Michael Kafkalas not only believes in miracles, he believes he witnessed one after a stormy night 23 years ago.
On Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday, Kafkalas and his wife, Catherine, closed Katina's, their Greek restaurant in Ocean City, early to attend church. As the couple drove to their Egg Harbor Township home, the storm worsened, and they decided to skip church.
The couple, however, got into a deep discussion about their faith, in particular Michael, now 81, who passionately discussed his belief in reincarnation.
As the storm weakened, Michael and Catherine pulled the drapes on a sliding door that led to their backyard. In that instant, a flash of lightning occurred, setting off their home alarm system and making Michael think their home had been hit.
"I felt I was being punished for saying the wrong things," he said.
After realizing the lightning struck a tree, they went to bed. The next morning, Catherine, now 77, pulled open the same drapes and screamed, "There's a cross on our porch."
A 5-inch splinter in the exact form of a cross from the tree struck by lightning traveled 45 feet to their small stoop. Michael took it as a sign that God approved of what he was saying the night before.
Their story resulted in Michael writing a 105-page book, "The Cross of Revelation: An Endorsement From God," that is available on Amazon.
"I always wanted to tell the story, but I felt that if I didn't explain it the right way, people wouldn't understand," he said. "I procrastinated, and since I am no writer, it took me a while, but when people read the story, they understand what we experienced."
Deb Whitcraft has accomplished a lot in her 55 years. For example, she was mayor of Beach Haven for 10 years, and she co-owned an extremely successful passenger-ship business.
But she says her most fulfilling accomplishment was building the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History three years ago at 528 Dock Road in Beach Haven.
The museum, which is located in a former parking lot of the business she owned, finally came to fruition after she grew tired of paying storage fees for the massive amount of maritime artifacts she collected for 39 years.
Whitcraft said her museum features "everything you wanted to know about New Jersey maritime history but were afraid to ask," including documented accounts of more than 7,200 New Jersey shipwrecks.
Her crown jewel is an exhibit on the Morro Castle, a luxury cruise ship that caught fire, killing 137 people in 1934.
The museum also features an Internet cafe with six computer stations that are commonly used by many of the Eastern European visitors who work on Long Beach Island during the summer. No one pays to use the computers, just like no pays admission to the museum, which raises money through donations and the fees Whitcraft charges to officiate about 150 weddings and civil unions every year.
"I don't charge because I grew up pretty poor, and I didn't go into many museums when I was a kid because they charged an admission," Whitcraft said. "I don't want any family to come to the door and not be able to walk in because they can't afford it. Most people have dreams that are never realized, so I am happy to say that mine has been."
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in the summer and on weekends in the off-season.
Everyone Has a Story appears Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. To share your story, call Scott Cronick at 609-272-7017 or e-mail him at:
A musician with Margate roots releases his debut album in Monday's Everyone Has a Story.