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SHINING MOMENTS: LIFE IN THE BALANCE

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The water was swift and milky brown from recent rains, but John Fields Jr. was an experienced canoeist and felt confident that a trip down the Conococheague Creek in south-central Pennsylvania with two neighbor boys would add a little adventure to a Saturday morning.

Twenty minutes later, his life hung in the balance, supported by a belt and the strength of a young man.Shortly after Brother Fields and 12-year-old Charlie Douglass of the Chambersburg 2nd Ward in the York Pennsylvania Stake, along with 15-year-old Jason Mummert, launched their canoe into the river, they struck a sycamore tree.

The swift current capsized the canoe, flipped it upside down, then folded it around the tree. In the process, Brother Fields' foot became pinched under the canoe's seat, forcing him downward into the water.

Charlie and Jason popped up. But Brother Fields did not. Because of his position, he was unable to bend backwards to get to the surface for air.

"It seemed like forever. I thought this was my fate," he said, thinking about his six children who would grow up without a father.

As Brother Fields was lapsing into unconsciousness, Charlie and Jason saw the back of his head and shoulders float to the surface. His face was a deep purple.

They held his head so he could gain consciousness. Brother Fields was then able to unbuckle his belt and get it to the boys who laced it through his vest.

"I don't normally wear a belt," he said. "I've never worn one. But that morning as I was leaving, I felt impressed to wear one."

With the aid of the belt, Charlie used his 85 pounds to counter the weight of Brother Fields and keep him above water for an hour while Jason swam approximately 80 feet across the river for help.

For the next hour, the life of Brother Fields was in the hands of a young man who was just ordained a deacon.

The noise of the water made it difficult to talk, but all three prayed - out loud, privately and constantly. "Soon after the prayer," Brother Fields said, "I felt a peace and a calmness that things would be all right."

Brother Fields remained in the raging water for three hours before rescue crews could cut the canoe in half to free his foot.

"I've learned the difference between going to Church, and being active in Christ," said Brother Fields, who is the ward mission leader.