Reflections on praying about the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Originally appeared on

The circumstances surrounding this most recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be different from those of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the 1980s, but, for me, they’ve brought up similar feelings and that desire to be of service that I had over 20 years ago.

While vacationing in Utah at the end of March 1989, I heard the news that the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker en route to California, had run into a reef and was spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into what was to me the most beautiful place on Earth, Prince William Sound, Alaska. I was devastated. This ended my vacation. (I lived and worked in Anchorage, and “played” in Prince William Sound.)

Once I began to try to listen to God, my sense of loss and anger began to give way to the question: Why!? This concern for all the people and wildlife involved was a start, but even after a few days, I still struggled to get sleep and lacked any sense that progress was possible. I avoided the drama of broadcast news but still caught glimpses of piles of dead animals and oil-smothered shoreline from the print media.

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