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CBN.com Imagine going from surfer-girl to super-star almost overnight. Well, that's just what happened to 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton when she lost her left arm in a vicious shark attack.
Bethany Hamilton will quickly tell you what she loves about surfing.
"It's probably like the funnest thing ever. Every day you go out it's totally different than the day before, and it's always, like, refreshing in the water. It always takes your thoughts, like, say you're having a bad day, and every time you usually get good thoughts after surfing, and it cheers you up."
She's the Hawaiian sweetheart who's been hitting national and international news like wildfire, receiving more public attention than just about any other teenage girl around. Born and bred on the island of Kauai, she's Bethany Hamilton - aspiring surfing star and shark attack victim.
In Hawaii there is a place called the "tunnels" -- known by locals as a great place to catch up to 80-foot waves and also as the location where Bethany Hamilton could have lost her life.
It was the morning of October 31, 2003. Bethany and a few of her friends had gone out to surf.
"I was lying on my board parallel to the waves. One of my arms was laying inside the water, and the other arm was just holding the board. Then the shark just came up and attacked me, and it kind of pulled me back and forth. It was only, like, 2 or 3 seconds, so it was really short."
Long enough for a 14-foot tiger shark to do some serious damage.
"All of a sudden Bethany goes, 'I got attacked by a shark!'" says Bethany's fellow surfer, Holt, "and she wasn't panicking or anything, so I almost thought she was kidding. So she was paddling in toward me. I was probably 20-feet away. And then I saw a bunch of blood in the water."
Bethany's left arm was gone. Holt had to act fast.
"I took my rash guard off and I tied it around her. I used it as a tourniquet and tied it around what was left, which wasn't much. I knew it was going to be a 20-minute paddle to the beach from out there. In my mind, I didn't think we'd be able to get her to the beach before she bled to death."
At this point, all Bethany could do was pray.
"I don't remember my exact prayers, I just remember praying." Prayer was nothing new to Bethany.
You see, she put her faith in Jesus Christ when she was just five - and not only began reading the Word of God, but memorizing it, and believing it for her life.
"We were going to all these surfing contests," Bethany's mother, Cheri, remembers. "I said, 'Bethany, we need to start physically glorifying God somehow.' So, she started writing Scriptures on her board. The first one she wrote was 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'"
And strengthen, He did. With only one arm, Bethany made it back to the beach and to the hospital, where, coincidentally, her father, Tom, was awaiting a routine knee surgery.
"My doctor said, 'Tom, let me go find out what's going on.' He came back in and he was just weeping and crying with tears, and I just said, 'Oh my God, it's my daughter.'"
As Tom was rolled out of the operating room, while Bethany was brought in. By this time, massive prayer intercession had begun.
"I just started praying to God that she'd survive," Tom remembers, "because I didn't know what condition she was in at all at the time."
Bethany's condition was bad. She had lost half her blood volume.
"I called our church and had them start the prayer team," Cheri explains. "Then, I called The 700 Club and asked them to pray. It was like I just knew that I knew that she was 100 percent God's. That's what went through my heart, "She belongs to you now, Lord."
Within days, Bethany was out of the hospital. But now this surfer girl has to face life without her left arm.
At times she has wondered, God, why did this happen to me?
"I kind of realize that it's given me an opportunity to, like, witness for Him, and more people will want to talk to me since I'm that girl that got attacked by a shark. So they'll want to hear what I say. And that's pretty good."
Interestingly enough, just before the shark attack, Bethany and her mother had approached God with a special request.
"We were just kind of at a loss for words, and so I said, 'Let's just pray for God's will for your life.' So for two solid weeks we were praying for God's will for her life," says Bethany's mother. "So when this happened, I knew we were in God's hands. And I had a peace about it, amongst the pain. I felt like the Holy Spirit just fell upon me right after this happened. I just really felt the grace and mercy and loving-kindness that the Lord has for everyone in the world."
While most people would consider the loss of a limb a major liability, Bethany sees things a little differently. Her youth pastor, Sara, explains
"There's something different about Bethany. I've seen her turn to God and just choose to trust Him through this -- just surrender it to Him and to know that He has a plan and a purpose and that this is part of her life."
Of course, it's not always easy. Since Halloween, when the shark attacked her, she has had nightmares.
"I have nightmares, but they're usually right when I wake up in the morning," Bethany explains.
And as bad as the nightmares get, Bethany still holds firmly to her faith.
"I think Bethany's faith is simple. She's not preaching, you know, this huge gospel. She's just preaching this faith that she has in God; that He's her strength, and that everything that's happening is part of His plan," says ones of Bethany's friends.
In less than a month, Bethany was back on her board. In three months, she was competing. And there's much more Bethany hopes to achieve.
"I hope to do a lot of stuff with little kids because I enjoy that. I give them clothes. I tell them about God."
Bethany isn't just coping with her circumstance, she's choosing to overcome it. But it's not through her own strength. She says it's through the power of Jesus Christ.
"I can say one thing," Bethany declares, "He definitely got me through this, and I have a special verse that is the first verse a friend of mine gave when I was in the hospital - "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you hope - a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)."Can God change your life?
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