. I saw at least one major difference. Goldburg’s premise, and most of us would agree, even theologically, was that people, left to themselves, will self-destruct. The apologist, Charles Colson, underscored that fact in his study, How Now Shall We Live? with the comment that, “Left in a room by himself, a man will do the wrong thing, every time.”

But the difference in the story of these six boys lies, I believe, in the fact that they all had a relationship with God. They were not without sin, to be sure – after all, this whole adventure began with their decision to “borrow” someone’s boat without their permission,– but the key lay in how they dealt with themselves and the situation they were in.

When things got tough, and then even tougher, the foundation of faith that had helped shaped them kicked in and helped them survive. Totau, the boy who first swam to shore, said later that they all prayed for his safety before he left the boat and swam to shore. As they settled in for the long haul as castaways, they organized morning prayers and devotions, faithfully maintaining them every day of their exile ….which ended up being 15 months long.

We would do well to remember this (I’m preaching to myself here), especially in these crazy days.  We may not exactly be castaways today, but whatever situation we find ourselves in, it will definitely go better if we have an on-going relationship with the Savior. I have to grimace at all those movies where the guy comes to the end of his rope, falls to his knees and says something like, “Uh, God? I know we haven’t talked much lately, but …” How much better would that conversation have gone if the guy had just been speaking to God just that morning?!?

If you want to read more about these boys’ most excellent adventure, here’s a YouTube link:

I also need to give credit to the Australian Guardian newspaper who resurrected this story.  I have tried to get their permission to use it, but they’re ignoring me.  Hopefully, I won’t be transported to Atu Island, which I understand is once again….. uninhabited.

Spoiler alert:  the boys you see in this old ‘documentary’ film are actors ……. with clothes on.  Naturally in 1965, no one had an iPhone to document it all, including the loss of their clothes and growth of their hair.  When they did finally attract the attention of a passing boat, they looked like honest savages, so much so that the pilot had his gun ready.  Imagine his surprise when they called out for help in perfect boarding school English!

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6)

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