Sunken treasure

“It is the prophetic task, in a time of unraveling hopes, to declare the unimaginable, to assert the rationality of the unthinkable, to call the people to new hope, grounded not on the past but on sheer faith that God is about to do the impossible.”

The Rev. Walter Wink said this. Several Baltimore-Washington Conference pastors, including the Rev. Dave Myers of Chevy Chase UMC, quoted it in their sermons. I sometimes wonder how much we truly believe it. And then, I run across stories like that of Mel Fisher from Key West.

Fisher, a United Methodist, had read about sunken treasure buried with the ship the Nuestra Señora de Atocha off the coast in the Florida Keys. At church, he met Eugene Lyon, who researched the wreck and translated the history into usable information.

Over the next 16 years, Fisher and his crew found several pieces from the Atocha, but the mother-lode of the treasure eluded him.

He had a sign painted and hung outside of his Key West office. It said, “Today is the Day.” Fisher had faith. His search continued. He persevered, believing in the unimaginable, the unthinkable, the impossible.

On July 20, 1985, divers unearthed a reef of silver bars.

Fisher was out shopping. The local radio station announced, “If anyone has seen Mel Fisher, tell him he found the big pile.” Mel first heard about the discovery from well-wishers who congratulated him on the street.

Efforts to raise the treasure began, bringing forth $450 million worth of gold, silver, unexpected emeralds and other artifacts.

Today in Key West, a museum houses much of the Atocha’s treasure and artifacts.
“People need symbols, and the Atocha is a kind of symbol, a symbol for great adventure, great striving, tremendous persistence, a dream which was realized,” says historian Eugene Lyon. “It’s also a tremendous cultural accomplishment by those people who went out and persisted and found the shipwreck and recovered it.”

While the treasure intrigues, equally interesting is Fisher’s prophetic sign: “Today is the day.” These words are now carved in a stone outside the museum. I wonder how our lives might be different if we took them to heart.


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