In the days of sailing vessels, a party of Moravian missionaries was sailing toward St. Thomas in the West Indies. The ship on which they were sailing was called the Britannia. In those days, the southern seas were full of pirates; and one day a pirate ship was seen rapidly approaching the Britannia. Though poorly equipped for defense, all hands on the Britannia were called to prepare to resist the pirates. The Moravian missionaries, however, retired to their cabin. There they began praying for God to intervene and to not only spare human life, but to make it possible for them to continue on their trip so that they could carry the gospel message to a dark and waiting land.
The pirate ship continued to draw closer until it was within gunshot range of the Britannia; and then, from its many cannons, it began to pour out a heavy fire. As the ships came closer together, the men along the pirate ship’s deck next prepared themselves to board the Britannia. In order to do this; they would throw large metal hooks attached to ropes onto the deck of the ship they wanted to board. As soon as the hooks, called grappling irons, fastened themselves to something, they would quickly pull themselves across to the ship on the ropes. Just at the moment the pirates their grappling irons across toward the Britannia, their own ship was suddenly tossed violently by the waves and the men who held the ropes were thrown headlong into the sea.
Irritated with this disaster, the pirate captain sent others to take the place of the fallen men. When they also tried to board the Britannia, the same thing happened to them. Seeing that he could not succeed in this manner, the captain ordered his guns to fire again; but, strange to say, the balls all missed the Britannia, falling harmlessly into the sea. The smoke of the frequent firing of the guns was, however, very dense and hung about the vessels for quite some time, hiding them from each other’s view. When at last a gust of wind cleared away the smoke, to the amazement of the pirate captain, the Britannia was seen to be far away with all of her sails set, speeding rapidly away from him. The pirates gave up the chase as hopeless; feeling completely frustrated by their failure to capture the ship on which the missionaries were sailing.
For five years after their arrival, the missionaries continued to faithfully preach the gospel in St. Thomas. On the fifth anniversary of their narrow escape, they, along with the other brethren on the island, assembled together to celebrate. As they were sitting together, word was brought that a stranger wished to speak to them. At their permission, a tall, fine-looking man with a pleasant expression on his face entered. He asked if they were the missionaries who had come to the island in the Britannia five years before.
“We are,” replied the brother whom he addressed.
“And were you attacked upon the sea by pirates?” asked the stranger.
“Yes, replied the brother, “but why are you asking these questions?”
“Because,” answered the stranger, “I am the captain who commanded the pirate ship that attacked you. The miraculous way in which your ship escaped was the reason for my own salvation from the power of sin through faith in Christ.”
The stranger then proceeded to tell them how, on making inquiry, he was led to conclude that it was through the prayers of the missionaries that the Britannia escaped. As a result, he was determined to visit their place of worship. Finding a Moravian mission, he was there converted from the error of his ways.
“And thus,” he concluded, “from a pirate captain I am become a poor sinner, justified by the grace and mercy of Christ. My hope has been that I might some day be able to find you and tell you of my miraculous conversion. This joy has now been granted me today.”