By Mark Ellis
It was a blustery Saturday along the coast of Maine, with whitecaps forming to the horizon’s edge. Jane Dobson received some jolting news that morning, October 2, 2010. A close friend in Wisconsin had passed away the night before.
“She was a beloved sister in Christ, a very dear friend of mine,” Jane notes. “Her husband got up and thought she was asleep, but suddenly he realized she wasn’t breathing.” Her friend Kathleen died from a massive, unexpected heart attack at age 67.
Jane began to grieve for her friend. The Dobson house was full of weekend guests – their kids and old family friends, which made it more difficult for Jane to find time alone with God. Before she received the bad news about her friend, she had been praying that Jesus would reveal Himself in new ways to her house-guests.
“The wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t open my windows even an inch,” Jane recalls. But then suddenly, about 2:00 p.m., the wind stopped. “It went from big white caps to flat calm – like a mill pond,” she notes. “That usually doesn’t happen in October in Maine.”
Due to the favorable weather change, Jane’s husband, Bill, suggested they go for a ride on their boat. Everyone quickly agreed and the group of 10 piled into the Dobson’s 36-foot Hinckley picnic boat, “Lady Jane,” and set out along the coast of Maine.
Jane continued to grieve on the boat. “Everybody left me alone because I was so sad,” she notes. Jane, a retired nurse with an active prayer ministry, offered praise for Kathleen’s life and asked Jesus to send comfort.
After an hour on the vessel, Jane felt a noticeable change in the atmosphere. As their boat rounded a bend close to Owl’s Head State Park’s majestic lighthouse, something unusual happened.
“I felt God’s presence so powerfully it was astounding to me,” she says. “It was like someone flipped a switch and I went from horrific grief to inexpressible joy.” She was so overcome by the peace and presence of God that her grief vanished.
Jane’s daughter, Kirsten recalls the same moment. “We were both praying for peace and comfort for Kathleen’s daughter,” she says. “All of a sudden the most amazing sense of peace came over us.”
About five minutes later, they heard their friend Michael say excitedly, “Who is this guy in white in the picture?” Michael had a new Sony digital camera and felt inspired to attempt some artistic shots on their outing.
“I was trying to be creative with the photos I took that day,” Michael recalls. “My wife Elizabeth and I were sitting there and I was looking at her glasses. I thought that would be a cool picture to take a shot of the reflection in her glasses.”
Immediately he pulled up the images on his digital camera and there appeared to be an unknown figure captured in the tenth photo. “Who is this in Elizabeth’s glasses?” he asked, as those who sat nearby began to look curiously.
In the photo, a mysterious hooded figure dressed in white stood on the inside edge of the boat, leaning slightly forward, with his head bent down, as if praying.
“Nobody could identify this person,” Michael says. “We went through every scenario and after a while we determined there was nobody who looked like that on the boat and nobody was standing on that side of the boat.”
Kirsten left her mother and went over to see the photograph. “Oh my gosh; who is that?” she exclaimed. As her mind quickly processed the possibilities, she reached a dramatic conclusion: “I think that’s Jesus.”
“Mom, you’ve got to come over here!” Kirsten cried. Then Jane came over and scanned the digital image carefully.
“I’ll tell you who it is,” she volunteered. “It’s either Jesus or one of His angels.” Without her glasses, she couldn’t make a definitive judgment until they returned to the house.
When the passengers began to recognize the implications of this, powerful feelings emerged. “Michael was overcome,” Jane says. “He knew that person wasn’t on the boat and he knew it wasn’t a flesh and blood person.” Their souls were rocked with holy fear, perhaps the way Moses felt when he heard God speak through a burning bush.
“We were all in a daze for the rest of the boat trip,” Kirsten recalls. Some were scared by it. “Michael’s father-in-law kept saying, ‘It can’t be that. There’s no way that could be Jesus.’”
Michael sat there, incredulous. “I’m going to rethink my entire life after taking that picture,” he said.
In the month that followed this unusual incident, Jane prayed for clarity about the identity of the person in the photograph. “I didn’t want to say it was Jesus if it was an angel,” she says. After a month, God gave her a striking vision that confirmed in her mind that the unknown figure is Jesus.
“I knew it was Him. He’s bent forward as if He’s praying, leaning against the inside of the boat”
Michael, who works in the financial services industry in New York, says he is not tech savvy. “There was no messing around with this photo,” he says. “There was no editing to it.” It could not have been a double exposure. He has not formed a conclusion about the identity of the figure.
Jane’s husband Bill is an architect, a pilot, and works in the nursing home business. “I’m a skeptical person, the opposite of my wife,” he says. “This blew my mind. There was no chance to alter the photo because we looked at it right after he took them.”
“I fly airplanes. I don’t see UFOs,” he added. He is convinced the photo is Jesus.
Jane took dozens of copies of the photo to the funeral of her friend Kathleen. When she spoke, she recounted the way Jesus calmed the waters by His tangible presence that day.
God used the photo to bring special comfort to Kathleen’s daughter, Trish, who now keeps a copy framed on her mantle. “What a beautiful gift of God it has been,” Trish says. “That picture helps remind me He is right here in our midst.” During several moments of great sadness she feels the Holy Spirit has directed her to look at the image, and her anguish has been replaced with peace.
As Jane looks back, she realizes that God brought a most unusual answer to everything she prayed, when Jesus calmed the waters on a blustery day.