Southern Alum Provides Closure for Family Following Tragedy
Southern Adventist University alum Rich Abernathy, ’18, made national and international headlines this summer when he discovered a long-lost GoPro camera belonging to a young man who had passed away two years prior.
Abernathy—or Rich Aloha as he goes by on his YouTube channel—has been documenting his adventures for several years. He particularly enjoys searching bodies of water and finding lost items, which he tries to return to their owners. In July, Abernathy was scuba diving in Foster Falls State Park in Southeast Tennessee when he found a GoPro barely peeking out from under the mud. The camera was cracked but still in working order. He checked the footage and discovered that it had belonged to a young man named Rich Ragland who had drowned at the falls in 2017. Abernathy whole-heartedly believes that God led him to the GoPro.
“I had already searched Foster Falls for three days with some friends and hadn’t found that particular GoPro,” he said. “Everyone else was ready to leave, but I had a little more air left in my tank, so I decided to dive a little more, and that was when I found it.”
After some searching, Abernathy was able to connect with Ragland’s family and give them the GoPro in person, saying that the privilege of being able to bring them something so personal was “indescribable.”
“I was able to return something that you can’t put a monetary value on,” he said. “His mother and father were also in shock at the similarities between me and their son: we both had the same name, we were both entrepreneurs, and we both loved adventure. What are the odds? The family is so sweet. We still talk on a weekly basis.”
Abernathy considers his freediving to be a form of ministry; being able to return lost items to their owners provides unique witnessing opportunities. In this case, Ragland’s parents had been praying to find the GoPro for two years, and Abernathy was able to play a part in answering that prayer.
Another way he has used his videography work for God was on a trip to Guam earlier in the year. Abernathy was able to create videos for the Guam-Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, traveling to different islands and showing what’s happening in the churches and schools in Guam. Although he initially planned to stay for a year, that didn’t work out, and Abernathy sees God’s hand in the change of plans, explaining, “If I were still in Guam, I don’t think I would have found the GoPro.”